Monday, December 25, 2006

Yağmur geldi hasret bitti

Türkan Şoray
Türk Sineması'nın 'Sultan'ı Türkan Şoray, kızı Yağmur'a kavuştu. Yılbaşı tatili için Amerika'dan gelen Yağmur; kardeşi Nazan Şoray ve kızının arkadaşı Sinan Bozkurt'la önceki akşam Arnavutköy Fishmekan'da yemek yiyen Sultan'ın mutluluğu gözlerinden okunuyordu.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Realizing Herzl's pipe dream

What do Zionism's founder Theodor Herzl, National Infrastructures Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer (Fuad) and businessman Yitzhak Tshuva have in common? They share a dream of reviving the Dead Sea. The idea is simple: Build a canal channeling sea water into the Dead Sea; raise the water level of the lowest water surface on earth and save it from disappearing - something which experts predict may happen in just a few years.

The plans for the Peace Channel, or as it was previously known, the Seas Canal, are expected to be presented today at a special World Bank conference in Jordan; there will be a review of the economic feasibility of the project's current incarnation.

Among those attending the conference are National Infrastructures Minister Ben-Eliezer, Jordanian Minister of Water and Irrigation Zafer Alem, the representative of the Palestinian Authority chairman, Dr. Muhammad Mustafa, World Bank representatives and representatives of donor countries. The project, with an estimated cost of around $3-4 billion, will be joint venture by Israel, Jordan and the PA.
Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, originally proposed the idea in 1902 in his book, "Altneuland." Herzl envisioned digging a canal that would bring water from the Mediterranean Sea to the Dead Sea, an idea based on the substantial differences in elevation between the two seas. The objective: to at once preserve the Dead Sea and use the flow of water to generate electricity. Herzl based the idea on a plan formulated by engineer Max Bourcart in 1899, which detailed the digging of a canal that would channel water from the Mediterranean Sea through the Jezreel Valley, the Beit She'an Valley and the Jordan River, ultimately to the Dead Sea.

The plan, slightly altered, was promoted several decades after the establishment of the state by a series of public figures, including Prof. Yuval Ne'eman and former energy minister Yitzhak Moda'i. In the 1980s, three alternatives to the project were considered and, in 1981, the original canal plan was approved, whereby the water would be channeled through a tunnel from the sea near Ashkelon, via the northern Negev, to the Dead Sea.

The cornerstone for the project was even laid and during the ceremony, then prime minister, Menachem Begin, declared the taming of the desert. Then several hundred meters of the canal were dug. However, the project was abandoned in 1985.

In its current incarnation, the plan was promoted during the 1990s peace process by then foreign minister Shimon Peres and then energy minister Moshe Shahal. According to the plans, the canal would originate in the Gulf of Eilat, wind to the Jordanian side of the border to the highest point in the Be'er Menuha region, Faran, where the water would then flow toward the Dead Sea, utilizing the approximately 600-meter difference in elevation. The length of the canal on the Jordanian side would be approximately 180 kilometers, of which 134 kilometers would be covered.

The project is intended to channel hundreds of millions of cubic liters of water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea annually, desalinate water for Jordan and the PA, and generate electricity for Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians.

At the starting point, in the southern Dead Sea region, plans call for the world's largest desalination facility which will produce around 800 million cubic liters a year. The surplus water would be channeled into the Dead Sea, in an attempt to halt the decline in its water level. In addition, along the route of the canal, there are plans to build a hydroelectric power station that would use the elevation differences between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea to produce 800 megawatts of electricity.

National Infrastructure Ministry officials say the importance of the canal to the Israelis is very high given that as a result of the exploitation by Jordan, Syria and Israel of water sources that feed the Dead Sea, the Dead Sea's water level has dropped at a rate of 80-100 centimeters annually. The declining water level, apart from the direct impact on the Dead Sea's receding shoreline, increases the phenomenon of sinkholes.

So far, countless claims have been made for and against the project - economic, ecological, environmental and political - and the ambitious (perhaps overly ambitious) project has yet to begin. However, National Infrastructures Minister Ben-Eliezer, who has taken the Peace Channel project under his wing, is not particularly concerned. "Our grandchildren will not forgive us if in a few decades the Dead Sea continues to recede. This is a natural wonder that is important not only to Israel, but to the entire Middle East and the whole world. The Peace Channel project is the flagship project of the National Infrastructures Ministry and will lead to regional and economic cooperation with our Jordanian colleagues in the areas of energy, water and agriculture. Regional development is an important step in promoting the political process." Ben-Eliezer says that he expects a breakthrough in confidence-building gestures between Israel and the neighboring Arab countries. "The project is a top priority for the Jordanian kingdom, as well, and King Abdullah has in the past said he considers it of the utmost importance to promote this project too," says Ben-Eliezer.

The World Bank will conduct a study of the project's feasibility. It is expected to take two years and will eventually review five elements: the environmental impact on the Gulf of Eilat resulting from the pumping of sea water; the environmental impact of the canal on the Arava wadi; the feasibility of building a Red Sea water desalination facility on the shores of the Dead Sea - primarily to meet the needs of Jordan and the PA; the feasibility of building a hydroelectric power station; the impact on the Dead Sea's water quality as a result of mixing Red Sea water with Dead Sea water.

Thus far, the World Bank has raised $9 million of the $15 million needed for the study. The money was donated by Japan, the United States, France and the Netherlands, and recently there have been advanced talks with Sweden, Spain, Britain and Germany, which are also interested in being included in the donor group.

Not long ago, the project received a boost from an unexpected direction. Businessman Yitzhak Tshuva recently said in New York that he had a dream and really hoped he would be able to realize it: to build a canal from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. This water would be desalinated and made potable. "In my assessment, it is possible to desalinate one billion cubic milliliters of water annually. This quantity would be sufficient to make the entire Negev bloom and turn it into a green area. Millions of residents could be settled in the Negev. The canal would also generate electricity to supply the Negev's needs. On both sides of the canal, there will be promenades and hotels, along the entire length from Red Sea to the Dead Sea. Furthermore, it will be possible to strengthen the relationship between us and the Jordanians and Palestinians, because they will also benefit from the water, electricity and economic growth. I met with Shimon Peres and others to discuss this common dream. These are not pipe dreams."

By Sharon Kedmi

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Talking to Iran

The prospect of Washington-Tehran dialogue is moving up the political agenda. But the United States must consider the moral and strategic price of such engagement, says the former crown prince of Iran, Reza Pahlavi.

Public frustration with the stalemate in Iraq in the United States, reflected in the mid-term elections on 7 November, has now reshaped Congress, heralding a new era. The current strategy is being rethought and in anticipation, President Bush has commissioned two prominent Americans, James A Baker and Lee Hamilton, to lead the bipartisan Iraq Study Group to produce a fresh approach.

As an outsider I can only hope that these efforts prove salutary and productive. As an Iranian, however, I am concerned with the possible consequences of what is now being speculated.

In the past, I have repeatedly opposed any form of military action against my country as counterproductive. Today, I would like to be equally clear about expectations that Iran - and Syria for that matter - could become part of the solution in Iraq.

For some time, guilt-edged liberal opinion in America has been advocating engagement with the clerical regime in Iran. Diplomatic overtures and dialogue, inherently noble, should be the first resort in any conflict. But if policymakers wish to avoid disappointment, there needs to be a prior analysis of objectives. In this context: what is at stake, and what are the real chances of success in hoping that Iran will sanitise the climate in Iraq in a manner that is in line with US expectations?

If the US seeks Iran's cooperation in Iraq - in taming and disarming the feuding Shi'a (and Tehran-connected) militias run by Ayatollah Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim and Muqtada al-Sadr, or in encouraging prime minister Nouri al-Maliki to move towards power-sharing with the Sunni - a key question follows: what would be the Iranian rulers' price?

What price would the Islamic regime claim in exchange for undercutting its unearned foothold in Iraq, at a time when it regards the US and its global allies with acute hostility? If that price is a license to proceed with its opaque pursuit of dual-usage enrichment of uranium, could the Bush administration seriously contemplate it?

If, by contrast, Tehran seeks from any engagement a grand strategic bargain - encompassing (as well as the nuclear issue) Hizbollah, Hamas, jihadis, non-belligerence towards Israel, and a Palestinian settlement - then a different set of questions comes to mind.

In May 2003, the clerical regime signalled its willingness to come to terms with reality. The move's timing - barely a month after the lightning defeat of Saddam Hussein - speaks volumes about the motivations of Tehran's Islamist leadership. Now, circumstances have changed dramatically. The "awe" inspired by the United States blitzkrieg is replaced by contempt, meted out on a daily basis by Islamist president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Ahmadinejad, unlike his predecessor Mohammad Khatami, is a revolutionary revivalist. His powers are limited but his rhetoric has enthralled the ultra-conservative clerics and tied the hands of the more pragmatic elements. The notion of the Great Satan, in the psyche of genuine Khomeini disciples, is ideological. For them, America is the embodiment of corrupting influences that are detrimental to Islam's flourishing.

America is also seen as the architect and protector of the Jewish state and its perceived mortification of (Muslim) Palestinians. The feud against Israel, extending to holocaust-denial, has set the regime in a hostile mould. Only compelling reasons of self-preservation will alter this. Moreover, with the Islamic Republic in its current mindset, secure in cost-free intransigence, any dialogue - particularly one wishfully aimed at cushioning America's difficulties in Iraq - will achieve nothing other than to bestow unwarranted recognition and legitimacy to a rogue regime.

There is another side to such engagement. For twenty-seven years this theocracy has cast a pall over Iran. Its young population has been robbed of the chance to live the epoch in which they are born. A full generation has been traumatised, prisoners of conscience executed and dissidents murdered in their homes or forced to flee.

George W Bush has repeatedly pledged America's support of Iranians in their struggle for freedom and democracy. To engage with the current Islamic Republic in these circumstances would render America's moral pact hollow and meaningless. It would be a further tragedy if, after failing to introduce democracy by force in Iraq, Washington now underwrites tyranny by diplomacy in Iran.

Open Democracy
Reza Pahlavi
Tuesday, December 5th, 2006

Reza Pahlavi: Neither Military Action nor Diplomacy Will Resolve Iran Crisis

Appearing as the "news maker" guest of the National Press Club, Reza Pahlavi of Iran challenged the ongoing debate between proponents of military action versus diplomacy, instead appealing to the "free world to support the thousand circles of localized dissent and opposition that readily exists in Iran, but which desperately need to link with one another and the outside world." Explaining how this vast network of homegrown dissent was being kept isolated from each other by the regime, he said that it would readily flourish only if it could "find solidarity with each other and an unwavering free world."

In his remarks to representatives of the international news media, the 45-year-old opposition leader to the Islamic regime warned that just as the "Euro-three diplomatic efforts bought Iran's theocrats three extra years, another series of cat-and-mouse games with the Russians may buy the clerical regime the time it needs to make the bomb."

Rejecting any talk of military strikes against his homeland, the former jet fighter pilot said that "it would ultimately rally nationalistic sentiments which would work to the regime's advantage; consequently, giving the theocrats a much longer lease on life." Calling the situation in his homeland "a race against time," he said that "it was a matter of what comes first in Iran: Democracy or nuclear weapons?"

Offering his geo-strategic view of the region, the former Crown Prince pointed to the regional ambitions of an increasingly adventurous clerical regime in Tehran. Referring to a "Bermuda Triangle from Iraq to Lebanon to Palestine," which was being taken over by Iran's allies, "through the ballot box," he said, "as long as the Islamic Republic was in power, the project for democracy in the greater Middle East may actually pave the way for Iran's own very calculated expansionism."

Citing results of recent Palestinian and Iraqi elections as proof, Reza Pahlavi explained that, "when Iran's protégés are offered the necessary money, information, and support, along with tools of intimidation and violence, they will always find the upper-hand against their rivals in any such nascent democracies." As with Lebanon, he added, "if, Iranian generosity, allows Hezbollah to spend more money than the government on schools, mosques, hospitals and even social services, no one should be surprised if they win or dominate elections."

"So, clearly the answer is democracy in Iran, which will be hindered by military strikes or giving the regime more time through endless negotiations," said Reza Pahlavi.

RP Secretariat
Wednesday, March 1st, 2006

Monday, December 04, 2006

Our allies, the Iranian people

On the sixth floor of the old Defense Ministry building one can learn about the gap between declarations and actions. In several small, crowded rooms are the offices of Uri Lubrani. His official title is "advisor" to the defense minister. In fact he is supposed to be the eyes and ears of the minister concerning events in Iran. Judging by the occasionally belligerent declarations of Israeli leaders and senior officials in the defense establishment, Iran is one of the two most important issues on the national agenda and prioritizing intelligence information relating to it is vital to Israel's intelligence community. They are speaking in terms of an existential threat to Israel if the regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad succeeds in developing nuclear weapons.

Therefore one would have assumed that the voice of Uri Lubrani and his handful of assistants would be heard loud and clear in the defense and intelligence establishments - that the offices of defense ministers and prime ministers would be open to them, that their assessments would be appreciated. Not only because of their official position, but mainly thanks to Lubrani's rich experience and wealth of knowledge regarding Iran, Lebanon, Hezbollah and the Shi'ite world. But in fact Lubrani feels like a man who has been left behind. The defense minister and senior officials moved about two years ago to a luxurious new building in the Kirya government compound in Tel Aviv, which has a helipad on the roof. Lubrani's unit remained in the old building.

It's not only a matter of out of sight, out of mind. Lubrani has a feeling that Israel's prime ministers and defense ministers are not really willing to learn and to understand the complexity of the problem. "Sometimes I really have a sense of despair," he says, in a special interview.

At the age of 80, after a long career in Israel's foreign affairs and defense services, Uri Lubrani can allow himself to be somewhat direct and open. The second Lebanon war, he says, really drove him crazy. "Suddenly everyone was surprised at the depth of Iran's penetration of Lebanon. People started to talk in terms of 'Iran's northern command is right on the Israeli border.' It really made me angry, and I had a lot I wanted to say about that. But I didn't want to vent my anger in the midst of the war, so I remained silent."

What made you so angry?

Lubrani: "We - that is, my small unit - had been watching the process for years. We saw long ago how the Iranians were building up their capability in Lebanon. This is a process that began even before the Islamic revolution."

Lubrani's involvement in this realm goes as far back as the late 1970s: "In 1978, during Operation Litani, when I was the Israeli ambassador to Iran, I received a complaint from the shah's palace to the effect that the Israel Defense Forces had harmed Shi'ites. I invited one of the shah's ministers to Israel and we traveled together to South Lebanon. We passed through Shi'ite villages and he saw with his own eyes that Israel had not harmed the Shi'ites. Then I understood how important the Lebanese Shi'ites were to Iran."

And what have you done since then?

"For years, at every opportunity we warned that there was an Iranian danger. That it was greater and more profound than any other danger facing Israel. Even more than the Palestinian issue. We said that it should be handled first. Not only in Lebanon, but in Tehran as well. Because from Tehran they send out tentacles to Berlin, to Saudi Arabia, to Argentina."

And they didn't pay attention to your warnings?


Several agencies in Israel are presently dealing with Iran and its nuclear issue: the Mossad espionage agency, Military Intelligence (MI), the Israel Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC), the National Security Council, the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry. The previous prime minister, Ariel Sharon, assigned the Mossad to be in charge of Israel's preparations for preventing the Iranian nuclear program. MI and the Mossad are in charge of gathering intelligence information and locating Iran's nuclear sites. The IAEC is responsible for maintaining contact with the International Atomic Energy Agency and for providing a professional analysis of the progress of Iran's nuclear program. The Foreign Ministry is in charge of diplomatic contacts and information. Even the National Security Council, headed by Ilan Mizrahi, occasionally conducts a brainstorming session on the subject, with experts from the civil service and academia.

One could expect Uri Lubrani or one of his representatives to be invited to some of these discussions, at least those that focus on situation assessments, but they are not on the invitation list of any of these bodies. Even in the Defense Ministry some people, including at least one division head, want to neutralize and dismantle his small unit.

It's not a problem of grumbling and hurt egos because "they didn't invite me": Lubrani and his assistants truly understand what's happening in Iran. They keep track of what's going on there, read Iranian newspapers, surf the Web sites, and maintain contacts with organizations that oppose the regime and with representatives of Iranian communities in the diaspora. Those who do take an interest in them and make use of their wealth of information are the representatives of foreign governments and the international media. For example, two weeks ago, when she arrived in Israel, Lally Weymouth, a senior reporter for Newsweek and The Washington Post, and a member of the family that owns the two newspapers, rushed straight from the airport to a meeting with Lubrani.

'The village idiot'

"I was in Iran for six and a half years and I learned to appreciate the Iranians," Lubrani explains. "The Iranians have the patience of an elephant. They're a nation of carpet weavers. And weaving a carpet takes a year. They're chess players who can see three moves ahead. These are not impatient Arabs or Jews who are looking for immediate satisfaction. I saw their determination already during the first Lebanon war. After the attacks on the U.S. and French embassies and on the Marines headquarters, I discerned the fingerprints of Iran. I understood that they were trying to establish an Islamic republic in Lebanon and that they have the patience to wait until that happens. In my opinion they're on the way to doing it, because of demographics as well."

If it's an unstoppable process, does that mean that Israel actually can't do much?

"On principle I don't accept the assumption that nothing can be done. It's not in my lexicon. Israel has no organized Iranian policy. There are situation assessments, there are reactions, there are spontaneous processes."

What do you suggest?

"We have a big and important ally in Iran: the Iranian people. This is a spiritually repressed people. They lack joie de vivre. The regime represses it. The question is what is necessary to make them take to the streets instead of succumbing to submissiveness and depression."

Are you talking about taking the masses into the streets for demonstrations against the regime?

"Yes. The Iranians know how to take to the streets. We saw that already in the [Mohammed] Mossadegh affair in 1953 [a reference to the prime minister who decided to nationalize the oil sector, then controlled by the British. They wanted to topple him via a coup and failed. At their behest, the CIA succeeded in this effort, and the shah then returned to Iran and consolidated his power for the next 26 years - Y.M.]. And that's what [Ayatollah] Khomeini did against the shah. The Iranians took to the streets not only because of the shah's behavior and the corruption, but also because Khomeini knew how to appeal to their spirit."

In effect you are calling for a rebellion, or a revolution, or a change of regime in Iran?

"Right. I believe that there's a popular basis for a change in Iran. The Iranians do not want to be a nation that has religion forced upon it. It's true that this is a nation with a profound connection to religion, which incidentally includes anti-Semitic overtones. But the Iranians do not want religion to be forced on them. The Iranians have access to radio and television. They see what's going on in the world. There's a community of four million Iranian exiles and emigrants. There are family ties. Those who live abroad constitute an object for imitation and envy. The Iranians in Iran want the same standard of living as Iranians have abroad. But in order to encourage them they have to receive more significant messages stating that it's worth their while to take to the streets. Instead, U.S. President George W. Bush placed the Iranians on the 'axis of evil' and the previous U.S. secretary of state, Colin Powell, said that the United States would not intervene in an internal conflict in Iran.

"So what is a student in Iran, who may want to demonstrate against the regime, supposed to understand from these words? That he has no backing in the West. What is needed is an international effort to bring down the regime. The same way the United States under the leadership of president Ronald Reagan brought about the downfall of the Soviet Union and the communist Iron Curtain in Europe."

With what methods?

"With every possible method. I'm talking about propaganda, psychological warfare, financial assistance. A dichotomy is developing in Iran. On the one hand there is a great deal of wealth there as a result of the royalties from oil and the increase in oil prices. On the other hand there is astonishing poverty. The economic situation of most of the nation is very bad. There is tremendous unemployment. There is inflation of over 20 percent. I feel that conditions are ripe for carrying out a regime change. For example, it's possible to organize a strike in the oil industry."

How exactly?

"To pay the workers who don't go out to work in money and food. It will be worth their while not to go out to work."

For that you need a huge budget.

"Right. You need money. The United States has thus far spent $100 billion on Iraq; with a small fraction of this sum, the aim can be achieved. I know that many in Israel's defense and intelligence establishment will think that I'm the village idiot. They already think so. I greatly admire the role of intelligence, but I also have arguments with intelligence people. I don't see intelligence as the be-all and end-all, Torah from Sinai. You also need a gut feeling, and I believe that I have that. In 1978, when I wrote that the shah's days were numbered, they didn't believe me, and foreign minister Moshe Dayan fired me. But I had a gut feeling at the time that a change could be anticipated in Iran, even if I didn't know exactly who would replace him [the shah] in the government.

"Intelligence people want proof, and rightfully so. I have no proof. But when they tell me that something is not possible, that I'm a dreamer, I reply that as long as the opposite cannot be proved, we have to try what I'm recommending."

Toward a regime change

What part should Israel take in the campaign to bring about a revolution in the Iranian regime?

"We have to remain in the background. Not to be the spearhead."

Do you believe in military action against Iran, mainly against its nuclear sites?

"No. A military action is a 'Judgment Day weapon.' Only if there is no other choice. Like every Jew who is a post-Holocaust product, I believe that we must not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. But in my opinion, we have not yet reached that situation. I won't get into the technical question of who should do what, but I don't accept the talk that there is only a military option that will prevent Iran from having a bomb. Unfortunately, in my assessment, Iran will obtain nuclear weapons in the end. Even if you bomb them, you'll be postponing the end for several years until they achieve capability once again. And besides, every military action will only unite the Iranian people - a proud people with a well-developed national awareness - around the regime."

So what's the solution?

"I'm interested only in the person who has his finger on the trigger. And I don't want to be at the mercy of this delusionary man (President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) and the group of people surrounding him. He behaves as though he has a direct link to God, and he has a dangerous and delusionary world view. I take every word of his seriously, including the talk about destroying Israel. And that is why we have to do everything possible so that he won't be in the government.

"We have to act to make this regime fall. And then someone else will come to power, someone less hostile and more friendly, and the question of whether they have nuclear capability will be less important. I don't accept the defeatist attitude that this is 'mission impossible.' The effort has not yet been made."

Who can replace the present leadership?

"There are enough worthy and less dangerous candidates. There is today in Iran a public backbone that can bring forth leaders. There are those who sat in prisons as opponents of the regime. There are people in exile. There are even some in the army. Even former president [Hashemi] Rafsanjani, who is quite a wicked man, could be a candidate. He can be bargained with."

You said that in Israel they don't really listen to you. Have you tried to explain your viewpoint in the United States?

"Yes. Years ago I tried to explain to people from the administration that if they want to bring down Saddam Hussein, they should not talk about occupying Iraq. There's no need for that. I suggested that they speak to the Iranians about bringing down Saddam Hussein without occupying Iraq. The Iranians would have done an excellent job. I think that the American invasion of Iraq was a huge mistake, for which we will all now pay. The Americans simply didn't understand the material.

"I remember that I asked a senior member of the Bush administration whether Paul Bremer, who was a kind of governor of Iraq, had any connection with the religious establishment, whether he had met with Ayatollah Sistani, who is the most important Shi'ite religious leader in Iraq, and I was told that Bremer would not meet with him because Sistani did not want to come and welcome him. That is a total lack of understanding. If you want to meet with a senior Shi'ite leader like Sistani, you come to him and don't wait for him to come to you. But I don't want to be too critical of the United States, because we are still in need of their good will."

Meager budget

Uri Lubrani has been serving in his not-really-defined job for six years. It can be said of his unit that it deals with issues that tread the thin line between propaganda, psychological warfare and the study of moods and trends in Iran. He has two assistants. One is Yitzhak Barzilai, a Persian speaker who headed several departments in the Mossad, including Tevel, the international liaison division. The second is Colonel Yitzhak Davidian, a former officer in MI's Unit 8200 - a secret unit responsible for communication interception and deciphering - who is responsible mainly for administrative matters.

Another person connected to Lubrani's unit is Brigadier General (res.) Reuven Ehrlich, who is involved in coordination and cooperation with the Center for Intelligence Heritage and Terrorism Information Center, and is an expert on terrorist organizations, fundamentalist Islam and anti-Semitism in the Arab world. Ehrlich in effect serves as a kind of clearing-house for information originating in the MI research division, which cannot disseminate it in its own name.

With the meager budget at its disposal, the unit maintains ties with Iranians in exile, the U.S. administration and the international media. In addition, its people help operate Israel Radio's Persian-language broadcasts and maintain the Israeli radio station (for whose content veteran journalist Oded Zarai is responsible) that broadcasts to South Lebanon.

Previously, and for almost two decades, Lubrani bore the title "coordinator of government activities" in Lebanon. In the framework of that job he was also asked to keep track of Iran. The person who endowed him with this authority and even gave him an initial budget was then defense minister Yitzhak Rabin. But with the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, the Defense Ministry considered terminating Lubrani's activity, claiming there was no need for him.

Lubrani managed to convince then prime minister and defense minister Ehud Barak of the necessity of his job, and fought like a lion so that the radio station would not be closed. During the second Lebanon war the IDF suddenly remembered the importance of the station and wanted to use it for tactical needs, as well: When the need arose to instruct residents to evacuate their homes before their village was attacked by the IDF, for example, this was done via a broadcast from the station.

'Painful subject'

Uri Lubrani was born in Haifa to a well-to-do bourgeois family that owned a guest house (later the Megiddo Hotel) on Mt. Carmel. He describes himself as "a spoiled child." He studied at the prestigious Reali School, joined the Scouts and the Haganah (pre-state military force), and served in the 1948 War of Independence as an intelligence officer in the Yiftah Brigade and in the 7th Armored Brigade. After the war he began to work at the Foreign Ministry and, thanks to family connections and a previous acquaintance, foreign minister Moshe Sharett appointed Lubrani his secretary. Through his work at the ministry, Lubrani met his wife Sarah, who was a secretary at the Israeli embassy in Moscow.

In 1953 Lubrani went to study in England, and when he returned he was appointed deputy to the advisor on Arab affairs in the Prime Minister's Office.

"The most painful subject for the Arab population at the time, even more than the problem of the Military Administration, was the expropriation of their lands by the state," recalls Lubrani. "And here I tried to help as much as possible and to exercise my influence to limit the damage and if necessary to compensate them."

During the 1956 Sinai Campaign Lubrani was a helpless witness to another operation that goes almost unmentioned in the history books. Under pressure from the General Staff, the residents of two Arab villages located in the demilitarized zone near the Syrian border were expelled from their homes. A few of them moved to the village of Shaab in the Western Galilee and the rest were deported to Syria.

"They didn't consult with us at all," he explains. "It was an operational problem of the Northern Command that didn't want them. In such matters the tactical security consideration was always immediate and dictated the reality."

When the advisor on Arab affairs in the Prime Minister's Office was appointed ambassador to Ethiopia in 1958, Lubrani replaced him. Afterward he became the personal secretary of prime minister David Ben-Gurion, and in 1963 served in the same capacity under Ben-Gurion's successor, Levy Eshkol. These positions gave Lubrani the image of an incorruptible civil servant, but also aroused anger and criticism against him, for being prepared to serve any leader. In particular, his relations with Moshe Sharett and his family became unpleasant: According to Lubrani, they saw his willingness to work with Ben-Gurion as an act of betrayal.

Refugee reparations

In 1964, Lubrani discovered that there was a growing lack of confidence between him and Eshkol, who saw Lubrani as Ben-Gurion's man. He returned to the Foreign Ministry and was sent to represent Israel as ambassador in Uganda and later in Ethiopia. But first the head of the Mossad at the time, Meir Amit, sent Lubrani on a clandestine mission: He was asked to meet with government officials in Turkey in order to convince them to help Israel to solve the problem of the Palestinian refugees.

"I believed at the time, and I still believe, that the refugee problem, or part of it, can be solved with reparations," he says. "At the time I came to Ben-Gurion and told him that we had to find ways to pay reparations to the refugees. Ben-Gurion told me that he didn't believe that they would agree to accept reparations. I told him to let me try. An examination we conducted indicated that the property of the 1948 refugees was estimated at the time at $2-$3 billion. We made contact with the Americans, who informed us that they would be willing to share in the payments. Meanwhile Ben-Gurion resigned and Eshkol replaced him. After he had become settled in the job, I went to Eshkol with the idea that we would work to pay reparations to the Palestinian refugees. He looked at me and said in Yiddish: 'Bist meshugga geworen' - You've gone crazy. I imagine that the sum of $2-$3 billion scared him. That was the end of the story."

As ambassador to Uganda, Lubrani came to know chief of staff Idi Amin well. A few years later Amin spearheaded a military coup and took over the government. A decade later, thanks to Lubrani's ties with Amin and his familiarity with Uganda, foreign minister Yigal Allon brought Lubrani in from Tehran, where he was serving as ambassador. Lubrani was a passenger on the plane carrying Operation Entebbe's commanders, en route to freeing the hostages being held in the airport in Uganda's capital. "I had no defined role," Lubrani explains, "but they kept me in reserve in case the operation didn't succeed and there was a need to conduct negotiations with Amin."

Past connections enabled him to make a significant contribution to the implementation of Operation Solomon in 1991, during which about 15,000 Ethiopian Jews were brought to Israel: "Yitzhak Shamir asked me to conduct the negotiations with Ethiopian leader Mengistu [Haile Mariam], but he conditioned it on not selling weapons - because at the time the Americans had vetoed selling arms to Mengistu - and also asked that I would make sure to get the money from non-Israeli sources."

Fulfilling those conditions was not simple, because Mengistu demanded weapons for his army, which was fighting against the Eritrean rebels. The only "military" equipment that was sent to the Ethiopians was a desalination plant for their naval base in Dahlak. Lubrani got the money that was paid to Mengistu in exchange for his agreement to the emigration of the Jews, $35 million, from leaders of U.S. Jewish organizations. The money was transferred directly to the bank account of the Ethiopian government in New York, so that there would be no suspicion that some of it was used to pay bribes to corrupt government officials.

"There are countries in which you cannot advance any transaction without paying someone," says Lubrani. "But we Israelis are not allowed to put anything in our pockets."

'On my conscience'

In 1982, after the first Lebanon War, Lubrani was appointed coordinator of government activities in Lebanon. In this role he conducted negotiations with Nabih Beri, the leader of the Shi'ite Amal movement, whose members held kidnapped navigator Ron Arad for about a year and a half, until May 1988. A key person in facilitating the contact with Beri was Shabtai Kalmanowitz, an Israeli businessman in Africa who was subsequently arrested in Israel for spying for the Soviet Union. Kalmanowitz introduced Lubrani to Jamil Said, a Shi'ite businessman who was active in West Africa, and the negotiations with Beri were conducted through him. When Kalmanowitz stood trial, Lubrani agreed to appear as a character witness for the defense, as a gesture of thanks for his help.

The meetings between Said and Beri, and between Said and Lubrani, took place in hotels in London and other European cities.

"Failure is always an orphan," says Lubrani, "but I didn't act alone on this issue. I was the head of a team. I received the letters and the pictures of Arad from Beri, and I conveyed Beri's demands. The person who made the decisions was defense minister Yitzhak Rabin, who consulted with the prime minister."

Why wasn't a deal made through negotiations?

"A very simple thing happened: Beri kept raising his demands. He demanded money and release not only for Lebanese prisoners, but for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners as well."

And Rabin did not want to approve this?

"Rabin thought that we could get a better deal. He was still traumatized by the 'Jibril deal' of 1985." The government was then publicly criticized for its consent to release 1,100 Palestinian terrorists in exchange for three IDF soldiers who were being held by Ahmed Jibril's organization, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command. Lubrani is convinced that in the end Arad was transferred to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

What do you think happened to him?

"There are three possibilities: One, that he fell ill and died in captivity. The second, that he tried to escape and they killed him. The third, that after years of denying any knowledge of him, the Iranians killed him so there would be no proof that they had lied. I live with the feeling that it would be a miracle if he's alive. This story is with me all the time. Every morning I look in the mirror and see Arad's face. It weighs on my conscience, even though I wasn't the one who could have freed him. It wasn't in my hands." W

By Yossi Melman

Friday, December 01, 2006

Hayat kader mi yoksa seçimler mi?

Türkan Şoray
Biri sizi seviyor. Çok seviyor. Size yaklaşmaya çalışıyor. Yaklaşıyor da. Ama bir türlü yakın olamıyor. O sizi severken, siz farkına bile varmıyorsunuz. Sevginin peşinde koşarken yorgun düşmüş yüreğinizin bir oyunu bu belki de size... Öylesine yorgunsunuz ki, en yakınınızdakini göremiyorsunuz. Siz ihanetlerdesiniz, çünkü siz onu hiç bilmiyorsunuz. Ama o hiç ihanet etmiyor. Yıllar geçiyor ama hiçbir kadını sizi sevdiği gibi sevmiyor. Her kadında sizden izler arayıp, sizi yaratmaya çalışıyor. Sonuç hep hayal kırıklığı olsa da... Sonra sizin hoyrat gençliğiniz bitiyor bir gün. Şaşaalı hayattan geriye, kırık dökük anılardan ve acılardan başka bir şey kalmıyor. Ve yokluğa doğru adım adım gittiğiniz günlerde, yüreğini sevgisinde büyüten adam bir kez daha karşınıza çıkıyor. Hayatı geri vermek istercesine... Sizi sevdiğini, sizi her zaman sevdiğini söylüyor. Şaşırıyorsunuz. İçinizi titretiyor. Siz de aşık oluyorsunuz, geç kalınmış bir zamanda... Ve geç kaldığınızı nice sonra fark ediyorsunuz, o anlattığında. Yanınızda olan, yanından geçip gittiğiniz sevdaya ne kadar çok da ihtiyacınız vardır oysa. Siz hep sevilmek istemişsinizdir çünkü. Ama hayatınız onu göremeyecek kadar kör etmiştir sizi... Ve şimdi körlük bitmiştir. Ölüme giden hayatı bir tek bu aşkın diriltebileceğine inanırsınız. Yakarsınız, yıkarsınız ve onunla gidersiniz. Sizi her zaman seven, hep sevecek olan, sizi acılarınızdan yeniden doğuracak olan o adam geç mi kalmıştır yoksa tam da vaktinde mi gelmiştir kimse bilemez. Uğur Yücel'in Türkan Şoray'la birlikte oynadığı, bir anlamda da Türkan Şoray'a adanmış filmi 'Hayatımın Kadınısın'ı izledikten sonra aklımdan şu sorular geçti: Farkına varamadıklarımızın farkına varsaydık, bugün başka bir hayatın içinde olur muyduk? Hayatımız kaderimiz mi, yoksa seçimlerimiz mi? Bir gazeteci olarak şöhretini tüketmiş bir yıldızın hayatını izlemek de benim için son derece ilginçti. Şöyle sıcak mı sıcak, insana dokunan bir film izlemek isterseniz, 'Hayatımın Kadınısın'ı izlemenizi tavsiye ederim. Siz de mutlaka bir şeyler bulursunuz...