|Photo by Nasser Nasser/Associated Press Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, right, shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert before their meeting at the city of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt yesterday. Israel’s prime minister downplayed expectations ahead of yesterday’s summit bringing together Israeli and Arab leaders, saying the meeting – designed to boost Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in his struggle against Hamas – would provide a launching point for renewed peace talks, not the venue for a major breakthrough.
Jerusalem – Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met yesterday with President Hosni Mubarak, King Abdullah of Jordan and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on the tip of the Sinai peninsula.
The Israeli media dubbed this “the summit of low expectations.”
Olmert issued a statement for the media before the summit that Israel has no illusions about Abbas, aka Abu Mazen, and that it is possible that he will be tempted into making another mistake, as he did when he signed the Mecca Agreement with Hamas. Olmert stressed, however, that Israel will spare no effort to create a mechanism that will help to move the political process forward.
Besides financial aid, the Israeli government also decided to remove roadblocks and ease the security screening policy in the West Bank.
“We will spare no effort to try to create a platform that may make it possible to move forward,” said Olmert. “But I am not deluding anyone. I do not want us to come out with a feeling that there is going to be a dramatic turning point here.”
The Israeli army and Israeli Security Services oppose the proposed removal of roadblocks – “which prevent terror attacks in Israel” – and the transfer of arms to Fatah’s security services.
The situation of the proposed measures of “good faith” to the Fatah will become clear over the next few days, with the Israeli cabinet set to debate these issues in the weekly cabinet meeting next Sunday.
President Mubarak initiated the summit with one aim: To express confidence in Abu Mazen’s regime and in his new emergency government – under the leadership of Salam Fayad – and obtaining relief measures for the West Bank residents.
Israeli Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in an attempt to persuade him to invite the Likud to join his government and to appoint Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu as finance minister. Olmert agreed to consider her proposal.
A discussion on the topic was held at the Prime Minister’s Bureau. Sources close to Netanyahu have told The Bulletin that Netanyahu, a 1967 graduate of Cheltenham High School, has accepted Olmert’s offer.
Itzik explained her initiative in terms of national and political reasons. Versus Iran, Hamas, Syria and Hezbollah, she said, it would be good for three prime ministers to sit in the security cabinet. They are the best we have. Forming a unity government will score points for Olmert among the public and stabilize a majority for the coalition, even if the Labor Party should decide to leave.
Airstrike In Gaza
Israel has resumed its policy of targeting and killing terrorists. For the first time since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip, the Israel Air Force launched an airstrike in the Gaza Strip. The aircraft fired missiles at a vehicle in which Islamic Jihad activists were riding, on their way to launch rockets into Israel. The Palestinians report that in the airstrike, Khalil el-Harb, who was regarded as the person in charge of production of Kassam rockets in the military arm of Islamic Jihad, was killed. The Palestinians also reported that two people were wounded in the attack.
The IDF confirmed the air force attack, claiming that it had been aimed against a Kassam rocket launching team. The sources said these terrorists were known to the security services and had been very active in launching rockets at Israel, including the latest attack on Sderot.
Hamas Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri Sami was quick to blame Israel. “Israel continues to attack in Gaza, and there will be a response of the resistance to these attacks,” he said. Islamic Jihad confirmed that the IDF had hit one of its vehicles, as it was on its way to a “holy action,” meaning launching rockets at Israel. Islamic Jihad noted that the dead man was a senior figure in its rocket-launching unit. They added that one of the wounded was in very serious condition.
IDF Estimates Hamas Has 20 Anti-Aircraft Missiles
There is growing concern in Israel over the munitions accumulating in the Gaza Strip. The IDF Intelligence Research Department estimates that Hamas already has about 50 rockets capable of reaching Ashkelon, and approximately 20 anti-aircraft missiles capable of hitting helicopters and jet fighter planes.
All in all, the Palestinians have many dozens of Concourse anti-tank missiles. These are manufactured in Russia and are capable of penetrating the armor of most of the armored vehicles in service with the IDF. In addition, the Palestinians possess hundreds of RPG anti-tank rockets with a double warhead, which are capable of penetrating some of the IDF’s armored vehicles.
IDF sources said over the weekend that the Palestinians are not using their more advanced weapons for the present because they are saving them for “hard times,” should Israel invade the Gaza Strip. The sources say the SA-7 Strela anti-aircraft missile that the Palestinians have is the same as those fired at an Arkia airliner in Mombassa about five years ago. They are capable of hitting not only aircraft flying over the Gaza Strip, but also those flying over adjacent Israeli territory. On the other hand, IAF planes and helicopters are well protected against these missiles.
The Katyusha rockets that Hamas possesses are capable of hitting any target in the Ashkelon area, or within a radius of 20 kilometers from the Gaza Strip. The sources stress, however, that these are much smaller quantities of Katyushas than those which were fired into Israel during the Second Lebanon War, when Hezbollah was sometimes firing more than 200 rockets per day.
Ariel Sharon’s Son Sentenced To Prison
The Tel Aviv District Court yesterday morning confirmed the prison sentence of former MK Omri Sharon, who will now serve seven months in jail for violation of the Party Funding Law, making a false entry in documents of a corporation and perjury. In 1999, when Omri Sharon’s father, Ariel, ran against Ehud Olmert in the Likud primary, Omri raised $6 million from unknown sources and lied about that to the Israel State Comptroller.
Americans Born In Jerusalem To Be Recognized As
All countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel have their embassies in the greater Tel Aviv area because they do not officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. However, there has been a change in American policy, at least on the symbolical level. A new article in the budget of the U.S. State Department states that every U.S. citizen who was born within the boundaries of Jerusalem, will be registered in official documents as “born in Israel.”
Although this does not reflect a change in the policy of the U.S. Congress on the status of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
However, this is a step with political ramifications; it is an additional administrative step which strengthens the recognition of Israel’s sovereignty in the city.
David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2007