Jerusalem – President George Bush sketched last night a future peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, which he hopes will be signed this coming year. His plan includes a Palestinian state with border revisions, maintaining Palestinian territorial contiguity (which means a “safe passage” for Palestinian armed forces to traverse Israel between Gaza and Judea), a solution to the refugee problems by means of compensation and safe borders for Israel.
Mr. Bush noted the starting point for negotiations to realize the vision of two states is that an end must be put to what the president described as the “occupation” that began in 1967.
According to Mr. Bush, that agreement must lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state as the “homeland” of the Palestinian Arab people, just as Israel is the homeland of the Israeli Jewish people, the president said.
Gen. William Frasier, who served as an American fighter pilot, will supervise the implementation by Israel and the Palestinians of their commitments in the road map and will serve as a mediator between the sides. Gen. Frasier will address Palestinian complaints about roadblocks and construction in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and he will also address Israeli complaints about Palestinian Authority (PA) involvement in terror.
Gen. Frasier is currently Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s military advisor.
On Thursday, as President Bush sped through the Hizma roadblock on his way back to Jerusalem from Ramallah, the president joked that “you’ll be pleased to hear that my convoy got through the roadblock without being stopped, unlike many ambulances,” echoing the Palestinian complaint that Israel places road blocks that interfere with the movement of Palestinian life.
Bush’s comment could be interpreted as a signal to Gen. Fraser, along with his comment at his Jerusalem Jan. 8th press conference that “How Israel deals with the rocket attacks I would hope is done in a way that not only protects herself but worries about innocent life. And I’m convinced the prime minister does. He understands he has an obligation to protect Israel. He also understands that he’s got to be circumspect and reasonable about how he does it so that innocent people don’t suffer.”
Bush Vision Contradicts Arab Vision
The president left Israel on Friday, leaving in his wake a dazzling “vision” that is to be implemented within a single year: the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside of the state of Israel. But the vision outlined by the American president does not conform to the vision of the Arab world: a Middle East without a Jewish state.
The American president left the Palestinians a slew of gifts, such as a demand to end the Israeli “occupation” and a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines with a capital in Jerusalem. Bush underscored that he was talking about a state with territorial contiguity. Bush used Palestinian rhetoric for first time when he spoke about the “right of return” instead of the refugee problem.
Yet the Palestinians and the Arab world are furious with Bush because he spoke about a “Jewish state.”
Ambassador Mohammed Sabih, who is responsible for the Palestinian issue in the Arab League, said on Thursday that Bush’s statements contradicted the United States’ human rights policy. Sabih said he was puzzled how Israel could be defined as a “Jewish state” when it had a population of approximately 1.5 million Muslims and Christians, including people who immigrated from the former Soviet Union.
However, the new constitution of the future Palestinian state defines it as an Islamic state, where Judaism and Christianity will have no juridical status and where Jews will not be allowed to live.
The Saudi daily Asharq al-Awsat reported that chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat vehemently rejected President Bush’s statements in recognition of the state of Israel’s Jewish character.
The PA, he said, recognizes Israel “as Israel only.”
Gaza Military Weekend Roundup: 3 Rockets and 9 Mortar Shells
Two Hamas terrorists were killed on Saturday ht in an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip. Four others sustained serious injuries.
The Israelis attacked a Hamas position in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, opposite Kibbutz Nir Oz. Hamas officials said that the attack had been geared to strike at a Hamas training facility.
The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Spokesperson’s Office said in response that the air strike was carried out in response to the continuing Kassam rocket and mortar shell fire out of the Gaza Strip into Israel. The IDF Spokesperson’s Office noted, moreover, that 215 attempted shootings at the Gaza periphery communities had been recorded since the beginning of 2008.
On Friday six mortar shells were fired into the Negev, as were three rockets. One fell in the area of Zikim and two rockets fell inside Palestinian territory. They fell opposite Kibbutz Mefalsim and Moshav Netiv Haasara.
On Saturday, another three mortar shells were fired. Two of the shells landed in Palestinian territory near Nahal Oz and one fell in the Erez area. No one was injured and no damage was caused by any of the rocket or mortar shell fire.
Hezbollah: Udi and Eldad Will Be Declared Dead
According to Western intelligence reports reaching Jerusalem and the security establishment, Hezbollah Secretary General Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah believes that Israel is about to declare the two kidnapped soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser to be dead soldiers whose place of burial is unknown.
According to these reports, this was the reason for Nasrallah’s speech last week, in which he said that Hezbollah has in its possession body parts of Israeli soldiers. It is believed that he is attempting to make a preliminary move that would allow him to maintain his bargaining power with Israel, in case such a declaration is really made.
A senior Israel security source said that such a decision, should it be made, would require that those who make it have “responsibility and courage.” He said: “We must learn our lesson from past mistakes and not raise a new Tami Arad here.”
Tami Arad is the wife of the Israeli fighter pilot Ron Arad, who was captured in Lebanon in October 1986 and has not been heard from since.
During Bush’s visit, U.S. National Security Council Director Stephen Hadley met yesterday for a personal meeting with the families of the kidnapped soldiers – Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev and Gilad Shalit – and with Yona Baumel, the father of Zecharya Baumel, and with Yosef Katz, father of Yehuda, whose sons went missing in the battle of Sultan Yaakub during the war in Lebanon in June 1982.
The families asked Hadley to use his influence in the U.S. to bring about the release of their sons and obtain information about them. “Hadley definitely related positively to our requests,” said Benny Regev, Eldad’s brother, after the meeting.
Karnit Goldwasser: “Tell Me Exactly What Happened to Them”
“There are several facts in this story,” Karnit Goldwasser said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 10 News on Friday night.
“One of the facts is the medical report that no one can contradict. Another fact is that time is passing and there is nothing, and the third fact is that I am realistic. When all these components are put together, I can read the map. I understand that the situation is not optimistic.”
Karnit, who in her statements also mentioned the report that was written around the time of the kidnapping and which found that Regev and Goldwasser had been seriously and critically wounded, said that she herself already recognizes the fact that the situation does not look optimistic. “I read the report and realized what everyone understood,” Karnit says. “The situation is not good. The report does not show good things. If over the past several months I’d seen something change, then I would say, look, something has changed. But nothing has changed and that also says something.”
Even after the meeting with the American National Security Council adviser during President Bush’s visit to Israel, Karnit sounded no more encouraging. “He did not tell me anything new,” she said. “He showed empathy, he showed sympathy. I am so tired of all the empathy and sympathy that I’ve received. I don’t want any more empathy or sympathy. They should tell me the truth. They should tell me to my face. They should tell me exactly what they think happened to him. They shouldn’t go easy on me.”
Karnit, who for the many months since the kidnapping lives from trip to trip, from meeting to meeting and conference to conference, wants more than anything to go back to routine. “I want my life back. I want Udi’s life back. Sometimes they introduce me: the wife of the kidnapped soldier. I’m not ‘the wife of.’ I’m Karnit. I don’t want to be like that. I want it all to be over.”
©The Bulletin 2008