Posting: June 6, 2008
The situation. Sometimes I see us simply going in the most frustrating circles, but now (very tentatively) I see a shift in some of what we’re dealing with.
We might start with the chances for an agreement with the PA. It’s been unsettling, to say the least. There has been fear of a divided Jerusalem and of forced withdrawal from Jewish communities beyond the Green Line.
But now, even though we must continue to be on our guard and to fight against the staged destruction of Israel, the chances of a negotiated agreement between us and the Palestinians seems much reduced.
I have already written about Abbas’s call to renew talks with Hamas (without demanding it first relinquish Gaza). But yesterday Abbas made his position even firmer: He is calling for talks based on the Yemenite initiative. That’s the initiative that brought about a signed document that Abbas walked away from within hours after the PA representative put his name to the paper.
At that point Abbas was walking a fine line between relationship with Hamas and keeping the West happy. This is what seems to have shifted at present. At a gathering in Ramallah yesterday, Abbas said if we want peace we must withdraw to the lines of June 4, 1967 (essentially the Green Line). He’s giving notice that no compromise will be forthcoming, and that with everything else he expects us to give them the Kotel and the Temple Mount.
Abbas says he will spare no efforts in restoring “national unity.” He has thrown in his lot with Hamas rather than the West. Because of his enormous weakness, something like this was fairly predictable. He may backtrack again, if he sees loss of Western materiel and financial support. But my betting is that this is the way he’s headed.
According to Khaled Abu Toameh, most Palestinian analysts see this move by Abbas as a reflection of his disillusionment with negotiations. But, says Abu Toameh, there are those who believe this is a ploy to gain concessions from us. Said one such analyst, “Abbas is telling Israel, either you give me everything I want, or I go to Hamas.”
In his dreams. There’s a signal lesson here. Each time efforts are made toward negotiations, there is talk of moderation, and hope for peace. But the Palestinians have never compromised. They always expect, somehow, to get it all and have prepared their populations to expect nothing less. As the Palestinian political rhetoric becomes more radical and Hamas influence is greater, the situation becomes less and less flexible. I do not believe Abbas wants to compromise, but even if he did, his throat (literally) might be slit if he tried to do so.
Olmert’s visit with President Bush has been declared a huge success, as the US-Israel strategic alliance is strengthened in the face of the Iranian threat.
Bush has agreed to connect Israel to an advanced US satellite system that warns of the launching of ballistic missiles immediately after they are launched.
Additionally, we are to be given permission to purchase F-35 single engine, single seater stealth fighter jets, which will upgrade our capabilities.
We may also be able to purchase F-22 “Raptor” single seater, double engine jets. Until now this hasn’t been possible because of a ban on their sale to foreign countries, which US House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), now indicated he’s in favor of lifting in Israel’s case. “I’m a strong supporter of Israel getting all the material and equipment they need,” he said.
The F-22 is exceedingly important to the Israeli capability to hit Iran, as it can fly into enemy airspace without being detected. This, of course, is very much to the point in terms of US willingness to consider supplying us now.
After meeting with Bush, Olmert declared that he had “fewer questions” regarding the US determination and plans for dealing with Iran. “… every day we are making real strides towards dealing with this problem more effectively.”
Perhaps Bush has reassured Olmert on US intentions to hit Iran. What is clear is that the US is making it more possible for us to do so if the US does not. And the betting here is that we will if, indeed, the US does not.
Yesterday morning, a mortar shell killed Amnon Rosenberg of Kibbutz Nirim and wounded five others. Hamas has claimed credit.
I’m almost embarrassed to report that Olmert, headed back to Israel, has declared that the day of reckoning is close and there may be a major Gaza operation soon. How many times can he say this without actually doing it? What has happened how, interestingly, is that Barak, who had been pushing for that ceasefire is now said to be in favor of an operation as well, declaring that Hamas will pay a price before there is a ceasefire. So perhaps (just perhaps) the political climate has shifted here.
Members of Labor are now saying that unless Kadima holds a primary soon to remove Olmert from the head of the party, they will support Silvan Shalom’s efforts to pass a bill to dissolve the Knesset.
With all of the political jockeying, this is a wait and see situation. Wait and hope, perhaps.
Obama. I had not intended to start writing about him so soon, but what he has done is so blatant, so indicative of the problems he presents, that I must.
At the AIPAC (American-Israel Public Affairs Committee) meeting the other day, he declared, to rousing cheers, that he was for an “undivided Jerusalem.”
But now he has backtracked in a clarification. Explained a member of his campaign: “Jerusalem is a final status issue, which means it has to be negotiated between the two parties.” Obama, it was explained, is certainly in favor of Jerusalem remaining Israel’s capital. But he does not rule out Jerusalem also being the capital of a Palestinian state, or Palestinian sovereignty over certain neighborhoods.
So, what does a “united Jerusalem” mean? “… it’s not going to be divided by barbed wire and checkpoints as it was in 1948-1967.”
Huh?? “United Jerusalem” universally refers to Jerusalem remaining united under Israeli rule. To have used this term to mean something else, without clarification, was misleading and rings all sorts of bells.
My own guess is that when Obama spoke at the AIPAC meeting, he was, in essence, shooting from the hip, providing a vision that would appeal to his audience. And then, when pro-Palestinians expressed fury (this I know happened), he needed to have his campaign “clarify” to mollify them. Indeed, this rings all sorts of bells regarding sincerity as versus lip service, and raises serious questions about what his “real” positions are.
Before closing, I want to look at one other aspect of Obama’s campaign that is exceedingly troubling: His choice of Daniel Kurtzer as a key advisor on Middle East issues (and someone who would likely get a major post should Obama win).
For those of us in the know, Daniel Kurtzer is recognized as very problematic for Israel:
When Kurtzer did his Ph.D. at Columbia, he blamed Israel for the “radicalization” of the Palestinians, and he referred to the terrorists as “guerillas.” A bad sign. A worse sign: He was a speechwriter for James Baker, who is a hater of Israel and the Jews. According to Joseph Farah, “Probably more than any other State Department official, Kurtzer has been instrumental in promoting the goals of the Palestinians and in raising their grievances to the center of the U.S. policymaking agenda.”
In a recently written book, co-authored with Scott Lasensky, Kurtzer expresses the following opinions:
— that the US is “overly deferential” to the stated political problems of Israel
— that the US should work to balance “asymmetries” in the power between the Palestinians and Israel
He further expresses the attitude that the perpetuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the key to peace in the Middle East. This is patent nonsense as it ignores Shiite-Sunni tensions, and the Jihad goals of militant Islam, which will persist no matter what Israel does. But he actually sees fit to place blame on Israel for inclinations among militant Islamists to attack the West — Daniel Pipes has just written about this, and puts the onus on us for resolving this conflict (which means he would just as soon see us disappear).
A Middle East structured as Kurtzer would have it would weaken all US goals and interests in this part of the world and actually foster extremism. The Islamists see Israel as the “little Satan” — a tool of America, and America as the “big Satan.” If we are weakened, then the radicals are encouraged that they are winning the battle against America. And you can believe it, the battle IS against America.
~~~~~~~~~~ Posting: June 4, 2008
What many American-Israelis here have been worried about has come to pass: Barack Obama has captured the nomination.
Here I will simply say that we are praying mightily — for the good of the US and Israel — that McCain will win. (Obama’s stunning speech at AIPAC not withstanding.) In the course of the campaign I will share observations from this part of the world on issues of consequence that relate to the presidential contest.
To my readers: Please know that a host of responsibilities requires me, at least in the short term, to post less frequently than has been my habit. Other work I am doing (I am beginning research on a major report, for example) competes with these postings for my time and attention and a balance is necessary. I will do my best to do these postings as is possible for me. In the course of June, I will be away from my computer for a considerable amount of time.
As many are aware, Olmert is in the US primarily with regard to the issue of Iran. He has addressed the AIPAC policy conference and has met with President Bush. Also on the agenda, reportedly, is a request for cutting edge military equipment.
At the same time, members of the Israeli National Fraud Unit are also in the States. They are seeking documentation of Talansky’s testimony — regarding funds drawn from his banks at the time he says he gave money to Olmert, and the identity of the other people that Talansky spoke of in his testimony as having also provided cash to Olmert.
At present Talansky is due to return here for cross examination by Olmert’s lawyers in July, but there is talk about bringing him back sooner. The lawyers are said to be caught between legal considerations, which require them to take their time reviewing all the evidence, and political considerations, which make it prudent for them to take the offensive as quickly as possible to dispel the current public impression.
The government has announced construction of over 800 new housing units in the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Pisgat Ze’ev and Har Home, both over the Green Line.
Olmert was singularly unfazed by protests registered by the PA and Condoleezza Rice. (This building “exacerbates tensions” and “obstructs the peace process.”) When his eye is on sustaining his coalition, he is able to stand strong. Would that he similarly stood strong for Israel’s sake.
PA chief negotiator, Ahmed Qurei, has told a Fatah activists group in Ramallah that it would take a “miracle” to reach an agreement with Israel before the end of the year. He says no progress has been made.
And — surprise! — Abbas has done a turn around and is now calling for a dialogue with Hamas even though they have not relinquished Gaza.
Explained an Abbas aide: “The failure of the peace process, the tragic situation in Gaza, the entire Palestinian situation required thinking courageously of an exit. We hope that Hamas will respond positively to the call.”
And indeed, in Gaza, Hamas spokesman Taher Nunu said, “We welcome this call… to launch a national dialogue, and we consider it a positive step,”
An article this week in Germany’s Der Spiegel outlines a plan being advanced by Germany, which is serving as go-between in communication between Israel and Hezbollah. It makes clear what has long been suggested: What Hezbollah would return are the bodies of Regev and Goldwasser; it would also provide detailed information on Israeli jet navigator Ron Arad, shot down over Lebanon in 1986 and presumed dead.
In return, according to this German plan, Israel would release four Hezbollah militiamen and 10 bodies. And in addition, Samir Kuntar, about whom I wrote the other day: He killed a man in front of his daughter and then smashed the child’s skull in. He should never, ever see the light of day again; for such a person only the death penalty (which Israel does not administer) would be fitting. His release would not sit well with many here.
Nasrallah is additionally seeking release of several Palestinians.
Israel is currently negotiating an upgrade in our relationship with the EU — to senior European partner — that would give us increased access to European markets worth billions to us, and foster cooperation in science and diplomacy.
Bad enough that PA prime minister Fayyad sent a letter to the Organization for Economic Development asking that Israel’s participation in Europe’s markets be blocked — Olmert was said to be livid about this.
Far worse, however, is that Israel has now learned that Egypt has been attempting (without success) to do the same. What seems to be going on is that Egypt believes Israel complaints about Egypt’s failure to block smuggling of weapons into Gaza was a factor in a US freeze on $200 million in military aid Egypt — and now they are retaliating.
~~~~~~~~~~ Posting: June 1, 2008
“Har Habayit Beyadenu”
“The Temple Mount is in our hands.” The words spoken joyously by General Motta Gur, on retaking the Temple Mount, after 19 years of being forbidden access to the holiest of our sites.
A year ago, we celebrated 40 years that a united Jerusalem has been in our hands. By the thousands, we danced in the streets. Who would have dreamed that within the course of the year that followed we would have a government blind enough, foolish enough, sufficiently devoid of Jewish passion, to consider negotiating it away to a Palestinian Authority whose head has refused to recognize us a Jewish State?
Tonight begins Yom Yerushalayim. May we move past these evil days with all possible speed, and hold fast to our sacred heritage for all time to come.
Enjoy a magnificent rendering of Yerushalayim Shel Zahav by the late Ofra Haza:
This willingness to even consider negotiating away the Temple Mount is but one facet of the colossally stupid (and dangerous) policies of Olmert and company.
Consider the current policy with regard to Syria:
It’s not long since Olmert announced “serious” indirect negotiations with Syria. This was not something which the US government welcomed. The US was attempting to isolate Syria, and along came Israel providing some legitimacy to this terrorist regime, even if indirectly.
Now I read in Haaretz that Israel is warning the EU to show “caution” in contacts with Damascus. Seems there’s a spate of renewed contact with Syria that is making Israel uneasy, and so a “secret” telegram has gone out from the deputy head of the Western Europe division at the Foreign Ministry to the ambassadors of key European countries, telling them to remind the Europeans to “be careful and measured” in contacts with Syria.
After all, the negotiations haven’t begun yet, and “the Europeans need to be reminded that Syria continues to smuggle weapons to Hezbollah, supports Hamas and Islamic Jihad and is not disengaging from Iran. All these are issues of great concern for Israel, and they are still on the table, unresolved.”
Sounds to me like a lot of good reasons for not negotiating with Syria now. But to open this Pandora’s box and then be upset with what is set free!
What is more, that list of unacceptable Syrian behaviors ignores yet another of enormous magnitude. The Bush administration believes there is more to Syria’s nuclear program than the reactor that Israel destroyed last September. US intelligence suspects that Syria is hiding a network of at least three more facilities that would have provided the fuel for the reactor, and has requested that the UN send in inspectors.
Please see Elyakim Haetzni’s piece, “The Golan is not for sale,” which speaks of the dangers of trying to play with Syria and the errors of even contemplating surrender of a part of Israel that is steeped in our heritage.
Then there is the matter of Olmert’s and Barak’s policy on Hamas in Gaza and the possibility of that ceasefire:
Decisions have been tabled for now, ostensibly because Olmert is going to the US late tomorrow and there are issues said to require clarification. Reports are, however, that there are tensions between Barak and Olmert on how to resolve the matter — and this time it is Barak who seems to not have his head screwed on very tightly. Our defense minister — a former military man (and at one time he was a good one) — is said to be in favor of the ceasefire, even though Shalit is not part of the deal and there is no firm commitment from Egypt with regard to stopping smuggling.
Keep in mind that there are most certainly political dimensions to this inclination of Barak’s. For him it would not be a matter purely of defense. Undoubtedly he is also considering the way in which a period of quiet that he engineered might play to his favor during this time of political upset.
Most members of the Security Cabinet are reported to be against the ceasefire, and they are restive because they feel they are not being included sufficiently in the decision-making process. A Security Cabinet meeting scheduled for today was cancelled.
Recent news from Egypt makes the mere consideration of a lull seem rather suicidal. Egyptian police have discovered a massive arms cache hidden inside of a mountain in the northern Sinai. The material — which included 2,200 bullets, 30 anti-aircraft missiles, several sacks packed with hand grenades and automatic rifles, and RPG (rocket propelled grenade) launchers — was to be smuggled into Gaza.
The scenario is rather obvious. They keep upgrading their equipment. What was found in that mountain 80 kilometers from Rafah is surely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. News about anti-aircraft missiles (some of which may already have been brought into Gaza) is making the Israeli military uneasy.
So? Do we wait until they upgrade even further, or do we regain our senses and start taking them out now?
Of note here is a claim by Hamas that Fatah’s Al Aksa Brigades in Gaza is increasingly cooperating with Islamic Jihad in a joint effort to sabotage the ceasefire. If this is so, all the talk will remain just that, for if all factions and groups are not on board, there is no deal.
Considerable confusion exists regarding some apparent negotiations going on between Israel and Hezbollah. There have been rumors for days of a prisoner trade with them that would bring us back our two soldiers.
Part of the trouble I’m having with this — with considerable sadness — is my dubiousness about whether Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev are still alive. There has been no evidence that they are and strong suspicion in many quarters that they are not; Gerhard Konrad, the German mediator involved in this believes that Hezbollah just wants to trade bodies. Which makes it all very strange. For there were rumors, at least, of a major concession in trade on our part: in Lebanon they have been crowing that arch-terrorist Samir Kuntar will be with them soon.
Kuntar has written a letter to Nasrallah, which was published in the PA’s al-Hayat and revealed by PMW, pledging that he would continue a life of Jihad: “I give you my promise and oath that my only place will be in the fighting front soaked with the sweat of your giving and with the blood of the shahids… ” This, in and of itself, is more than enough reason to refuse to release him.
At any rate, a trade of sorts has now taken place, although it’s anyone’s guess whether this is a precursor to something much bigger. We have just released Nissim Nasser, a Lebanese Jew who converted to Islam and moved to Israel, where he was arrested and convicted as a spy. His sentence was complete but he was being held under administrative arrest.
And Hezbollah has released a box of bones to the Red Cross that are said to be the remains of Israeli soldiers who died in the Lebanese War in 2006. Forensic experts still must do identification.
I will not belabor the Olmert scandal in detail, especially as the reports shift by the hour. There is considerable speculation as to precisely what he might be indicted for, but there is even talk of money laundering.
Most damning, from my perspective, is what Caroline Glick shared in her piece on Friday. In a nutshell: Talansky owns a minority share in the Israeli firm ImageSat, which sells satellite images from Israeli spy satellites to foreign governments; Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) is the chief share holder. Talansky wanted to have ImageSat sell images to Hugo Chavez’s government in Venezuela; he was so upset when IAI vetoed it, that this great Zionist took IAI to court.
The clincher is this: “Last week Ma’ariv reported that Olmert had contacted an Israeli diplomat in Venezuela and asked him to expedite a proposed $18 million deal between Chavez’s government and ImageSat but the Defense Ministry nixed the deal for some inscrutable reason.”
There is considerable jockeying for power as the current government weakens. Most, if not all, of the parties will hold primaries and begin to prepare for the day after. Within Kadima Livni is being challenged, in particular by Mofaz.
More and more, including within Kadima, there is recognition that early elections are the likely outcome. Right now the guessing is in November.
~~~~~~~~~~ Posting: May 28, 2008
“Revulsion and Turmoil”
This is what the nation is struggling with in response to Talansky’s testimony yesterday. It is not simply a question of illegality, but of out-and-out sleaze. Asking for money in unmarked envelopes instead of by check over a period of many years. Requesting loans for extravagances and never repaying them, even when asked to do so.
There is the sense on the left and the right that Olmert is not a man who can head this nation. The focus is quality government, which is not a political issue tilting one way or the other. A rabbi is calling on other rabbis to camp outside Olmert’s home until he quits. An “Envelope Movement” has started, with people printing up “Olmert go home” on envelopes, passing them out and putting them in public places. And now I’m hearing about demonstrations in the streets.
Perhaps most significantly, Barak, who is head of Labor, at a press conference this afternoon, has now called upon Olmert to step down:
“In the wake of the current situation and considering the challenges Israel faces… the prime minister cannot simultaneously lead the government and conduct his personal affairs.
“Out of consideration for the good of the country and the accepted norms, I believe the prime minister must detach himself from the day-to-day leadership of the country.”
Barak suggested that the choice of whether to resign or temporarily suspend himself remained Olmert’s. He indicated that if Olmert did neither, “we will move towards early elections.”
From several quarters criticism is being leveled at Barak for neither quitting the coalition now, nor setting a timetable for doing so if Olmert fails to act. There is concern that his words were not strong enough, and that he may be grandstanding rather than speaking sincerely.
MK Zevulun Orlev gave voice to this when expressing unease that Barak might “repeat the false promises he made at Kibbutz Sdot Yam at his infamous press conference in June 2007.” That’s when he promised to quit after the final Winograd report was issued, although when time came, he did not.
Part of what’s going on here, of course, is Barak’s fear that in elections he would be trounced by Netanyahu.
Three Labor MKs, acting more decisively, moved to dissolve the Knesset. There is a process, however, and this does not automatically come to a vote.
MK Eli Yishai (head of the Shas faction) is behaving in his usual pathetic manner. “I’m not going to get emotional about this,” he said, while explaining that he was still backing Olmert. He will now be consulting the Council of Sages that guides Shas.
Needless to say, there is a lot of backroom caucusing taking place as people try to position themselves, within their own parties and in relationship to the other parties.
Early rumors have spread of a Labor-Likud national emergency government that would leave Kadima in the cold.
As would be expected, tension between Labor and Kadima is considerable.
And Olmert? He’s a man without shame. In the face of all that was publicly revealed yesterday, he refuses to step down. Says his strategic adviser, Tal Zilberstein, this would be an admission of guilt. His lawyers are claiming that there’s nothing new in Talansky’s testimony and that Olmert’s innocence will be proven.
Ultimately it will be up to the prosecutors and court to determine legal guilt, although when one hears about more than $300,000 allegedly transferred from Talansky’s corporations to Olmert’s lawyer, Messer, one does begin to suspect that there was more going on than Talansky’s pure love for the mayor of Jerusalem.
But the other guilt — of impropriety, of lack of ethical behavior — is staring us all in the face.
Abbas is worried that all of this turmoil will affect negotiations. Let’s hope so.
~~~~~~~~~~ Posting: May 27, 2008
Morris Talansky began his pre-trial deposition in court today with a recounting of his personal relationship with Olmert, whom he says he loved.
In order to help Olmert, when he was mayor of Jerusalem, Talansky offered to write him a check. But Olmert said that because of the way checks were routed, it was better to have cash. So Talansky gave him cash.
Now, I’m not a multimillionaire financier and that request for cash smells like three day old fish to me. So what was Talansky thinking? “I didn’t really grasp it. I didn’t really work out how the system works over all,” he claimed.
Later in his testimony he admitted that, “I overlooked, frankly and honestly, a lot of things. I overlooked them, maybe I shouldn’t have.”
Talansky says, between 2002 and 2005, he gave Olmert $150,000 from his own pocket, as well as assisting with raising funds from others. Some of this was transferred via Olmert’s long-time assistant Shula Zaken, and some was handed to Olmert directly when he was in the U.S. He paid Olmert’s hotel bill and covered other expenses; sometimes Olmert asked for money — $5,000 here, $3,000 there. He admits that there are no records of how this money was spent: While a good part of the money was allegedly used for political expenses, Olmert, he explained, was fond of high living — expensive cigars, watches, first class on flights, etc.
Sometimes there were “loans” — as for example $25,000 for a family trip to Italy. The loans have never been paid back. On one occasion, when Talansky asked for the return of money, Olmert told Talansky to speak to his son, who lives in New York, but nothing materialized.
As to those campaign expenses, documents presented showed $300,000 transferred from Talansky to Olmert lawyer and associate Uri Messer from about 1999.
Talansky says the last money he gave Olmert was in 2005. Olmert had asked for expenses for a primary, and Talansky confesses to being shocked at how much Olmert said he needed: some $70,000.
Seems that he had become disencha nted with Ehud Olmert.
Talansky, in his testimony to this point — which is extremely damning of Olmert in several respects, paints himself as innocent. “I was a victim,” he says. “I trusted Olmert.” He never had any ulterior motive or expected anything from what he gave Olmert. He did it for love of the man and for love of Jerusalem. He did it, it would seem, because Olmert hugged him and invited him to his son’s wedding — because it made him feel personally connected to what was important to him.
That’s how it would seem.
He did acknowledge that Olmert tried to drum up business for a venture of his. (That’s when billionaire Sheldon Adelson was approached and rebuffed the outreach.)
The question becomes one of legality: what was pure friendship, what was bribery, when was Olmert legally justified in taking the money, what does it mean that full records do not exist, etc. The testimony will continue. When Olmert’s lawyers cross examine, they will seek to discredit Talansky and to search out legal rationale for why this money would have been given.
Durban II is being thus titled because it follows Durban I, which indeed was held in Durban, S.A. But this conference will be held elsewhere.
From Anne Bayefsky, of Eye on the UN:
The next UN racism conference – known as Durban II or the Durban Review Conference – will be held on UN premises in Geneva from April 20-24, 2009, a UN preparatory committee decided today. Durban II is intended to promote the implementation of the 2001 Durban Declaration, which singled out only Israel and labeled Palestinians as victims of Israeli racism
Observed Bayefsky: “holding the meeting at a UN venue on European soil will essentially guarantee funding from the UN regular budget for the conference, and that the European Union will fully participate and not follow boycott plans of Canada, the United States and Israel.
“Ironically, the Durban Review Conference will take place over Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom HaShoah on April 21, 2009. Jews all over the world will be remembering the 6 million murdered in the worst instance of racism and xenophobia in human history. At the same time, the United Nations will be discussing whether the Jewish state, created in the wake of the Holocaust and standing as a bulwark to ensure it is never repeated, should be demonized as the worst practitioner of racism and xenophobia among nations today.”
For further information: http://www.eyeontheun.org
Sixty-one supporters (the number required) have promised to sign on to a bill in the Knesset that would require 80 votes to give away the Golan. This is good news.
~~~~~~~~~~ Posting: June 26, 2008
“State of Confusion”
I would like to begin with some enlightening material regarding the al-Dura case, for we are dealing here with a pattern of inaccuracies in reporting news about the Palestinians — either because major news outlets are naive in trusting what their Palestinian stringers tell them, or because they run information even when it is clear to them (or should be) that inaccuracies exist.
Dr. Richard Landes, Professor of History at Boston University, has done groundbreaking work in researching and exposing the construction of these deliberate inaccuracies; it is he who coined the term “Pallywood.”
The first link below is to a video done before the appeals court decision was released in which Landes describes what is going on, and the second is after the decision.
As to other “confusion” taking place here:
Amos Gilad returned from Egyptian mediated negotiations on a ceasefire with Hamas totally empty-handed. Israeli officials say there has been no breakthrough on any of the major issues. Hamas will not agree to include the release of Shalit in the deal or to stop smuggling of arms.
One might think that this would move us, finally, to call it quits. But that is not the case: Instead the government is “suspending” any plans for a major operation in Gaza, waiting apparently to see what else develops, as Suleiman is still trying.
Said Barak at a Labor meeting:
“If, indeed, a calm emerges, then we will have to examine it according to what it entails and what its results are. And our demand could not be clearer – there can be no attacks. I say to all those who are pushing for a speedy operation: Think before you act.”
Speedy operation??! This has been dragging on for months.
Meanwhile, Yuval Diskin, head of the Shin Bet, in his weekly report to the Cabinet yesterday, warned that time is on Hamas’s side. Already the terrorist group has smuggled in sophisticated Iranian weapons that might reach as far as Ashdod or Kiryat Gat.
He said that Israel had to act fast, because “as time goes on, a military operation will cost… more casualties…
“There has been cooperation between Hamas and Iran. Time favors Hamas and the rest of the terror organizations, and the threat on the State of Israel is steadily rising.”
Diskin remains convinced that the chances for a truce are low. But “the Egyptians want very much to bring a truce into being. They fear a mass breakout into Egypt and [want] to keep their hegemony as a mediator. Hamas is interested in a truce but does not accept Israel’s terms. They are emphasizing the removal of the siege and buying time.”
Hamas, he said, will demand that Egypt open Rafah if the negotiations fail.
Reason enough to explain why Suleiman is working so hard.
Olmert offered some “reassuring” words, as is his practice, saying: “… things are nearing a decisive point.”
Have we not heard this before?
Because Israel “wants peace and security both in the short run and in the long run,” he explained (thereby indirectly addressing critics who accuse the government of being myopic), “we will have to make decisions.”
And wait! He said more: “If this… is not reached through Egyptian mediation, we will have to [use other] means. The government has nothing more important than securing its residents’ safety. Both I and the defense officials are losing sleep over this issue.”
Yes, undoubtedly he loses sleep over this issue…
Shaul Mofaz, former Chief of Staff and Defense Minister, is currently one of those in Kadima coming out strongest for a military response, as he demanded action to regain deterrence in Gaza. “We must be the ones setting Israel’s agenda – not the terror organizations,” he said on Army Radio.
Many people were angered by the order of Major-General Yosef Mishlav, the coordinator of the government’s activities in the territories, to pull soldiers away from the Erez Crossing, in the wake of the truck bombing at Erez just days ago. In what MK Zevulun Orlev (NU/NRP) referred to as a “cowardly act,” soldiers of the Coordination and Liaison Authority, who had been near the Erez were “temporarily” moved to the Julis base 17 kilometers away.
Some of the harshest criticism of this decision came from within the IDF. Said one army officer:
“[This] is an admission of our failure to protect the lives of our citizens and soldiers. The army… should be at the front and serve as a buffer between the enemy and our civilian population. It is wrong to evacuate them because of a threat. What will the residents of Netiv Ha’asara, who live near the base, say? They will justifiably demand that the State evacuate them as well.”
“Theoretically and realistically, Israel can get along without [former chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen.] Dan Halutz,” intoned MK Arye Eldad (NU/NR) after Shabbat.
He was mocking a statement made by Halutz: “The thought of ceding the Golan Heights gives me a bellyache, but for real peace one must be willing to pay a real price. Theoretically, Israel can do without the Golan.”
Explained Eldad, “Israel must pay heed, and do something if it doesn’t want to return to the failures of the Second Lebanon War. In that war, Halutz was exposed as someone who does not understand anything of the basic principles of war, and accordingly Israel saw that it didn’t need his advice.”
But, in the face of vast confusion, Olmert’s talk about proceeding with the negotiations with Syria persists.
Iranian officials, who were greatly irked by Israel’s demands that Syria cut Iranian connections, have gone out of their way to emphasize their strength: Iran’s foreign minister is referring to “strategic ties” with Syria.
Those who imagine that Assad will break that connection totally in order to regain the Golan are dreaming.
This was made clear even in a Damascus-run newspaper on Saturday, when an editorial (that reflects government policy) said that Syria’s relationships with other nations were not on the table and that there were no preconditions (by which was meant imposed on them).
Of additional concern is the fact that Syria is stalling on permitting representatives of the International Atomic Energy Commission to visit the site where a reactor was allegedly bombed by Israel.
And Barak, even though he really recognizes the realities, persists in dreaming anyway:
At yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, he explained that, “The Syrians have a different agenda than Israel,” and that peace is not their priority.
Assad’s priorities are: survival of his regime; getting the international tribunal into the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri canceled (as that is expected to point an accusatory finger at the highest echelons of the Syrian government); securing a “special status” for Syria in Lebanon; and getting into the good graces of the US and the West.
Yet, said Barak, Israel should try to pull Syria from the orbit of Iran, even though efforts will have to be complicated and lengthy.
What he fails to perceive (or willfully ignores) is the vast likelihood that if Syria does pursue negotiations it is not out of a desire for peace, but rather an attempt to achieve those priorities listed above.
Within the coalition, there is from my perspective no one more hypocritical with regard to negotiations with Syria than MK Eli Yishai, head of the Shas faction. Meeting yesterday with representatives of communities in the Golan, he delivered a promise to stand by them in their efforts to prevent their evacuation from the Golan.
What unmitigated nonsense! If he wanted to help them prevent this, he should withdraw from the coalition and make it difficult or impossible for the government to proceed. But then, a new government might not continue with the building of those housing units that Olmert has promised him. And so he settles for words regarding not abandoning Israel’s security to Syria.
Minister Shaul Mofaz was also at that meeting. His response, designed to reassure, was fairly ludicrous. It’s wrong to turn the Golan over to Syria now, he declared, as this would be tantamount to giving it to Iran. So, we need creative solutions, such as giving the Golan to Syria but leasing it for 25 years so our people can stay there for now.
There are unsubstantiated reports — coming from Palestinians close to those doing the negotiations — that Israel is now offering a withdrawal from all but 8.5% of Judea and Samaria (with control of Jerusalem not yet discussed). This would be less than the 12% Israel had reportedly sought to hold on to previously, but more than the Palestinians find acceptable.
Abbas has just told a meeting of the Fatah Revolutionary Council that there has been no progress in the negotiations since the beginning.
Talansky has been questioned again, prior to his forthcoming court testimony that is scheduled for tomorrow. Olmert’s lawyers will cross-examine him subsequently — precisely when is unclear. Talansky, who is very restive and eager to return to the US, has had the hold on his travel extended until the testimony is given. There is now talk about allowing him to go, as he is scheduled to return for the wedding of his grandson on June 11.
The rumors keep flying: NY State Assemblyman Dov Hilkind says he saw Olmert, when he was mayor, receive envelopes of cash. Talansky’s driver said he transported cash for Olmert. On it goes. There was a leak indicating that an indictment would be served by the end of the summer, and then that was quickly denied.
~~~~~~~~~~ Posting: May 23, 2008
“On It Goes”
The responses to/analysis of Olmert’s bid to negotiate with Syria. Touching briefly on what’s happening:
— Olmert attempted to give a talk at a Jewish Agency ceremony last night and was booed down by protesters carrying “The people are with the Golan” signs.
— While comments by Bush have been circumspect, a report today cited a US official as calling Olmert’s overtures to Syria as a “slap in the face” to the US. Bush has let it be known that he has no intention of softening his stand against Syria (which, quite likely, is what Assad is after).
— I wrote yesterday about Livni’s spelling out of what would be expected of Syria for a peace deal. Well, the Syrians responded with anger. They say they thought Israel was going into this talk without preconditions.
Seems Livni’s detailing of expectations may have been an attempt to soften the blow to the US: “See, we won’t deal while they are still part of the Axis of Evil.” This helps explain why these expectations weren’t spelled out specifically before any agreement to negotiate took place, as, of course, they should have been. All of this merely highlights the ludicrousness of the situation. (The damage done to attempts to isolate Syria by Olmert’s willingness to confer legitimacy on Assad must be taken seriously.)
— MK Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud head) has declared that Likud would not abide by any agreement made with Syria by Olmert.
— Word is that the indirect talks in Turkey will be continued in a week to ten days.
Shai Bazak of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzlyia has written an opinion piece on Syrian negotiations that concurs in the opinion that there will be no deal because what is wanted is only the process. His take involves analysis of Assad’s precarious position as a member of the ethnic minority Alawite.
Good news here: A French appeals court has overturned an earlier ruling of libel with regard to the al-Dura case.
This is the case of the libel against Israel constructed by a Palestinian stringer in Gaza working for France 2 TV, who claimed to have filmed Israeli soldiers shooting down the boy Muhammad al-Dura in 2000. This was broadcast by the station’s Jerusalem correspondent Charles Enderlin, causing an enormous furor and even becoming a rationale for terrorism.
French Jew Phillipe Karsenty, who maintains a media watchdog website, became convinced that the entire thing was a hoax and charged that the station had knowingly misled the world on this issue. France 2 and Enderlin sued him for libel, and won.
Now in the appeal, this has been overturned. Says Karsenty, “The verdict means we have the right to say France 2 broadcast a fake news report that was a staged hoax.
Among the reasons that Karsenty became convinced it was a hoax:
No footage was shown of the boy being killed ; first he is alive, then he is lying on the ground apparently dead.
Only seven bullet holes were in the wall behind the boy even though the claim was that he had been subjected to a 45 minute hail of Israeli bullets.
Israeli soldiers stationed in the area testified that they did not participate in a gun fight that day.
Olmert was questioned by police again today, and a final decision is being made on when Talansky will be deposed, or if he is deposed on Sunday, when he will be cross-examined by Olmert’s lawyers.
I believe it is official now that Hamas has rejected Israel’s ceasefire terms, as conveyed by Egypt’s Suleiman. Hamas officials are expressing anger at Suleiman for pushing them to accept Israel’s offer rather than leaning on Israel to be more forthcoming with Hamas.
Hamas officials are angry about two things: They wanted immediate relief from the blockade, while Israel said this would come as a later part of the process, and then within parameters agreed upon earlier, which include European monitors at the Rafah crossing. They also didn’t find it acceptable that Israel insisted on making sure that Hamas was truly abiding by the ceasefire before stopping all operations.
Sources close to Hamas have reported, as well, that Hamas rejected Israeli demands that weapons smuggling be stopped.
Israel’s terms, said a Hamas representative, were “completely unacceptable” and were aimed at “further humiliating the Palestinians and aggravating their suffering.”
This scenario, I believe, reveals a good deal about the Hamas mindset and how they view Israel. They have an exaggerated sense of their own power and obviously saw Israel as weak and accommodating; they thought they could make arrangements on their terms because launching of rockets at us had beaten us down.
That they wouldn’t agree to stop smuggling (even if they intended to continue covertly) tells the whole story.
An explosive-laden truck blew up yesterday at the Erez crossing. The driver was the only casualty. Other terrorists fired mortars at the crossing at the same time that the truck exploded. As a jeep accompanied the truck, it is thought that the intention may have been kidnapping of a soldier.
One of the groups that took credit is Fatah’s Al Aksa Brigades.
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