Posting: December 23, 2007
In case there was even the slightest doubt in anyone’s mind — in case anyone might have wondered if maybe, just maybe, Fatah was moderating — allow me to provide this information:
In commemoration of its 43rd anniversary, which Fatah is about to celebrate, it has commissioned a new poster design. It represents all of Israel draped with a Palestine kafiyeh scarf, and includes a drawing of a rifle alongside to represent the “armed struggle.” Is it necessary to say more?
Returning to the issue of continued Israeli building outside the Green Line…
According to Army Radio, the 2008 budget has allocations for over 1,000 new apartments — 500 in Har Homa in addition to the 340 already publicized, and 240 in Ma’aleh Adumim.
Ma’aleh Adumim, which is right outside of Jerusalem to the east, is a municipality that has grown considerably in recent years. There were plans to make it contiguous with Jerusalem via construction in an area that was dubbed E1, but political considerations have put that on hold, unfortunately.
The radio cited someone from the Ministry of Housing as saying that work would be done at a time that was less likely to cause international protest. (Olmert has already halted a tender for another 100 apartments to go up now in Har Homa.)
All of this followed an about-face by Construction and Housing Minister Ze’ev Boim, who said last Wednesday that — because of a housing shortage in Jerusalem — a preliminary investigation was underway regarding the possibility of building a new neighborhood in Atarot, a neighborhood at the northern edge of eastern Jerusalem, near Arab villages. But after a protest from Olmert’s office, Boim said we had no plans to build a Jewish neighborhood there.
However, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Yehoshua Pollack – who chairs the city’s Local Planning and Construction Committee – said there were long-term plans under deliberation that included building 10,000 apartments on the northern outskirts of the city, as well as additional apartments in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, Ramot, Gilo, and Givat Hamatos neighborhoods.
The housing shortage in Jerusalem has been exacerbated in part by the purchase of apartments by those who are not resident in Israel and come just part of the time. A plan to build westward was vetoed because of forest and park land that would have been destroyed.
Secretary Rice called the decision not to build at Atarot (which I’m not clear is a final decision) a “good step.” Generally speaking, anything she approves of doesn’t sit well with me.
Peace Now is under investigation for masking the sources of its funding for “reconnaissance” work against Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria. Allegedly, the group used a front organization to receive funds for its work, so that money was able to come in, undetected, from the British government, which donated more that 500,000 shekels, Norway, which gave 800,000 shekels, and the European Union, which donated 451,000 shekels earmarked for Peace Now’s ongoing “settlement hunting” activity.
Dearly would I love to see this group put out of business. They play fast and loose with the facts when they make claims about Jews having built on Arab-owned land. More than once those claims have been quite vigorously refuted with documentation.
In the past there has been unease that the group may have been involved with “photography of sensitive areas” on behalf of foreign governments, in the pursuit of this work, which, if it were proven to be so, would constitute espionage.
Along with all of the rumors about a Hamas hudna, comes talk now of renewed negotiations regarding Shalit’s release that Hamas is said to be launching with Israel via the Egyptians. I’m not holding my breath. Especially as Hamas says a condition for Shalit’s release is the release of 1,400 Hamas prisoners held in Israel.
Al-Quds paper says that Hamas’s Mashaal will be in Cairo today to work on release of Shalit as part of a larger deal that would involve release of prisoners and a hudna. I shudder at this prospect. I have no confirmation on this end and we can only wait and see. The paper said negotiations made considerable progress when an Israeli envoy visited Cairo three days ago.
Just days ago, former head of Shin Bet, MK Ami Ayalon, said that we cannot rescue Shalit because of an “intelligence failure.” It is my assumption that this is the result of not having a presence inside of Gaza.
Defense Minister Barak, irked by this, suggested that it’s best to keep such comments to a minimum. I concur.
Bruce Reidel, a former CIA official and advisor to presidents, has given an interview to Newsweek magazine in which he says he is convinced Israel will attack Iran. He visited here in November and spoke with Mossad and Israeli defense officials; he came away convinced then that Israel would act. Since then the NIE report has been released, which makes this an even greater possibility. Says Newsweek: “a rising tide of opinion in Israel’s intelligence and national-security circles believes that the NIE does signal American retreat-and, more profoundly, renewed Israeli isolation over what is deemed an existential threat out of Tehran.”
David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, who was also cited, believes Israel was encouraged by the lack of international reaction to their strike on what is presumed to have been a reactor in Syria. He suggests that Israel’s pre-emptive action might not be a traditional strike, but rather “sabotage of equipment.”
The article suggests that the Arab states are sufficiently terrified of a nuclear Iran so that they might look the other way at an Israeli action.
I find it interesting that the Newsweek piece also says that the issue of Iran and the NIE report is one reason for Bush’s scheduled trip here in January. He apparently wants to provide reassurance, as he’s concerned that this report may have the effect of stalling the “peace process.”
It is strictly my own thought — I cite no one else on this — but I have wondered whether such things as Olmert’s refusal to back down on building in Har Homa, the stiffening of his back in certain regards, is tied to his disillusionment with Bush with regard to Iran, the feeling that the US has let us down.
An improved Kassam rocket launched by Islamic Jihad has landed near the industrial park in Ashkelon. Three other rockets fell in the Negev today.
There have been announcements about the development of the “Iron Dome” — a defense system that would protect us against Kassams, Katyushas and Grad missiles — which would be fully operational in 2-1/2 years.
I still feel strongly that while this defense may be necessary it should not be viewed as a substitute for taking out the terrorists who would launch the rockets and their capacity to do so.
One must ask, as well, what happens in the next 2-1/2 years, as the rocket range improves?
And then there is the question of cost effectiveness: Kassams are cheap to manufacture and the system that would take them out much more expensive. If stockpiled Kassams (stockpiled without interference, say, if there is a hudna) are launched in great numbers all at once, what would be required of that system to protect Israelis?
Posting: December 21, 2007
“Focus on Gaza”
There has been, in the last few days, greatly increased IDF action in Gaza. Not that major incursion, but military maneuvers that take out terrorists and in some cases their launchers. Since last Sunday, 20 gunmen have been killed.
What is the result? The answer is complex. Actually, there are conflicting answers depending on whom you listen to and when.
That it is having some result is clear, because there have been overtures by Hamas for a hudna. The bid came from Ismail Haniyeh; some reports indicated this was via Egypt, while others say it came when an Israeli journalist was contacted.
The “deal” as reported would be a cessation of Kassam attacks if Israel stopped its attacks inside of Gaza. So, they’re hurting and Hamas people are running frightened that they’ll be next. Of this there is no question. But it is not enough.
Everyone who reads my material knows how strongly I always oppose a hudna — which is merely a temporary respite that allows them to regroup and strengthen. This certainly applies now.
There were some rumors that Olmert might be considering this, but his office denies it. In fact, spokesman Mark Regev says there was no official offer and Hamas is playing games. The official Israeli position is that Hamas must renounce violence.
What was interesting is that there was a role reversal this week, with the more “hawkish” member of Kadima, Shaul Mofaz, saying there was no harm in dealing with Hamas to stop the rocket fire, and leftist Haim Ramon saying that a temporary ceasefire would allow Hamas to strengthen itself, which is exactly right.
IDF officers — unnamed — are quoted today as saying that there was no need for a hudna anyway, because “Once the border isn’t threatened and the Kassam rockets stop, we won’t have any reason to act.” I read this and wondered if military men really said this. For there is every reason to continue to act as long as that build-up of weapons persists, even if launching of rockets temporarily halts. In fact, the entire focus of a message from “a senior IDF officer” in this regard seemed terribly shortsighted:
“What we’re seeing in Gaza is not ordinary day-to-day security maintenance, it’s combat… every operation we carry out carries with it a message that ultimately will bring genuine results.”
Depends on what he means by “genuine results.” That the terrorists may, for a while, stop launching rockets? Perhaps. That smuggling of weapons from Egypt, and training of the Hamas army, and improving the range of capability of weapons will stop? Not a snow ball’s chance in hell.
This statement smacks of the political. “We have our orders and we operate by those guidelines,” said an IDF source, “and those orders are to thwart terror attacks; to strike down anyone firing Kassams or mortars and keep the terror organizations away from the border fence. There aren’t any magic solutions, only grueling operations… “
As it is, the rockets haven’t stopped yet anyway. One landed near an army base and another near a school this week.
Chief IDF Intelligence Officer Brig.-Gen.Yuval Halamish speaking yesterday at a conference delivered a more honest military appraisal: that the IDF’s activity against camouflaged Kassam launchers is “difficult and nearly impossible.”
Some of the successes have been merely luck, as it’s like “looking for a needle in a haystack.” What is more, “nowadays rockets can be fired automatically by electronic systems. By the time the rocket is making its way towards Israel, the terrorist is already sipping coffee someplace far away.”
Egypt ‘s role in permitting the continued smuggling of weapons into Gaza has been a part of recent news focus. There are several facets to this situation. I’ve read that the Egyptians would rather have the weapons in Gaza than in their country, and that they feel that, if they cannot defeat the terrorists, it’s better to cooperate with them. There are undoubtedly other reasons as well as to why they’re not clamping down on the smuggling.
Recently the IDF made videotapes allegedly of Egyptian police helping Hamas smugglers. The tape was sent to the Israeli Embassy in Washington, but has only been shown to administration officials and not to Congress. Although it was reportedly the intention of Israeli security officials that appropriate members of Congress see it, as appropriations are done via Congress and some funds to Egypt might be blocked, Israeli diplomatic personnel have blocked this so as to not thoroughly enrage Egypt.
Are we the only ones to be enraged? If this report is true, it gives very serious pause. But what else is new?
As to doing that major operation into Gaza, here’s a new and different take: A “senior Israeli diplomatic official” now says that we can negotiate with Abbas but will make no progress because he cannot make concessions as long as Hamas controls Gaza.
That Hamas is setting the political agenda for the Palestinians is unquestionably true — the entire political climate has become more intransigent, more belligerent since Hamas has become involved.
But this was true before Hamas took Gaza. It has been true since Hamas entered the political fray almost two years ago, and was certainly true when the unity government was negotiated at Mecca earlier in the year and Abbas caved to Hamas demands. Any softening by Abbas is represented as siding with the enemy. Would this change if Hamas no longer controlled Gaza unilaterally? They still control the PA legislature and have a huge following among the people. They are still strong — and represent a real threat — in Judea and Samaria.
Nor is there reason to think that Fatah itself is in favor of significant concessions with Israel. There are major figures inside of this party who oppose negotiations with us.
What is more, I have reported earlier on the assessment of political analysts that the last thing Abbas can do is “ride into Gaza on an Israeli tank.” He would be seen as a collaborator with the enemy and not well received. Abbas — in deference to this wide-spread attitude — has already said that Fatah would fight with Hamas in Gaza if we were to do a major military operation there. Besides which, there is the suspicion in Israeli circles that even if we took out Hamas in Gaza, Abbas would not have the strength to take over there anyway.
So, we’ve got a situation that is complex, confused, and convoluted. If we do go into Gaza, it cannot be for the sake of “peace” negotiations with Abbas, or to strengthen him, but rather to military defeat an enemy that threatens us.
More following Shabbat…
Posting: December 18, 2007
That’s pretty much the state to which I am reduced by current international happenings: It’s hard to take a good breath in the face of all that’s occurring.
My friend Jack, who reads my postings, had what I thought was an excellent suggestion:
“… for all those countries overly anxious to throw away their billions of dollars: Open several thousand accounts in banks in the Cayman Islands, line up all the names of every ‘Palestinian’ leader, assign him an account number and deposit a certain amount in accordance with his importance. Then send each of those people his number. It saves the donating countries of pretending to overlook how the funds are spent… “
This makes about as much sense as anything that’s transpiring right now. And I am grateful to him for lightening up (albeit with a vision that reflects reality) what is a dangerously insane situation.
Khaled Abu Toameh has an analysis in today’s Post — with the self-evident title “Influx of international funds no guarantee for bolstering moderates” — that takes a look at the situation that was generated in Paris yesterday. Beginning with a brief history of the incredible graft that occurred when Arafat was in charge, he makes observations that are of critical significance. In the early days of the PA the assumption was made that economic prosperity would boost moderates (sound familiar?). The international assistance, however, “went into secret bank accounts or to build big villas for senior PA officials. “
“The international community that was pouring money on the PA did not seem to care about the stories of financial corruption and embezzlement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“Nor did the donors pay attention to the fact that Arafat was inciting his people not only against Israel, but also against the same ‘infidels’ who were signing the checks.”
And the question that has to be asked is, Why the hell not? What obtuseness, what political correctness or anti-Israel bias or feelings of misplaced guilt allowed several Western nations to keep pouring funds into an entity that was wasting and misusing them? And why, at the end of the day, is the international community willing to do precisely the same now? PA prime minister Salaam Fayyad has submitted a financial plan of sorts, but based on past performance of the PA, there is no reason to put faith in it. Abu Toameh writes that Fayyad is surrounded by many of those who in the past hindered reform schemes.
“This money is mainly designed to keep Fatah in power and prevent Hamas from taking over the West Bank.
“And unless the PA changes its rhetoric and starts promoting peace and coexistence with Israel, the millions of dollars are not going to create a new generation of moderate Palestinians.”
Needless to say, the reality of a PA that has begun to start “promoting peace and coexistence with Israel” is not emerging, in spite of the hoopla regarding Annapolis. In fact, according to today’s Post, Olmert is “dismayed” by Abbas’s failure to convey certain instructions to his negotiators. Seems that in private certain matters were discussed between Olmert and Abbas, but that Abbas has “not passed to his negotiating team the same pliable positions” he had expressed in discussion with Olmert.
So, the next question is, When the hell is Israel going to learn that there is no negotiating partner? What obtuseness permits our government to continue in its self-destructive behavior? The international community may lose billions of dollars — we have a great deal more at risk.
Olmert and Abbas had sat down several times and, according to this article, had put together a paper that was supposed to form the basis for negotiations. (A paper that was all too secret for my liking, but that’s another story.) But, while Abbas failed to follow through, Olmert instructed his team to try to wrap up an agreement as soon as possible.
I read this and I want to go out on the street and howl. As soon as possible? Without testing Palestinian intentions and viability? Without taking one step at a time, carefully? The reason given is because Olmert felt that this would show the Palestinian population that there is a reward for fighting terrorism.
So, the international community is seeking to buy moderation with money, and Olmert is doing the same with a state. Just as the international community doesn’t acknowledge that money has been showered on the PA before without resultant moderation, so have we offered the PA a state before (in 2000) without a modicum of success — the 2nd intifada being the result instead.
What makes this all more incredible is that according to an unnamed gov’t official, while Fayyad submitted an economic reform plan to the international community, Israel has not yet seen a security plan, and “he hoped Fayyad would present one. The main issue is security. If they build credible security forces, the whole process will change.”
So the PA isn’t really even trying. But I have demonstrated time and again that Israel intelligence does not believe the PA remotely capable of putting together an uncorrupted, viable, effective security force.
The good news, such as it exists, is this: the gov’t is not caving on our right to continue to build inside of existing settlements, not just in Har Homa but in Judea and Samaria.
In fact, I almost fell over when I read this statement by a “senior Israeli official” cited in Haaretz: “We don’t need American approval if we are doing something that we think, as a sovereign state, we should do.” Ah, that they would say this more often! “We told the Americans and the Palestinians that in those places, within the built-up line, Israel will continue to build, because there is no other way.”
The Israeli position then is that there will likely be retention of major settlements and that in any event this is to be decided via negotiations. “If Har Homa will not be part of Israel, it doesn’t matter if Har Homa is 5,000 units or 6,000 units, Har Homa will be dismantled.”
The official said that the Israeli understanding of a settlement freeze was not building new settlements or extending the borders of existing ones. “It doesn’t mean people cannot go and live in existing settlements. Where there are vacant places, vacant apartments, people can go and live there with their families. If somebody bought an empty lot in one of the settlements 10 years ago and he owns it, and he decides now in the year 2007… to build on it, the government of Israel cannot do anything about it.”
But, true to form, Abbas declared again today that settlement expansion –presumably defined by him as including building inside existing lines — is a threat to peace talks. Since it represents “a real obstacle,” it must stop.
And Minister Haim Ramom — who would do best to stop talking — added another dimension. Yes, he said, we will keep major settlements, but in exchange for land inside of Israel, and we should tell the Palestinians now which land we’ll be giving them. Is this official gov’t policy? Can’t be sure. But if it is, it returns us to the totally unacceptable notion that everything outside of the Green Line is actually Palestinian, so that we can retain part of that area only by giving something else.
The senior Israeli official said one other thing worthy of note here: “Before Palestine will be established, Gaza will have to comply with the rules that exist in the first phase of the road map.” That first phase of the road map requires dismantling of terrorist infrastructure.
First, this makes a mockery of Abbas’s demands: You’re telling us to comply, it says, but look how far away you are.
And then, if Israel refuses — really refuses — to allow formation of a state until that condition has been met in Gaza, we’re talking about something that’s in the far distant future only. The problem, as I’ve frequently indicated, is that establishing the parameters of a state in negotiations and then refusing to allow it to become a reality because terrorism hasn’t been dismantled 1) invites severe international pressure for us to continue regardless, and 2) raises Palestinian expectations so that when they see the state is not forthcoming they will resort to violence, which is typical of how they function. This means that this scenario may actually increase terrorism rather than motivating its elimination.
The Berkley Electronic Press has published an important paper by Claude Berrebi called “Peace Economics, Peace Science and Public Policy,” which reports on research regarding the relationship between Palestinian terrorist activity, and education and standard of living. What it does, actually, is put the lie decisively to a very common myth: that terrorists are poor and uneducated.
What the study found, first, was that 31% of the Palestinians, compared to only 16 % of the terrorists, were characterized as poor. Second, 96% of terrorists have at least a high school education and 65% have some kind of higher education, compared to 51% and 15%, respectively, in the Palestinian population of same age, sex and religion.
Terrorists are more likely to be from urban areas — 54% — compared to Palestinians in general — 34%, and terrorists are more likely to live in Gaza. Among the terrorists, 94% had some sort of employment, while among Palestinians generally, only 69% have employment.
Terrorists are younger than the general population — 94% below the age of 34 as compared to 72%. And terrorists are less likely to be married.
While Israel is not doing a major ground incursion into Gaza, the IDF is stepping up its activity. Last night and early this morning there were a series of actions that killed 10 Islamic Jihad operatives. The first air strike killed Islamic Jihad commander Majed Harazin, who was in charge of rocket squads, along with two others. In the second strike, Karim al-Dahdouh, a master rocket maker was eliminated when his car was hit. By this morning, Tarek Abu-Ra’ali, senior IJ commander in Jenin was apparently also killed.
Said Olmert today: “We will continue to search for the terrorist leaders. Everybody who is responsible for the Kassam rocket fire against the Gaza periphery and Sderot – we will get to them. The terrorist organizations are feeling that… “
Needless to say, Islamic Jihad is vowing revenge — “a wave of martyrdom operations.”
Today two Hamas operatives were also killed.
As good as the elimination of Islamic Jihad and Hamas terrorists is, Moshe Arens, writing in Haaretz today, lambastes the Israeli government for not doing that major operation. He takes apart the “lame excuses” and the “inane slogans.”
“… the only way to stop the rockets from coming down on the heads of the population living near the Gaza Strip is for the IDF to move in and move the rockets out of range.” Indeed.
He then challenges a lie of the government, that: “even when the IDF was in Gaza, Kassam rockets were raining down on Israel.” What the gov’t neglects to mention, when stating this is that “the IDF left most of the Gaza Strip in the wake of the Oslo agreements, almost 15 years ago, and that from the limited areas in which the IDF was present prior to the disengagement, no rockets were fired against Israel. There is no reason to expect that rockets will be launched from areas which the IDF controls.” This is a fact of considerable significance. “What’s more, the launching of rockets against Israel has increased drastically since the disengagement.”
Arens, who has served over the years in various Israeli governments as ambassador to the US, foreign minister and defense minister, and is today Chairman of the International Board of Governors of Ariel University in Samaria, minces no words. How refreshing it is.
As you may recall, I reported just days ago that the terrorists who murdered Israeli Ido Zoldan were members of the PA security forces. Now it has been revealed that they used weapons that had been permitted by Israel to be brought in from Jordan to “bolster” the PA security forces. Since Hamas took over Gaza, Israel has allowed several shipments of Kalashnikov rifles and bullets to move into Palestinians areas of Judea and Samaria from Jordan.
Precisely how sick and stupid do things have to get before a halt is called?
Sources connected to the Winograd Committee, which is due to release final conclusions with regard to how the war with Lebanon was fought last year, now say that final report will be delayed for “technical reasons.”
Give me a break! It was supposed to come out in December, now it is expected in mid-January. The “technical reasons” are undoubtedly the arrival here of President Bush and a desire to not weaken or embarrass Olmert at this time.
Posting: December 17, 2007
It’s not unexpected, none of it. But this makes it no less tolerable. The happenings at the “donor” meeting of 90 nations and agencies in Paris.
The international community is rushing to bankroll the PA. Abbas was looking for $5.6 billion over three years, but the nations and organizations of the world are so eager to be on board that they’ve pledged $7.4 billion (though there’s no guarantee it will all materialize); for the year 2008, the US has pledged $550 million and Europe and the Japanese $800 million.
Condoleezza Rice participated, undoubtedly with great relish. She urged generous support, saying, “The Palestinian Authority is experiencing a serious budgetary crisis. This conference is literally the government’s last hope to avoid bankruptcy.”
How does one avoid becoming infuriated in the face of this? There was — as was entirely predictable — no demand for accountability. The PA is rife with corruption and mismanagement. But let’s hear those pledges for funds to save the Palestinians from themselves.
One example of mismanagement will suffice here: The PA payroll is severely bloated. Tens of thousands of people beyond what had been stipulated at Oslo were put on the rolls of the security forces by Arafat; there were was supposed to be 30,000 in these forces and ended up 80,000. This offering of “proteczia,” this bribery, was his style. As one Palestinian explained, “Arafat wanted to provide jobs for as many Palestinians as possible… The international community was anyway paying the salaries.”
But since Abbas replaced Arafat this hasn’t changed. In fact, now PA authorities are afraid to let all of the excess people go, because once unemployed they will be disgruntled and might end up with Hamas. So the international community will pay a bloated payroll. The majority (70%) of the funds will go for expenses such as this, not for development at all.
What is more — guaranteed — some of those payroll funds will end up in the hands of terrorists, because terrorists have been put on the PA payroll. A good number of them don’t even show up for work.
And corruption? As Ephraim Inbar put it in July: “… billions of euros transferred to the PA have been squandered and misused. The PA… [is] quite ingenious in siphoning parts of the aid to those members least in need of outside support.”
Abbas even received a letter recently from an anti-corruption “young Turk” of the Fatah party who’s in prison. He, backed by hundreds of others, implored Abbas to get his own house in order before negotiating with Israel.
But never mind… rush to help the poor Palestinians. Don’t ask them hard questions, that wouldn’t be politically correct.
One of the most serious mistakes being made here is the assumption that pouring money into Palestinian coffers will promote civil reform — that it will “fix” things. The hard reality is that over the last several years the Palestinians have received per capita more money in international support than any other people. By the light of this reasoning, they should be doing marvelously well now. But as it is, they have no civil infrastructure in place.
Of course, we are being told that the reason the Palestinians haven’t thrived and made something of themselves is because of the “occupation,” which is nonsense. After Oslo we pulled out of Palestinian population centers; they were free to develop in a host of ways, but did not.
And today there was the despicable arrogance of Abbas, who plays his role so well. Said he:
“I’ll be eager to implement all our commitments under the road map, and I expect the Israeli side to do the same, comprehensively, and without excuses, by us or by them.
“I expect them to stop all settlement activities, without exceptions.”
How noble this sounds. But Abbas is afraid to leave Ramallah for fear of physical harm. His security officers have admitted that the forces are incompetent and have no orders to go after gunmen associated with Fatah. Abbas cannot honor his commitment under the roadmap to eliminate terrorist infrastructure. But he makes demands of us.
Abbas is quoted as having said today that he won’t negotiate with Hamas, but what I’m reading is that he won’t negotiate “based on a fait accompli,” which I take to mean their takeover of Gaza. He’s been saying this all along, and Hamas has been signaling willingness to undo part of that takeover. I see Abbas’s statement today as a ploy to satisfy donors and no more. Several times already I’ve relayed credible reports indicating that Fatah is talking with Hamas with an eye to reconciliation.
Abbas also alluded to the dire conditions in Gaza (which he said was headed for “catastrophe”); he made a bid for international support for Gaza, which would mean reducing the isolation of Hamas.
(Cynic that I am, in my head I can hear Abbas advising the Hamas leaders, “Keep a low profile here and I’ll see if I can get something for you, too.)
John Bolton gave an interview on Arutz Sheva radio today. He said that the NIE report was more political than intelligence-based, and was meant only to undercut President Bush’s policies on Iran.
Posting: December 16, 2007
“And So It Goes”
A two year old was injured today by shrapnel from a Kassam that landed near the family home in Kibbutz Zikkim, near Gaza. The child’s mother, who is pregnant, was also taken to the hospital to be treated for shock.
How long will stories like this be “routine” ? How did we come to the place in which such stories COULD be considered routine?
Lenny Ben-David, who served as deputy chief of mission at the Israeli Embassy in Washington some years ago, has written an instructive piece, with historic perspective, on the strategic value of Har Homa. Ben-David anticipates that the verbal harangue about new housing in Har Homa will be followed by attacks, as the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo was attacked previously.
A mission of (mostly military) Israeli intelligence personnel was dispatched last week to the US to convince authorities that Iran is indeed engaged in developing military nuclear capacity. As the meeting, which is about to conclude, has been off the record, details have not been revealed, but it seems certain that Israeli intelligence data was shared.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Livni is in Paris for that meeting of PA donors. Her message: We’re for a strong PA (which means, give them the money), but not at the expense of Israeli security. Well, there seems to be a bit of a conflict there. Once again, there is a failure to say that money should be withheld until the PA proves itself.
Livni did say that movement towards a state will be fostered if terrorism is halted. And she indicated that our building some homes in Har Homa would not be a stumbling block to anyone really interested in achieving peace.
Rest assured, we have not heard the last about the “settlement” of Har Homa.
I know that John Bolton, former US ambassador to the UN, was one of the really good guys: He sees clearly and speaks the truth. And on a regular basis he confirms my impression. Now in an interview Bolton has given to Der Spiegel in Germany, he has said: “His foreign policy is in free fall. The president is acting against his own judgment and instincts [and is] under the influence of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice… [He] does not supervise her enough. That is a mistake.”
Hamas celebrated its 20th anniversary with rallies in Gaza yesterday and, according to a Palestinian news agency, reiterated its refusal to recognize Israel.
Hamas leader Usama Al-Mazini said that Gilad Shalit would not be released until all Palestinian prisoners were released.
Posting: December 15, 2007
Motzei Shabbat (after Shabbat)
The plans to build further units in Har Homa — they would not extend Har Homa, but would be built inside the area already established — were laid a full ten years ago, even though the tender for the building was just put out now. The tender was routine, because decisions had previously been made — it wasn’t run by high gov’t officials. It is unlikely that Israel will back down on this (hope not!) even though there is a furor.
But the furor is worse than irksome — it’s enraging. As I’ve written, the meeting of potential donors for the PA will take place this coming week in Paris, and Abbas will be requesting $5.6 (sometimes I read $5.8) billion dollars. But according to a draft of Abbas’s speech acquired by Haaretz, Abbas intends to demand at the conference that Israel stop all building over the Green Line because this area belongs to the PA.
First, an economic conference is the wrong place to raise this issue. The Palestinians use any forum they can get, but their achieving economic reform and viability really does not depend on their acquisition of the Har Homa neighborhood, even though this is how they will represent it.
And then, there is the assumption that it’s a done deal, a given: that we will be turning over to them half of Jerusalem and all of Judea and Samaria. Hey! Isn’t that what negotiations are supposed to determine?
What concerns me the most, however, is a statement from an unnamed Israeli gov’t official cited in Arutz Sheva: “This affair has sabotaged negotiations and cast a shadow on the international donor states meeting next week. Because of a miserably timed, rash bureaucratic decision, we must prove anew that we are serious.” Bells go off in my head with this. So, we won’t stop the building in Har Homa but we’ll make some other new concession to “prove anew” our sincerity.
“Sabotage negotiations”: The Palestinians are saying (as they always say such things to gain leverage) that they won’t continue negotiations unless we stop the plans to build. WE are the ones doing them a favor, if we are discussing the possibility of giving them a state (G-d forbid!). Why do we have to prove anything more? Why is the onus not on them to prove that they deserve this state? Why are they not running to be conciliatory so that they can have it? As I’ve pointed out numerous times before, this whole scenario is upside down and backwards. You don’t go into negotiations on the defensive, but from strength.
Much more significant with regard to that meeting is whether the PA has gotten its act together in a manner that makes it possible to achieve economic development. Of course this is not the case, but Khaled Abu Toameh wrote a stunning article in the Post on Friday about the PA’s lack of preparedness.
Not only did PA officials admit that they have a long way to go with regard to reforming their security services, PA Civil Police commander Gen. Kamal al-Sheikh revealed that more that 600 Fatah policemen defected to Hamas last June and helped them take control of Gaza. But it was a small percentage of the 13,000 Fatah forces that were in Gaza, he insisted, playing down the significance of this.
PA officials also acknowledged that the US-backed plan to put PA police in charge of keeping law and order, which began with the 300 police sent into Nablus (Shechem), has failed to achieve most of its goals because of the incompetency of the forces.
One officer confessed (and I’ve reported on this before) that the operation hasn’t targeted gunmen connected to Fatah (in the main, Al Aksa Brigades). “These gunmen are continuing to operate freely in the refugee camps near Nablus and Tulkarem. We arrested citizens who stole olive oil three years ago and or fired into the air during weddings two years ago…. We still have many officers who are involved in various crimes and corruption. We are still far from talking about real reforms in the security establishment.”
I hope everyone is paying close attention to this, as news sometimes exaggerates the “success” of PA operations.
What was unsettling was that this PA officer said, “In the coming days we will launch a similar security operation in Bethlehem. But the real test will be in Hebron and Jenin, as well as in the refugee camps, where Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah militiamen call the shots.” Bethlehem? Hebron? Jenin? Has this been promised to them by Olmert already? Does it not depend on the success of the operation in Nablus?
Most infuriating is that the PA security officers Abu Toameh spoke with indicated that in spite their lack of success in their security operations, they expect the donors in Paris to approve their request of $5.6 billion anyway. And, you know what? They probably will. No accountability. No demanding that they make the mark before more is given to them. Pour on the money anyway.
The only good thing I can say about the security situation is that on Thursday, during a meeting with Quarter envoy Tony Blair, PA prime minister Salaam Fayyad complained that Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak wouldn’t agree to remove roadblocks in Judea and Samaria.
Barak leaves a lot to be desired, but he knows full well what would happen if those roadblocks came down.
Well, after meeting with Barak on Thursday night, Sderot Mayor Moyal agreed to stay in office after all. Barak specifically asked him to rescind his resignation and has promised some sort of special attention to Sderot’s needs for protection. The problem is that we should not be talking just about doing things like reinforcing buildings there — we should be acting to stop the attacks.
On Thursday, a Kassam hit a home in Sderot and a woman was injured.
This should be of particular interest to America citizens:
After a report in The Washington Times about United States Aid for International Development (USAID) financing of Islamic University in Gaza, Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL), a member of the House Appropriations Committee) asked USAID to do an audit of its aid to the university. From 2002 to 2006, USAID had given Islamic University close to $1 million. During this time period USAID had conducted several inquiries into their funding of this institution and each time had concluded that there was no reason to curtail funding; Islamic University, for its part, consistently maintained that they did not support terrorism.
In response to the Kirk query, the inspector general of USAID checked on the matter and concluded that funding of the university did not represent a departure from US policy that forbad funding organizations associated with Hamas.
Kirk last Tuesday gave an interview in which he said that the failure of USAID to detect the university’s ties with terrorism represented “either incompetence or a complete breakdown of the vetting system as run by the State Department.” (USAID, which is semi-autonomous, runs out of the State Department.) Ismail Haniyeh sits on the board of trustees of the university, and PA security forces seized rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles during a raid of the university last January.
Kirk’s interest in the matter has spurred follow-up audits, which had concluded that USAID has funded terror-linked groups on at least two occasions, and that USAID “did not always follow applicable federal laws” when providing funds to the university.
Shocked? Please know that lots more US tax money than you’d like to think ends up in the hands of terrorists. Mark Kirk is one of my heroes now.
At a ceremony initiating joint industrial projects with Iran, Syrian President Bashar Assad let it be known that his country’s participation in Annapolis in no way represented a weakening of ties with Iran: “I confirm, on this occasion, that relations will not be shaken for any reason or under any circumstance.”
Let’s hear it for Rice’s plan to bring Syria to Annapolis in order to achieve steps toward moderation. Iran has now invested about $2 billion in Syrian industries such as automobiles, cement, and power generation, and in agriculture.
Dr. Reuven Koret, publisher of Israel Insider has written a superb open letter to Secretary Rice: “Applying Jim Crow to Israel.” He calls her on the very mistaken analogy she drew between her childhood, during which she suffered as a black person, and the suffering of Palestinians today. And he castigates her in no uncertain terms for the hypocrisy of drawing upon her experience and its lessons of equality for all, yet acceding to outrageous Arab demands that Israelis at Annapolis be treated in a demeaning fashion.
It’s worth a read:
Posting: December 13, 2007
“When Does It Get Better?”
“The resignation of Sderot’s mayor constitutes a great victory for the Palestinian resistance. This is a political victory, a victory for morale, it adds to the humiliation we are heaping upon the Zionist army in the field. The man who threatened to wipe Beit Hanoun off the map and called upon the Israeli military to do just that was himself wiped off the Israeli public map today” crowed Muhammad Abd al-‘Al, a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees, yesterday, in a statement to YNet.
It’s painful, and hard to refute. And I hold the gov’t of Israel directly responsible.
Al-‘Al said the aim of the rockets was not so much to inflict physical harm as to destroy Israeli morale. He claims that the rockets that were fired yesterday are part of the new arsenal of weapons that has been acquired.
Responding to the situation, Russian billionaire Arkadi Gaydamak has now said he will invest 90 million shekels in fortifying homes in Sderot; secure rooms will be provided in 600 homes.
Gaydamak has been involved before in assistance to the people of Sderot, and there has been the likely well-founded observation that there is a bit that is politically self-serving in his generosity. But, at this point, so what, if he helps the people badly in need of assistance. What actually happened previously was that he served in some degree as a spur to the gov’t, embarrassing them into doing more. Hopefully this may happen again — a total of 1,200 homes need to be secured.
The US Congressional Research Service, which provides independent analysis to Congress, cites “reputable sources” with regard to the likelihood that North Korea may have given arms and possibly training to Hezbollah.
The Service refers to Paris Intelligence Online, a French Internet publication specializing in political and economic intelligence, which in September 2006 had published details of an extensive North Korean program to give arms and training to Hezbollah.
The program was initiated in the 1980s, when Hezbollah members traveled to North Korea for training; after 2000, North Koreans were dispatched to Lebanon to train Hezbollah members in the building of bunkers.
Paris Intelligence Online said this training “significantly improved Hezbollah’s ability to fight the Israelis” during the war last year.
Additionally the Congressional Research Service cited a report indicating that Mosad intelligence believes that “vital missile components” used by Hezbollah came from North Korea.
I offer here from international sources examples of the bias against Israel — the assumption that Israel is always responsible:
First, the World Bank. It has approved the PA economic reform plan that requires an infusion of $5.8 billion from 2008-2010. I wrote about this yesterday, explaining that the PA has promised economic reform for 13 years now, but has never delivered, instead refusing to staunch corruption or assume genuine fiscal responsibility. But does the World Bank address corruption, the issue of a bloated payroll, the hand-out mentality, etc. etc.? Not on your life.
What does the World Bank say? The money will not stem economic decline… unless Israel also eases Palestinian movement and trade.
Then there’s Tony Blair. Addressing the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee yesterday, he said that Israel faced a “nightmare” after pulling out of Gaza. He understands this better now than he did when he was British prime minister, and he realizes that Israel would hesitate to pull out of the West Bank now.
But does he follow by saying that we should sit tight while work is done to make the PA stronger from a security perspective? Of course not! He says in spite of our anxieties we should move towards pulling out anyway.
And there’s the EU, naturally. On Tuesday they issued a statement noting “with concern” Israeli plans for construction “in the Har Homa settlement [settlement??] in east Jerusalem. The EU considers that this initiative might undermine ongoing efforts in the search for peace… ” Did you read an expression of concern about the launching of rockets at the civilians in Sderot undermining the search for peace? I sure didn’t.
There are few institutions more biased against Israel than the UN. Yesterday I wrote about the good feeling in the Israeli mission to the UN regarding the very first Israeli inspired resolution not involving the Holocaust or the Arab-Israel conflict to pass in that body, and pointed out that the Arabs — and in particular the PA mission — remained hostile.
But it turns out there’s more to be said on this matter: Richard Schifter, former deputy US representative in the UN Security Council, writing in the Post, has expressed the opinion that the UN has not become less anti-Israel, but rather that a good face is being put on matters by the Israeli mission, which has learned to better navigate the system.
Schifter’s litany of UN anti-Israel measures is blood-curdling:
“The UN General Assembly continues to pay more attention to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict than to any other country-specific issue. The world’s worst atrocities and humanitarian crises are ignored, but time is always available for Israel-bashing… the UN’s Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Human Rights Practices filed a 27-page report castigating Israel and focusing special attention on the security barrier. ‘More than ever,’ the report claims, ‘it appeared to the Committee members that the construction of the separation wall violated every single human right of the Palestinians.'”
Perhaps most incredible: “The General Assembly also had before it a report from the secretary-general which purported to be evenhanded but was studded with comments slanted against Israel. Thus, Prime Minister Sharon’s ‘political courage’ and the PA’s ‘responsible behavior’ were lauded, but that was followed by the complaint that Israel had withdrawn from Gaza without demolishing the synagogues of Gush Katif. ‘The buildings were thus passed unexpectedly to the Palestinian Authority, which was not in a position to protect them,’ said the report.”
“[Some] resolutions… continue to authorize an anti-Israel propaganda apparatus that flies the UN flag, is paid for by the UN, and operates worldwide. Leadership of this propaganda apparatus is vested in the Division for Palestinian Rights, located in the UN Secretariat.
“This UN-sponsored anti-Israel propaganda effort, which has encouraged the divestment and academic boycott campaigns, appears to have operated below the radar screen of many observers, perhaps even the government of Israel. Its detrimental effect on the peace process has, however, been fully recognized by the US.”
In my last posting I quoted Chief of Staff Ashkenazi, with regard to the fact that a ground incursion into Gaza would be necessary to stop the terrorism.
Seems Defense Minister Barak spoke at the same conference where Ashkenazi made his comments. Regrettably, Barak spoke not as a military man, but rather as a politician, calling the situation in Sderot “difficult and complicated.” The “complication,” of course, is negotiations with the PA.
“We know that this is a mission we haven’t accomplished yet, and the road ahead is still very long. This is a solution that requires sound judgment and responsibility, the situation isn’t simple and I hope it will not come to a point where we are forced to do that which, for now, we do not want to do.”
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has recently made comments about the need for NATO involvement in Gaza if we are to make major concessions, and this philosophy has been seconded by Minister of Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beitenu). But this is a recipe for disaster. For this robs Israel of the right to defend herself and avoids the issue of making the PA responsible for security in its territory.
For a cogent analysis of the pitfalls, see Dr.Aaron Lerner:
In an interview yesterday, Sec. of State Rice said that President Bush will be taking a much more active role: “… he very much wants to signal support for the bilateral process between the parties and to continue in a hands-on way to encourage them to move forward.”
There are many topics that I would like to share with my readers, but that keep getting tabled because of more urgent matters. Let me make room for some of them here.
I begin with an issue that, in its larger implications, is of considerable significance:
Most of you have read about the British school teacher working in Khartoum, Sudan, who allowed her seven year old students to call their Teddy bear Muhammad. When she was arrested for allowing “insult” to the name of the Prophet, mobs outside the jail called for her execution. She was released only after two Muslim British peers flew to Sudan to intervene.
This is a ghastly scenario, and one that is not unfamiliar. Remember the riots over cartoons.
What caught my attention, however, is the way the teacher, Lillian Gibbons, described as a kindly woman, responded after she was released and on her way home. If it was me, I think I would have lambasted that country to the moon and back. But that is not politic. No criticism is politic. What she said was: “I have great respect for the Islamic religion and would not knowingly offend anyone. I am sorry if I caused any distress.” She didn’t even remark on HER distress, which undoubtedly was considerable.
One of the Muslim peers, a Lord Ahmed, commented, “We hope that British aid to Sudan continues and that relations between our two countries will not be damaged by this incident – in fact, this should be a way to strengthen relations.”
This is nauseating. Have the British no dignity these days, do they see fit only to grovel? One article I read described this as cultural jihad, and it rings true. Everyone is afraid to offend the Muslims, no matter how they behave. And this portends a very dangerous state of affairs.
Ruth Wisse has written an articl e in the Harvard Crimson called “How Much Land is Enough.” She makes several excellent points but I wish to quote just one here: The ratio of Arab to Jewish land in the Middle East is 640:1. Makes one sit up and take notice.
Seven years ago, there was a horrible lynching of two IDF soldiers in Ramallah, when they ended up there by mistake. Most of you surely remember this chilling event, with a lyncher raising bloodied hands from a window of the police station in a sign of victory.
Well, it has taken seven years, but the last of those involved has been caught. This is first, a matter of justice and retribution. But it also a form of deterrent — that those conducting themselves with such inhumanity know we’ll get them. Catching them is part of the Israeli code.
The terrorist, Hayman Zaban, by the way, is with Tanzim, which is part of Fatah.
According to the Palestinian Maan news agency, the PA wants to provide one time payments of $5,000 to the families of Palestinians who have served in Israeli prisons for 20 years or more. Those who are imprisoned for lengthy periods have usually killed Israelis.
A few days ago, Defense Minister Ehud Barak came up with an idea to entice settlers into leaving by offering them money, so they wouldn’t have to be forced out. What he had in mind were the 70,000 settlers on the far side of the security fence. Well, a poll subsequently taken shows that 76% of the settlers wouldn’t leave because of money.
This last item might be called a joke, but it tells us some painful things about where American Jewry is coming from. Just a few weeks ago, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations announced that Bill Clinton and George Bush Sr. have agreed to head a committee organizing events to celebrate Israel’s 60th. Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chair of the organization, called this a “great honor.” My response: You have GOT to be kidding.
Bill Clinton is at least perceived as a friend of Israel. But in fact he did Israel considerable damage, first by courting Arafat in a way that absolved him of responsibility for his behavior (setting a precedent that lives to this day) and then by pushing Israeli concessions in a last minute rush to achieve “peace” while he was office, even as he knew that the Palestinians wouldn’t honor their commitments (a la Bush Jr. now). This is something Clinton’s special envoy, Dennis Ross, later admitted.
And Bush Sr.? He was never a friend to Israel in any respect. His cadre of advisers, starting with James Baker, was decidedly and rudely anti-Israel.
There was no one else available?
Posting: December 12, 2007
Pathetic isn’t even a strong enough word. Disgusting? Sickening?
I am referring to the situation in which we find ourselves, in good part by virtue of the decisions of our government.
Today the Security Cabinet recommended that a major military operation into Gaza not be held.
The reason given is because there is evidence that the limited forays and targeted killings by the IDF in Gaza are having an effect. Figures were provided: 115 forays into Gaza in the course of 2007 with 270 Palestinian terrorists killed. Lately Barak has permitted forays that were more “proactive” in nature, it was said. In fact, just yesterday there was a major (limited) action utilizing bulldozers and tanks, one kilometer into southern Gaza — between Khan Yunis and Rafah, that killed 10 and wounded more. This was supposed to reduce the launching of rockets at us.
But the REAL reason that we’re not having that major operation is because it will kill the “peace talks.” Fatah has already said that if we go in they’ll fight in Gaza alongside Hamas. So that would be the end of that. Rice would be very unhappy — unhappy with us.
Besides which, data on a reduction of Kassams shot at us or on the relatively small numbers killed are beside the point — a tiny band-aid on a gaping wound. For there is continual stockpiling of increasingly sophisticated weapons brought in from Egypt, which are stored in bunkers; there is improvement in the Kassams so they may be stored longer and soon will put 250,000 people and sensitive sites in Ashkelon within range; and there is training by the Iranians of a Hamas army of some 15,000 — already divided into specialized divisions. What is a limited foray and the murder of 10 people in the face of this? What does it matter if they stop shooting Kassams completely for the moment?
For shame! That this would be ignored, especially after our experience with Hezbollah and the intelligence about what we’re going to be facing with Gaza. We have been warned by defense officials that delay in acting against this threat is dangerous.
And what is reaction to this decision? Does Rice praise us for forbearance in the face of danger for the sake of peace? Of course not. She’s too busy saying that we’re putting the “peace process” at risk by planning construction of 300 housing units in Jerusalem within municipal boundaries.
And the Palestinians? They said they wanted the talks, to start in Jerusalem today on procedural matters, to be “low key” with no photo ops, in protest of our operations in Gaza. Not in protest, if truth be told, but because it serves them badly in the Palestinian street to be seen with Israelis. Keep it out of people’s minds as much as possible.
Please understand what this means: Even if Fatah were moderate (which th