Jerusalem – Israel’s leading military affairs analysts have only scorn for Israel’s achievements and plans in this stage of the war with the Palestinians
Alex Fishman, military correspondent for the Yediot Aharonot, Israel’s largest paper, points out that Israel is reflexively reacting to Hamas and is basically following the latter’s script, without any policy or goals of its own.
“What is Israel’s policy regarding Hamas in the Gaza Strip? Is there even such a policy?,”?Fishman asks.
“And what instructions has the political echelon dictated to the army in the current crisis? Targeted killings are not a policy but rather a tactical solution. They can be a reasonable solution if we keep to them for a long time as part of a general policy that also has economic, diplomatic and public-relations measures alongside a variety of military actions, but they are not a policy in themselves.”
Meanwhile, Ben Caspit, of the Maariv newspaper, also complains of Israeli inac-tion: “There is no end of discussions, talk, chatter and nonsense, without content. Instead of being now at the height of a massive international effort to create legitimacy for a response in defense of Sderot, and to uncover the true face of Hamas, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is sitting in Sderot and being photographed. Instead of creating a political and economic program, which will turn all the programs and the funds in the Gaza Strip into something real on the ground, our leaders, including Shimon Peres, continue to be photographed at the Davos conference … . The IDF is also losing patience. To demand from the army a solution to the Kassams without a significant military operation, is like demanding from a blind man that he go treasure-hunting.”
In terms of solutions,Israel Foreign Minister Livni proposed during her recent visit to Egypt that water lines be set up on the Egyptian side of the Egyptian border with the Gaza Strip that would flood smuggling tunnels. Under the proposal, the U.S. would finance the project.
Media Analyst Dr. Aaron Lerner notes that it remains unclear why FM Livni has opted to discuss this proposal that may not be technically possible on both engineering and environmental grounds to implement (and under ideal conditions something that would take a considerable period of time to implement should it be possible) rather than focus on Egypt exercising its right of eminent domain and bulldozing a sterile zone of 1,000-2,000 meters on their side of the border in order to make tunnel construction both difficult and readily observable.
U.S. Endorses Abbas
The Bush administration has endorsed Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas amid his failure to halt the Palestinian missile strikes against Israel.
The State Department has asserted that Abbas, who has refused to leave Ramallah, was doing his utmost to impose control over Gaza and stop Palestinian missile strikes on Israel, even though there is no public evidence of steps taken by Abbas in this regard.
“It is those Palestinians who want to seek a Palestinian state via the negotiating table who need to step forward,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said on Monday. “In this case, President Abbas has done so. He’s doing everything that he can to tamp down the violence.”
The U.S. assessment differed from that of Israel as well as several senior PA officials. Their assessment was that Abbas has refused to order an attack on Hamas or prevent missile strikes on Israel in an attempt to avoid Hamas retaliation that could endanger the chairman and his Fatah movement.
In his briefing, McCormack acknowledged that Abbas, despite a $59 million U.S. security program for the PA, has been unable to impose order in the Gaza Strip. He said the United States would continue to work to bolster PA forces loyal to the chairman.
“Now, the forces that answer directly to him at this point haven’t been able to do that completely,” McCormack said. “We understand that. The evidence of that is the continued launching of these Kassam rockets. But that is why we’re working with him and working with who report to him in order to better train up and equip his forces so that he can exercise that control over all of the Palestinian areas.”
U.S. Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice has been pressing Israel to enable additional shipments of weapons and equipment to reach Abbas-led forces in the Gaza Strip.
“When you’re hearing from her about plans for Middle East peace to move the process forward, whether that be on strategy, objectives or tactics, you’re hearing from the president as well,” McCormack said. “She speaks for the president, and I don’t think, for anybody that actually follows this issue closely, that there’s any confusion about that, certainly not within the U.S. government.”
Hamas Vows To
Hamas, the ruling Islamic movement in the Palestinian Authority, has pledged to target Israel’s largest city in southeastern Israel.
Hamas has ordered Palestinian missile strikes against the Israeli city of Ashkelon.
“Shell Ashkelon until its residents evacuate, as have residents of Sderot,” Hamas leader Nizar Riyan said on Monday.
Riyan told Hamas television that missile strikes on Ashkelon would be as effective as against Sderot. Ashkelon has a population of 110,000 and contains strategic facilities.
“Continue to fight the Jews until the last of them is gone from Palestine,” Riyan said. “It is a definite decision within the organization that Israel will be removed from the map, to be replaced by a Palestinian state.”
Riyan has been identified as the Hamas liaison with the military wing. He has been regarded as highly influential and linked to intensive Palestinian missile strikes against Israel.
About 150 Kassam-class missiles have been fired into Israel over the last week. Hamas representatives have threatened that they have acquired missiles that could strike Ashkelon and beyond.
The Israel Defense Forces has made it clear that it is concerned that Hamas may fire Grad rockets with a range of about 15 kilometers at Netivot, north of Sderot. Hence, the IDF has therefore decided to distribute pamphlets in Netivot with instructions on how to take cover from them.
The Hamas threats came as Israel Air Force strikes killed at least 45 low-ranking terrorists in Gaza since May 16. The air force targeted Hamas targets in Gaza City and Rafah. Most of the Hamas leadership has gone underground.
“I see the situation in Gaza as a strategic threat,” [Res.] Maj. Gen. Yiftah Ron-Tal, former IDF Ground Forces Command chief, said. “The missiles are much more powerful and accurate that we are seeking now. That’s why it’s not surprising that they are threatening Ashkelon.”
Israel Government Wanton Neglect Of Shelters In South
On Sunday, the Israeli government security cabinet discussed all aspects of the readiness of Sderot and the Western Negev for the current war situation.
Two months ago, The Sderot Information Center for the Western Negev Ltd. conducted and published investigations of the public shelters in Sderot and the Western Negev, in full cooperation with the Sderot and Western Negev security officials, which found that 25 out of Sderot’s 58 public shelters are not fit for human habitation and that at least half of the shelters in the Western Negev Kibbutz collective farms were in unusable condition.
Sderot and Western Negev security officials report that there has been no change in the shelters since the publication of these reports.
Following the Sunday Israeli cabinet meeting, which dealt with these matters, Israeli PM Olmert’s cabinet secretary, Yisrael Maimon, invited the media to meet him in the PM press conference room, and proceeded to announce that all shelters are ready in Sderot, with one or two exceptions.
When Maimon was asked about the report from Sderot security officials which showed that at least 25 shelters in Sderot are not fit for human habitation, Maimon stood by his report. When Maimon was asked for the source of Olmert’s report that all was well with the shelters in Sderot, his answer was: Olmert.
Maimon then went on to say that public shelters are not as important as constructing protected rooms in the homes of Sderot residents.
Shai Hermesh, a member of the Knesset Parliament from Kadima, Olmert’s party, who lives in the Western Negev, appeared on the Voice of Israel Radio and declared that even though he is a member of Olmert’s political party, he was outraged that although Olmert had allocated funds in January to provide protection for shelters and protected rooms for Sderot and the Western Negev, he did not deliver funds for this purpose, thereby endangering the lives of the people of Sderot and the Western Negev.
MK Hermesh predicted that a new investigation would be convened to deal with Olmert’s handling of the population of the Western Negev and Sderot.
As this report is being written, the Sderot municipality was considering the offer of The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews to fully cover the costs of repairing the 25 Sderot shelters, and an offer of $12 million from a Russian-born millionaire Arkadai Gedemark to sponsor the preparation of protected rooms in Sderot.
Even if Sderot accepts both private offers to repair and prepare shelters and protected rooms, months will go by before the people in Sderot and the Western Negev will have shelters and protected rooms.
Last year, civil liberties organizations such as the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and the Anti-Defamation League protested to the Israeli government for not properly preparing shelters for the Israeli Arab sector during the war with Hezbollah.
ACRI and ADL would not return calls to explain their silence in the wake of the government of Israel’s refusal to prepare shelters and protected rooms for the Jewish communities of Sderot and the Western Negev.
David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2007