Posting: July 31, 2008
Political predictions are never written in stone, and certainly I make no claims that what I’m about to write here is anything other than a speculation. But I think it’s a reasonably informed speculation and worth sharing…
I wrote yesterday about Netanyahu and Barak having met, and about thoughts that they might have been talking about more than defense issues.
Well, just suppose that…
Netanyahu has convinced Barak that he (Barak) will have a more solid political future if he throws the lot of Labor in with Likud rather than with Kadima. Suppose Barak is sold on the idea that the whole Kadima party is politically polluted and that something of their reputation would ultimate rub off on Labor (not that Barak himself is exactly Mr. Clean, you understand).
This notion that Likud now seeks to represent itself as the party of integrity (no laughing out there, please) is bolstered by Uzi Dayan having joined its ranks. Dayan’s Tafnit party platform had a strong plank for clean government — his endorsement of Likud is like the Seal of Good Housekeeping (for those Americans old enough to remember that).
Suppose Netanyahu has made promises to Barak about the role Labor can play in the coalition, and that Netanyahu and Barak together have decided to finish the Kadima party.
It could happen: they could do it. Without Labor, it is very unlikely that anyone at Kadima’s helm would be able to put together a stable coalition.
All of this is by way of saying that it ain’t over yet, and we cannot be certain how it will play out — and certainly cannot be sure that the next government will be Kadima-led.
Haim Ramon, an Olmert mouthpiece and a deputy PM, told Army Radio this morning that Kadima’s chances of forming a new coalition are very slim. While Shaul Mofaz, also speaking to Army Radio, said he thinks he has a good chance of winning the Kadima primary, and that he intends to put together a broad-based coalition for a unity government. Right now in polls on the Kadima primary Mofaz is running just a couple of points behind Livni, who previously had a major lead.
And Binyamin Netanyahu is calling for new elections, saying, “This government has reached an end and it doesn’t matter who heads Kadima. They are all partners in this government’s total failure.”
It is apparently as I had speculated yesterday. (Making this speculation was a no-brainer, really.)
Police sources are saying that Olmert decided to step down now because “he recognized that the investigation evidence held by police is serious and solid…. The investigation Friday is expected to be difficult and uncomfortable for Olmert. He will be confronted with evidence and documents that have accumulated against him, and it is a fair assumption that he already understands that this involves substantive evidence.” (Olmert is to be questioned again, this time with regard to alleged double billing for travel.)
There are actually commentators who are saying that Olmert has stepped down with dignity, doing what’s right for the country. But, hey, I say he’s doing what’s right for Olmert, as he always does. Far better this than the possibility of being forced out after he’s indicted.
What’s clear is that he is without humility of any sort or a sense of responsibility for what has transpired. He is, he tells us, only a hard working and innocent man who has been set upon by enemies.
Most disconcerting is Olmert’s pledge to keep working on peace negotiations. This raises the issue of exactly what would be tolerated in this country in terms of any commitments he might make to the PA when he is on his way out. We cannot let our guard down here.
Earlier this week, Olmert told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that it was highly unlikely that it would be possible to reach a comprehensive agreement with the Palestinians by the end of 2008. While there were gaps on issues such as borders and refugees, he said the main sticking point was Jerusalem.
Then, a day later, Olmert announced expectation that it should be possible to reach an agreement on everything else but Jerusalem by the end of 2008, with a mechanism set in place for how to reach a Jerusalem agreement in the following year.
Yesterday the Palestinians weighed in on this. If there is no comprehensive agreement by the end of 2008, we are being told, the PA may stop negotiations. “May ” I have never known a group to make so many threats, all of which turn out to be nothing but hot air.
What Abbas’s chief of staff, Rafik Husseni, said was, “We will negotiate until the end of the year, and then the president will review our options.”
But here’s the key: “Without a deal on Jerusalem, there will not be a peace deal at all.”
Ahmed Qurei, head of the negotiating team, vociferously agreed:
“There will be no peace agreement with Israel unless there’s an agreement on Jerusalem. And there will be no state without Jerusalem. Olmert and the rest of the world must understand that Jerusalem is the core of the problem.”
Note: “Jerusalem” means a demand for all of eastern Jerusalem, with us returning to the Green Line. This means, aside from everything else, total relinquishment of the Kotel and Har Habayit (the Temple Mount). This is not going to happen.
So the bottom line is that I don’t believe Olmert is capable of signing off on a final deal with the PA before he leaves office. But he can do us damage by going on the record as being committed to things that will come to haunt us later.
Abbas made yet another threat yesterday that is a sure sign of just how precarious the position of the PA is right now. If Israel releases Hamas members of the Palestinian parliament as part of the deal to secure the release of Shalit, Abbas would dismantle the PA. This information, according to Haaretz, came as a “personal message” from Abbas delivered to our Central Command by head of the PA’s civic affairs department.
Many Hamas parliamentarians were arrested by Israel after Shalit was captured and about 40 remain in our prisons. Abbas is afraid that their release would end up strengthening Hamas infrastructure in Judea and Samaria significantly just at a time when Fatah and Hamas are embroiled in conflict.
The position that Abbas is taking on this might have the effect of weakening him on the Palestinian street, as Abbas is supposed to be working for the release of all Palestinian brothers.
There is no progress in negotiations to secure Shalit in any event, because Israel is refusing to release all of the prisoners demanded by Hamas — not because they will strengthen Hamas civic infrastructure, but because they are terrorists. Neither will we permit the opening of the crossing at Rafah as a precondition.
But the question remains as to whether Israel might give credence to Abbas’s concerns on this.
Yesterday, Khaled Abu Toameh reports, PA security was put on high alert because Hamas is threatening PA officials in Judea and Samaria — especially in Ramallah, and the threats are being taken seriously.
Leaflets distributed by Hamas’s military wing, Izzadin Kassam, targeted top PA leaders for “collaborating with Israel.”
Specifically mentioned were Abbas, PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad, PLO executive committee member Yasser Abed Rabbo, top Fatah officials Azzam al-Ahmed and Ahmed Abdel Rahman, and Tayeb Abdel Rahim, a senior adviser to Abbas.
“Collaborating with Israel”: Great climate for negotiating serious “peace talks,” no?
Eli Lake, writing in the NY Sun, discusses the fact that there is now likely to be a slow down in PA – Israel negotiations, which will be problematic for Rice, who is pushing for an interim document.
Lake cites David Makovsky, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy:
“Basically, Secretary Rice would like a summation document that points to the disagreements and the points of convergence between the two parties. The problem is that no political figures like to expose to the public the concessions they make in the absence of a diplomatic breakthrough…. There is not much hope for such an agreed-upon document.”
Posting: July 30, 2008
“How About That!!”
Would have sworn it wouldn’t happen and it has: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has announced that after Kadima elects a new leader in its September 17 primary, he will resign from office to give his successor a chance to form a new coalition.
Originally he had said that he would only step down if the newly elected head of Kadima succeeded in forming a new government and there were not going to be elections. This sounds different.
Olmert went on to protest his innocence with regard to the investigations in process now, and vowed to vigorously defend himself. My own take is that he smells an indictment coming and saw this as the graceful way to bow out.
The process that will unfold after his resignation:
The resignation of the prime minister includes the resignation of his entire government. President Shimon Peres will then consult with various political factions in the Knesset and charge the head of one with attempting to form a new government.
It is assumed that this person will be the newly elected head of Kadima, but this is not a given. As to who will head Kadima: Livni and Mofaz are both furiously vying for the position, with Olmert, who at this point despises Livni, working as he can to help Mofaz come out ahead. Others are also in the running but with smaller showings in the polls.
That person, whoever it will be, will have 28 days to put together a stable government; if he deems it appropriate, Peres can extend the time by 14 days.
If the selected faction head still cannot put together a coalition, then Peres will select another MK heading another faction to make the same effort to form a coalition.
There are predictions — about which I will not comment here — that forming a stable coalition with the current makeup of the Knesset will not be easy.
If no coalition is formed, the nation goes to elections, to be held within 90 days. Then after elections, a coalition must be formed to create a stable government — and it can assumed that the head of the faction that secured the most mandates would be given the first opportunity to do this.
It must be noted that, even though Defense Minister Barak is head of the Labor faction, he cannot be chosen to form a coalition now because he doesn’t currently sit in the Knesset.
With regard to elections, polls show that head of the opposition, Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud), is the public’s first choice. Netanyahu has been quiet of late, waiting for a process to unfold. He undoubtedly is smiling tonight. If, as predicted, his party were to come out ahead in an election, he would be chosen to form the next government.
Two brief political observations here:
Netanyahu and Barak have held some consultations of late, presumably about defense issues, with Barak briefing Netanyahu. But it is being speculated — and it is just speculation at this point — that there may be some sort of political cooperation coming down the road. This would mean Netanyahu was moving his supposedly centrist-right party left, but we’ll need to see how things unfold.
What adds to this speculation is the fact that Uzi Dayan has just announced he was joining the Likud party and was promised a leadership role. On the basis of his political positions, I would have expected Dayan to go with Labor. This was a surprise. Dayan had formed the Tafnit party, which has a strong social agenda, but did not pass the electoral threshold for gaining a seat in the last election; presumably Tafnit backers would now support Likud.
Seems Netanyahu is already building his coalition.
If head of a political faction does succeed in putting together a new government within the allotted time, Olmert continues to run a caretaker government until that new government is in place. If the nation goes to elections, Olmert heads a caretaker government even longer — until after the elections and the establishment of a coalition.
And so we’ll be seeing his face for some time yet, in spite of this announcement. The question remains as to how much damage he can do in his lame-duck position. Particularly is this the case with regard to negotiations with the PA.
MK Aryeh Eldad (NU/NRP), speaking after Olmert’s press conference, said that Olmert was “the most failure-ridden and corrupt leader in Israel’s history.”
The fact that Olmert would be resigning his position in a few weeks’ time, Eldad said, was “the only good news Olmert managed to supply in his time in office.”
Sadly for our nation, there is enormous truth to this.
Posting: July 28, 2008
“Hamas in Jerusalem”
Yuval Diskin, head of Shin Bet, provided a report for the Cabinet yesterday.
Some Jerusalem neighborhoods, he told them, were becoming hotbeds of Hamas activity and a serious security problem. The neighborhoods of Abu Dis and Azariya were mentioned in particular, as was Shuafat.
Now, if I live to be 120 I will not understand everything that is taking place. All I can do is report on it. Seems the neighborhoods that are considered most problematic are on the “other side” of the security fence. That is, the fence, designed to keep out terrorists from Israel proper, is not contiguous at every single point with the municipal border — while in some places the fence extends beyond the municipal border, here and there the municipal boundary extends beyond the fence. The IDF apparently does not operate in these areas, which are not part of Judea and Samaria, but rather — as part of the municipality — part of Israel proper. But the Jerusalem police don’t go often to the other side of the fence. And so there is less law enforcement or deterrence activity in these areas than is the case in Judea and Samaria — a security vacuum.
(I hasten to mention, however, that the Arab neighborhoods from which the two tractor terrorists hailed — Umm Tuba and Sur Bahir, as well as the neighborhood of the Rav Kook yeshiva terrorist — Jebl Mukabir — are all inside the fence, as is Shuafat, so I am further confused.)
Diskin reported, as well, that Arabs from Judea and Samaria were increasingly filtering into these neighborhoods illegally, and in some cases were making their way into Jerusalem on this side of the fence.
In the first seven months of 2008, there have been 30 terror related deaths in Israel, as opposed to 13 for all of 2007; half of these killings were carried out by Arabs resident in east Jerusalem.
Diskin conceded that current methods of deterrence are not working sufficiently. The question now is what will be done.
Public Security Minister Avi Dichter is calling for housing demolitions and deportations of people associated with terror. And he makes the additional point — which must be attended to without delay — that there are Arabs working in construction in the city using equipment that is heavier and more dangerous than the tractors that have been used twice so far now.
Diskin reported on a significant increase in what he called “popular terrorism,” by which he meant relatively spontaneous acts by individuals not affiliated with any terror group. This is certainly how the two tractor terrorists are being represented.
But my perspective is slightly different. Khaled Abu Toameh ran a piece the other day in which he said that in both cases it is believed that the tractor terrorists, who had criminal records and had been associated with drugs, were trying to redeem themselves with family and community. Well… for me this is a no-brainer: If redemption of reputation is achieved via a terrorist act, then what we’re talking about is a situation in which the community values terrorism. The individual may not have been recruited for the terrorist act, but he was certainly inspired by the values of the community. This is not a “lone” act.
On yet another somber note, Diskin told the Cabinet yesterday that since the “ceasefire” has been in effect, “four tons of explosives have been transferred into Gaza for Hamas, as well as 50 anti-tank missiles, light arms, and materials for Kassam rocket manufacture – metal rods and gunpowder.”
And still we sit here, with a prime minister and a defense minister grateful for the apparent quiet and the future be damned.
Hamas and Fatah are at each other’s throats.
A blast in Gaza on Friday that killed five members of Hamas and a young girl is being blamed on Fatah, which is denying it. Hamas arrested some 160 Fatah men on Saturday, and seized material from the offices of the PA news agency WAFA and other Fatah offices.
In response, Fatah has rounded up dozens of Hamas members in Judea and Samaria.
An editorial from The Daily Star, in Lebanon, on this subject is well worth citing (emphasis added):
“… the fighting has… served to greatly undermine the Palestinian cause. It has become increasingly difficult for the international community to feel sympathy for the Palestinian people… The image of lawlessness and internecine warfare conveys the image of a people who are simply not ready for self-governance or an independent state.
“International mediators will soon grow tired of helping those who show no interest whatsoever in helping themselves.”
Meanwhile, Egypt yesterday announced an effort to relaunch the “Palestinian dialogue,” in an attempt to bring the two sides together. Abbas, who now says he has no preconditions for such talks, appears more eager than Hamas, which has not yet responded to plans to invite the two sides to Cairo.
Condoleezza Rice is pressuring Israel and the PA to come up with a “document of understanding” before the opening session of the UN General Assembly, to show what has been accomplished. An unnamed Israeli official, cited by Haaretz, said that gaps remain on most issues and that “neither we nor the Palestinians want a deadline that can’t be met… “
Foreign Minister and head of the negotiating team, Tzipi Livni, yesterday spoke out strongly against such pressure:
“I purposely am not setting deadlines because I think that’s very bad. I very much don’t want to be in the same situation that Ehud Barak was in at Camp David at the end of an American administration finishing its term and trying to put pressure on everyone to bridge gaps that cannot be bridged.”
While today Olmert told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that:
“I don’t believe we can reach an understanding this year that includes the Jerusalem issue. There is no practical chance of reaching an overall understanding on Jerusalem.”
Without Jerusalem, there is no deal.
I close here with a most perceptive piece on Obama by Jeff Jacoby, “Missing from the Berlin speech.” Jacoby looked at Obama’s speech in Berlin not by parsing each word and focusing on what he said, but, rather, but observing what he missed in the larger sense:
“‘People of the world,’ Obama declaimed, ‘look at Berlin, where a wall came down, a continent came together, and history proved that there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one.’ But the world didn’t stand as one during the Cold War; it was riven by an Iron Curtain. For more than four decades, America and the West confronted an implacable enemy on the other side of that divide. What finally defeated that enemy and ended the Cold War was not harmony and goodwill, but American strength and resolve.
“Obama’s speech was a paean to international cooperation. ‘Now is the time to join together,’ he said. ‘It was this spirit that led airlift planes to appear in the sky above our heads.’ No – it was a Democratic president named Truman, who had the audacity to order an airlift when others counseled retreat, and the grit to see it through when others were ready to withdraw.”
The message of unity that Obama delivers appeals mightily to many Americans. But what must be asked is if he has the staying power to confront the implacable enemies that the world now faces. Many of us here, looking into the eyes of that enemy, fear that he does not. His Berlin speech does not reassure us.
Posting: July 27, 2008
The Jerusalem Post ran an exclusive interview with Barack Obama on Friday. Along with it the paper ran an editorial on what he had to say. I would like to cite from that editorial:
“On the question of the fate of Jerusalem… he was confusing. He wants Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital and he wants the parties to work things out for themselves.
“That led us to ask where he stood on borders…. on April 14, 2004, President George W. Bush wrote to prime minister Ariel Sharon: ‘In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the Armistice Lines of 1949… ‘
“We asked Obama whether he too could live with the ’67-plus’ paradigm. His response: ‘Israel may seek ’67-plus’ and justify it in terms of the buffer they need for security purposes. They’ve got to consider whether getting that buffer is worth the antagonism of the other party.’
“Without that ‘buffer,’ the strategic ridges of the West Bank that overlook metropolitan Tel Aviv and the country’s main airport would be in Palestinian hands. Eighteen kilometers — or 11 miles — would separate ‘Palestine’ from the Mediterranean, the narrow, vulnerable coastal strip along which much of Israel’s population lives.
“While Obama promises to dedicate himself, from the ‘first minute’ of his presidency, to solving the conflict, his apparent sanguinity over an Israel shrunk into the 1949 Armistice lines is troubling. Half the Palestinian polity is today in the clutches of the Islamic rejectionists in Gaza. If the IDF precipitously withdrew, the other half ruled by the ‘moderate’ Ramallah based leadership would quickly fall under Islamist control… “
Dr. Aaron Lerner of IMRA, citing from that Jerusalem Post Obama interview, comments (my emphasis added):
“Obama: ‘I think that Israel should abide by previous agreements and commitments that have been made, and aggressive settlement construction would seem to violate the spirit at least, if not the letter, of agreements that have been made previously.’
“It’s that old ‘spirit’ argument again.
“… since absolutely none of the agreements Israel has with the Palestinians prohibit settlement construction (if anything, the wording of the Oslo agreements facilitates ongoing settlement activity) opponents of construction talk about ‘spirit’.
“… But what’s wrong with this ‘spirit’ approach?
“[It] enable[s] parties to unilaterally change the balance of the requirements and obligations of the deal. And that’s a dangerous precedent.”
And then there is this. On July 24, Senator Obama delivered a major speech in Berlin. In that speech, he said:
“This is the moment when we must defeat terror and dry up the well of extremism that supports it. This threat is real and we cannot shrink from our responsibility to combat it. If we could create NATO to face down the Soviet Union, we can join in a new and global partnership to dismantle the networks that have struck in Madrid and Amman; in London and Bali; in Washington and New York.”
This was called to my attention by something sent out by Steve Kohn, whom I thank. Steve wrote the following:
“After spending 24 hours in Israel the day before, speaking in front of rockets that had fallen on Sderot, and staying at a hotel on a street subject to a terror attack hours before his arrival, the senator… shows his true beliefs-that terror against Jews somehow is less heinous, violent and meaningful than that inflicted on others. How appropriate that he omitted Israel from his list of terror targets when speaking in Berlin.”
More bad news with regard to Hezbollah. It is now being reported that this Shiite terrorist group has been recruiting Sunnis in south Lebanon, in villages opposite the Shaba Farms. This is a bid for control of the area. “The Future Movement” is the name of the Sunni group with which Hezbollah is vying for power.
MEMRI, which monitors and translates what Arabs are saying in Arabic, has several excerpts from TV programs in which Samir Kuntar has been interviewed since his release.
I cite here just one:
“Allah willing, I will get the chance to kill more Israelis.”
Columnist Sarah Honig, writing in Friday’s Post, has it right, I think, when she says terrorists such as Kuntar should receive the death penalty here (only Eichmann has ever been executed in Israel), thereby precluding kidnappings to try to secure their release.
“It’s at least slight solace to know that the most heinous of butchers won’t get the last laugh on us and won’t in the interim enjoy our hospitality, be well fed by Israeli taxpayers, will further their education, pursue hobbies, receive conjugal visits, procreate and even commission and coordinate more terror onslaughts.”
On Thursday, the IDF arrested seven terror suspects in Judea and Samaria.
Early today, in an arrest operation in Hebron, we took out Shihab Na’atsha, the explosives engineer from Hamas responsible for assembling the bomb belt used in the suicide attack in Dimona in February, which killed one person and injured 40.
And the PA wants us to stop doing these operations?
A half a dozen times, I began a posting on the situation with regard to Iran, and a half a dozen times I have found myself side-tracked. But even more so, I have found it close to impossible to be coherent on the subject, so swiftly do reports shift.
McCain’s recent statement on the subject was this:
“I think we have a lot of options to explore before we seriously explore the military option, and I don’t think we have exercised those enough.
“I would hope that would never happen [that Israel would feel the need to attack Iran]. I would hope that Israel would not feel that threatened.”
He said the US and Europe could impose “significant, very painful sanctions on Iran, which I think could modify their behavior.”
“But I have to look you in the eye and tell you that the United States of America can never allow a second Holocaust.”
While Obama, while here, said:
“What I can do is assure that I will do everything in my power as president to prevent Iran attaining nuclear weapons. And I think that begins with engaging in tough, direct talks with Iran, sending a clear message… and elevating this to the top of our national security priorities, so that we are mobilizing the entire international community…
“One of the failures, I think, of our approach in the past has been to use a lot of strong rhetoric but not follow through with the kinds of both carrots and sticks that might change the calculus of the Iranian regime. But I have also said that I would not take any options off the table, including military. “
Last week during his visit in Washington, Israeli Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi urged a blocking of Iranian aggression. Israel has been stunned by the reversal in former American policy as the US has begun to attempt direct contact with Iran — as last week a high-ranking State Department official was sent to join the European delegation meeting Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, without noticeable effect. If reports are accurate, there is even the possibility of a US diplomatic presence at the consular level in Teheran. Always, this is announced with threats also implicit.
Dr. Gerald Steinberg, a conflict resolution expert at Bar Ilan University, has offered the opinion that the current combination of combined US diplomacy and threats might work. Bush is gambling that Iran might suspend nuclear aspirations, which would accrue to his administration’s credit, but that if Iran is obstinate, there is greater national justification for the military option.
Iran is making ever more grandiose threats that are discounted in many quarters. Ephraim Halevy, the previous Mossad chief who now heads the Center for Strategic and Policy Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, is now on record as saying that “Iran is not 10 feet tall.”
It is his opinion that Iranian retaliation would not be as serious as many imagine and that our defense systems would take out most of it.
Meir Javedanfar, a respected, Iranian-born writer and analyst, says that more rational leaders within the Iranian — who have greater authority than the president — are reining in Ahmadinejad.
Halevy agrees: “I don’t detect an appetite among the Iranians to bring about a catastrophe.”
This is a different message from what we’d been hearing before.
Menashe Amir, a key Iranian analyst, was cited recently as saying that while Iran appears on the surface to be united in its nuclear drive, “there is a debate in Iran. [Some] say: We are being offered a fantastic, generous incentives package. Let’s accept it… we cannot withstand the international pressure. The sanctions are widening, and the danger of a US or Israeli attack is growing. Let’s not miss this chance… “
He says that among the Iranian politicians holding this opinion are former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, parliament speaker and former nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, and former nuclear negotiator Hassan Rouhani.
Posting: July 24, 2008
“Obama’s Visit & Policies”
Obama’s whirlwind tour of Israel is completed, and I find that readers are seeking comments on that visit. He did it all right while here: Visiting Yad VaShem (the Holocaust Memorial — required stop for all visiting dignitaries), Sderot, the Kotel — making appropriate comments in each place, and meeting with top leaders.
If there was any concern I had, it was that Obama saw fit to pay a visit to Ramallah and meet with Abbas and Fayyad — something McCain opted not to do when he was here. There was no press conference from Ramallah — it is my impression that he was seeking to keep this low key.
From Aaron Klein at WorldNetDaily comes a report from someone who attended Obama’s meeting with Abbas. Obama reportedly assured PA leadership that there was a “misunderstanding” with regard to his statement about an undivided Jerusalem — a mistake he corrected immediately. This PA official said Obama told them he supports a negotiated settlement that would give the Palestinians territory in Jerusalem. He also expressed “full understanding” regarding the need for Israel to halt “settlement activity.”
Israeli historian Dr. Michael Oren recently provided an analysis of the positions of the two candidates with regard to Israel, and I would like to share highlights here. There are genuine differences:
— “While McCain has avoided criticizing Israel’s settlement policy and balked at delineating the contours of ‘Palestine,’ Obama has impugned the settlements and taken up Bush’s call for a ‘contiguous’ Palestinian state free of Israeli roadblocks and joined by West Bank-to-Gaza routes.
— “McCain… has emphasized the Palestinian Authority’s duty to clamp down on terror in accordance with the Road Map. ‘We must ensure that Israel’s people can live in safety until there is a Palestinian leadership willing and able to deliver peace,’ he stated. Obama, by contrast, has refrained from mentioning the PA’s responsibility in suppressing terror.
— “Obama has expressed strong reservations about the Israeli right, complaining to American Jewish leaders that ‘there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel then you’re anti-Israel.’ He has also welcomed the renewal of peace talks between Israel and Syria… McCain, however, has not revealed a preference for one Israeli party over another and has withheld comment on the Syria-Israeli discussions.
— the Democratic contender seems less adamant than his Republican rival in opposing all communications with Hamas. Obama waited five days before distancing himself from former President Jimmy Carter’s meetings with Hamas officials; McCain condemned them instantly. And while McCain withheld comment on Israel’s ceasefire with Hamas, Obama greeted it as an opportunity to ‘bring calm to the people of southern Israel, improve life for Palestinians in Gaza, and lead to the release of [captured Israeli corporal] Gilad Shalit.'”
As to Dr. Oren’s predictions for the path each candidate would take as president:
“While both aspirants will honor Bush’s pro-Israel legacy and actively pursue peace, McCain would be less prone than Obama to pressure Israel for concessions and more inclined to take the Palestinian Authority to task for its Road Map infractions. Obama may prove more flexible than McCain in admitting some role for Hamas in negotiations and recognizing Palestinian claims to Jerusalem. McCain would preserve and Obama would renounce much of his predecessor’s policies on preemption and the war on terror…
“McCain is unlikely to ratchet up pressure on Israel, to oppose Israeli claims to Jerusalem, or to link the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with any of the region’s manifold struggles. He will not deal with Hamas, even in context of the national unity government that the organization is currently considering with the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
“An Obama presidency, however, may well launch an entirely new initiative, one based on zero tolerance for Israeli settlement-building and checkpoints, as well as on the belief that the road to Baghdad and Teheran runs through Bethlehem and Nablus. Obama might be expected to show deeper sympathy for the Palestinian demand for a capital in Jerusalem and greater flexibility in including Hamas in negotiations, if only indirectly, through the national unity coalition with Abbas.”
You might also want to see an article entitled, “Where Does Obama’s Foreign Policy Take Us,” by Kory Bardash and Abraham Katsman:
“The candidates… differ on the core issue of whether the Israeli-Palestinian [conflict] is the cause of the rest of the region’s woes, or vice ‘infect(s) all of our foreign policy’ and ‘provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists.’ That is a formulation that suggests heavy Israeli concessions to achieve ‘peace’ at any cost.
“McCain, on the other hand, sees the opposite — that Islamic fanaticism is the obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace: ‘f the Israeli-Palestinian issue were decided tomorrow, we would still face the enormous threat of radical Islamic extremism.’ According to Dr. Oren, neither McCain nor any of his advisors have indicated a readiness to apply greater pressure on Israel.”
And I will say forthrightly that it is McCain’s conceptualization that is correct.
Posting: July 23, 2008
“Severe and Growing”
The statistics are disturbing. From 2001 through the end of 2007 — six years, there were 270 Jerusalem Arabs detained for involvement in terror. Now, in the course of just over six months in 2008, there have been 71 detained on terror related charges — an increase of roughly three-fold.
The Shin Bet is saying that current security measures in eastern Jerusalem are insufficient. One source said that it is necessary to enter the Arab neighborhoods more frequently to carry out more arrests and do more deterrence. There is a strong feeling that there is a connection between what is going on in Gaza, and the photos coming out of Gaza, and the radicalization of Jerusalem Arabs.
A serious part of the problem, of course, is that this terror is emanating from within. And, I might add for the record, it is emanating from comfortable, not poor, neighborhoods — plus, in all of the three recent instances, the terrorists were employed. These are not instances of desperation due to poverty. What we’re looking at is an increased radicalization of ideology that is fueled by Hamas.
The answer, however, is NOT to divide off eastern Jerusalem and give it to the PA so that these Arabs would no longer be within. There are at least two reasons for this. One is that the problem would only grow worse if we had no ability to enter the neighborhoods and do arrests and deterrence; the Hamas presence there would become stronger. Some of those radicalized would inevitably sneak into eastern Jerusalem, and in any event they would shoot rockets at western Jerusalem. (The parallel to this situation is our having pulled out of Gaza, which made things worse for us and solved no problems.)
The second is because Arab neighborhoods are interspersed between Jewish neighborhoods so that there is no clean line of division. It would be a logistic nightmare.
And then there is yet another reason: the PA would have no interest in assuming responsibility for these neighborhoods unless it also got the Old City and our most sacred site.
Plus, I might add, the Arab population that has Jerusalem residency IDs does not want to be transferred to the PA, thereby losing perks such as health care as well as essential civil rights. There is a percentage of this population that says if there is going to be a transfer of their neighborhoods to the PA, they will move elsewhere in Israel first — and legally they have a right to do this.
So… a serious problem.
We cannot run away from it, we cannot isolate the terrorists and ignore them. We need to be strong and to practice deterrence (which in the case of Gaza, which we are being told is not unconnected to this, means ultimately acting militarily).
Beginning immediately, Israeli police intend to more closely monitor Arab workers who are residents of eastern Jerusalem; there will be strict checks and patrols at construction sites.
My own immediate response after this attack — which I readily share with my readers — was that Jerusalem Arabs should no longer be permitted to work with heavy equipment in construction. What I subsequently discovered was that Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky was of the same mind. In a TV interview he said:
“We should reconsider the employment of these people…
“We see how, after the Shin Bet and Mossad do wonderful work and throw terror out the door, it comes back through the window. [In the hands of terrorists] tools of construction become opportunities for attacks.”
But then along came Public Security Minister Avi Dichter urging that Jerusalem Arabs not be denied employment:
“I have no doubt that this terrorist and the previous ones this year do not represent the residents of east Jerusalem. The overwhelming majority are regular people who work in various places in the city.”
And perhaps he’s right (although there is certainly growing Hamas support among Jerusalem Arabs). But the rub is that it only takes one terrorist to kill Jews and we seem never to know for certain who that terrorist will be.
Only last night, after the press conference I had attended, I was accosted on the street by an American tourist who saw the “Keep Jerusalem united” signs associates of mine were holding. She accused Israel of “collective punishment” with regard to checkpoints. She didn’t want to hear me when I told her that we were not attempting to do collective punishment, but rather to protect ourselves from the Arabs who would seek to kill us.
She had no response when I asked her, “Have you never heard on the news about suicide belts, and guns and knives caught at checkpoints?” She was too worried about unfair inconvenience to Arabs who are held up at those checkpoints. “I don’t want to be killed,” I told her simply. “If they stop trying to kill us, there will be no need for checkpoints.
And here you have the quandary. How is a desire to be fair to the Jerusalem Arabs, and allow them employment, balanced against our right to not be killed? Inconvenience, unemployment can be difficult — but these are not permanent situations. Death is forever — the ultimate abrogation of human rights.
Guess where PA President Mahmoud Abbas was when the terrorist attack took place yesterday? Less than a kilometer away at Beit HaNasi — the president’s house, visiting with President Shimon Peres. Right before the attack they had issued an optimistic statement regarding the coming of peace.
Not so peaceful, however, was another message that Abbas delivered to Israel yesterday. Abbas is feeling undermined (embarrassed?) by continuing IDF efforts against terrorists in cities such as Nablus and Jenin, where PA police have been deployed.
Abbas is due to meet with Olmert tomorrow and has declared that he will tell him that “if the incursions and the aggression and the insults to the Palestinian police continue, we will withdraw these forces.”
The IDF maintains that the PA often co-opts gunmen into its security forces instead of jailing them. Could it be that Abbas’s true embarrassment is not that the IDF operations make PA security forces look incompetent, but that fellow Palestinians, who just happen to be terrorists, are being harassed by the IDF while the PA is trying to protect them?
Khaled Abu Toameh reported in the Post recently about a different reason for the slow down in negotiations on Shalit: Hamas is accusing Egypt of not being an “honest broker,” which has Egypt quite infuriated. “Honest broker” means pushing harder on Israel to release more terrorists. Hamas began to put out hints regarding using the Germans for negotiations as they did well for Hezbollah.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has now said that if she becomes head of Kadima, she will invite Netanyahu (Likud) and Barak (Labor) to join her in a unity government.
Other members of Kadima, however, are saying that the in-fighting between Olmert and Livni weakens the party and thus weakens Livni’s chances of being selected as party head. It is felt that Shaul Mofaz just might be the winner on this. Maybe…
~~~~~~~~~~ Posting: July 21, 2008
It’s just aout three weeks since an Arab resident of eastern Jerusalem utilized a heavy tractor to overturn buses and cars in a terrorist attack in the heart of Jerusalem.
Today another driver of a tractor left his construction site in Jerusalem’s Yemin Moshe neighborhood and drove onto King David Steet, apparently seeking to recreate this terrorist incident. He attempted to overturn a bus and crashed into several cars, overturning one. Eyewitnesses said he also tried to lower the blade of his equipment on the head of a passerby but just missed. At least sixteen people were injured, one seriously, before he was shot dead, apparently in a combined effort by a civilian and police, as he neared Gan Hapa’amon (Liberty Bell Park), at the intersection of King David Street and Keren Hayasod. Street.
It is reported that the terrorist was Hassan Abu-Tir, a resident of the Umm Tuba neighborhood of eastern Jerusalem, and possessor of an Israeli identity card. Hassan is a relative of the Hamas parliament member Muhammad Abu-Tir, who is being held in Israeli prison.
Passage to eastern Jerusalem was reportedly blocked for a period as the police were seeking two additional individuals. Perhaps more information will follow in the next day or so.
Barack Obama is here in Israel now and all of this occurred about half a block from the King David Hotel, where he will be staying tonight. I might hope that this would help bring home to Obama the situation that we are living with.
Tonight a press conference was held in Jerusalem by the Coalition for a United Jerusalem, which consists of the American Israeli Action Committee, the Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel, Emunah Women, Rabbinical Council of America in Israel, Worldwide Young Israel Movement, and Zionist Organization of America.
These groups — all American organizations with representation in Israel — took advantage of Senator Obama’s presence in Jerusalem to raise serious questions about his position on Jerusalem.
In his recent speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Public Policy Conference, Obama said, “Let me be clear… Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.” (“Undivided” is a code word universally understood to mean that it would remain exclusively under Israeli sovereignty.)
Within days he had backtracked, explaining that what he meant when he said “undivided” was simply that the city shouldn’t again be divided by barbed wire as it was between 1949 and 1967. He suggested that there was room for Palestinian sovereignty in the city as well. In a CNN interview, he said he thought a good “starting point” for negotiations was the Clinton plan advanced at Taba in 2000, which called for a divided city, but actually was subsequently taken off the table.
Now the Coalition publicly called upon Obama to:
— Reaffirm his original remarks made at the AIPAC Conference.
— Disavow his subsequent retraction.
— Declare that security and access to all holy places can only be guaranteed by Israeli sovereignty.
— Acknowledge that Israeli withdrawals from southern Lebanon and Gaza have led to destabilization and increased terror, and that this presages a similar deterioration likely to occur in eastern Jerusalem if Israel were to withdraw and turn the area over to Fatah, which would like be usurped by Hamas.
— Take immediate steps to introduce a more balanced and pro-Israel perspective by appointing a number of foreign policy advisors who are more likely to consider an undivided Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. Past and present formal and informal advisors to Obama in his campaign offer an extremely one-sided “pressure Israel” view predisposed to rejecting the possibility of a unified Jerusalem.
All of the salient points were made during the course of this press conference regarding why Jerusalem should remain undivided:
Issues of security if half of the city were to be in the hands of Fatah or Hamas, which would be able to shoot at western Jerusalem.
Religious issues regarding our right to retain control of our holiest site, which the Palestinians are eager to usurp.
The long-standing tradition of Jerusalem as a Jewish city, going back 3,000 years.
The affront to Israel of not allowing her to determine her capital without challenge, when no other nation is similarly challenged. Connected to this, the fact that the vast majority of Israelis is opposed to division of the city.
The actual logistical impossibility of dividing the city, as Arab and Jewish neighborhoods are intertwined.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown came to town to visit on Sunday and addressed the Knesset yesterday, the first British prime minister to do so. He attempted to begin and end with a phrase in Hebrew. He described himself as a life-long friend of Israel and described his father’s ardent support for our nation. He praised Israel’s achievements “in the face of the war, terror and violence, intimidation and insecurity” as “”truly monumental,” saying they represented a “boundless capacity of mind and spirit.” He pledged to fight academic boycotts of Israel inside of Britain.
“Let me tell the people of Israel today,” he declared, “Britain is your true friend.”
And then… then he advised those gathered that “peace is within your grasp.” This peace would be founded upon “a two-state solution based on 1967 borders,” with “Jerusalem the capital for both,” a “just and agreed settlement for refugees” and “freezing and withdrawing from settlements.”
They do it every time. This is the mantra, with every single “friendly” visitor seeming to consider it de rigeur to make this pronouncement. It was not enough for Brown to say we need to make accommodations with the Palestinians in order to achieve peace, that we must negotiate flexibly to that end. He had to spell it out — ’67 borders (they were armistice lines, Mr. Prime Minister, not borders), sharing of Jerusalem and all. These are issues that are supposed to be negotiated, yet he has determined the outcome already.
The problem is that the Palestinians have convinced the world that they have a right to these things and that justice won’t be done unless they receive them. Many of the world’s leaders don’t give a damn about us at all and are eager to accommodate Arabs. But even those professing friendship have conveniently convinced themselves that if only this can be achieved peace will be possible, and take it upon themselves to advise us of this.
Prime Minster Brown should be told that true friends don’t ask friends to surrender their ancient heritage and box themselves into a non-defensible position.
I — with others — have been speaking for some time about the need for a change in the paradigm of thinking in the Western world with regard to this issue. It’s time for recognizing that the notion of a Palestinian state is failed: That in 14 years the PA has not built necessary civic and economic infrastructure and does not provide equal rights under the law, or freedoms of speech or press or basic human dignity. That the PA is thoroughly allied with terrorism. The “moderate” Abbas rejoiced for Kuntar’s release, for heaven’s sake!
The notion of a Palestinian state is ridiculous on the face of it. And yet the world will not let this go.
Unfortunately, it’s harder to tell the world this when we have Olmert as prime minister. He held a joint press conference with Brown and, while he defended our need for settlements, announced that he believes that there can be an agreement with the PA by the end of 2008 and that we are “closer than ever.”
The days of Olmert as prime minister, however, are numbered. After considerable infighting, the Kadima party has changed its constitution so that an early primary is permitted. A date — presumably in September — now must be set for the party leadership contest.
In response to some of the fierce internal Kadima fighting that went on with regard to this, Olmert reportedly referred to Livni as a “backstabbing liar.”
While an unnamed Kadima MK said, “Olmert is a corpse that has already started to stink and he needs to be removed as soon as possible.”
As to the possibility of an indictment of Olmert, we’re being by State Attorney Moshe Lador that a decision on this will be coming soon. The body of evidence being gathered against Olmert would soon be handed over to Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz, who will make the final decision.
The cross examination of Talansky is still in process, but daily more questions are raised about his reliability as a witness, as he “forgets” things he knew before, or professes confusion as to why he said what he did before, or just contradicts himself.
The state’s case is not built exclusively on his testimony however, as Israeli investigators went to the US to garner documentation and further testimony. And there is as well the question of Messer’s willingness to talk.
Besides which, there is the new issue of alleged double billing of non-profits for Olmert’s trips, with excess funds having gone for his private use.
I cannot predict how this will play out. There is a strong desire in many quarters to see true justice done. Very clearly, at a minimum, Olmert is finished in politics because his associates and the nation have heard enough. The statement about his being a corpse that has started to stink says it all.
Case after case has been cited of leaders who resigned because of legal or even complex political difficulties. Even Nixon was evoked in this regard the other day — Nixon having had the sense to say that his remaining in power while he fought the accusations against him would distract the nation from important business. Only Olmert has hung on despite everything, and to hell with the nation.
Whether he will be held legally accountable for his various doings remains to be seen.
Al-Hayat in London reported today that according to an Egyptian source — Egypt being the go-between in negotiations on Shalit — Marwan Barghouti is among the 70 prisoners that Israel has so far agreed to release in exchange for Shalit. This would be another huge error — another victory for terrorist forces that makes a mockery of Israeli justice. To the best of my knowledge this has not yet been confirmed by other sources.
Barghouti, a Fatah leader, founder of the Tanzim and major instigator of the first Intifada, is serving five life sentences. As the man who gave his blessing to a 2002 terrorist attack on a Bat Mitzvah party that killed six and wounded 30, he is just one more evil being who should never see the light of day. He would surely be recidivist, returning to terrorism as a leader.
In spite of Hamas demands, however, it is being said that Israel has refused to release Popular Front Secretary-General Ahmad Saadat, who was involved in the assassination of Israeli Minister Rehavam Ze’evi.
In any event, the Egyptian source is saying that Hamas will not release Shalit unless Israel agrees to all 450 names that have been passed via Egypt. The full demand is for 1,000 prisoners, but it is 450 names that are critical to Hamas. If Israel has only agreed to 70, there are many other names besides Saadat that are being refused.
Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin reported to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee today that Hamas has taken advantage of the “ceasefire” to plant mines across widespread areas of Gaza.
(Sounds to me not only that we should have gone in before this happened, but that when we ultimately do, which, one assumes, eventually we will, there will have to be more air operations.)
Diskin additionally reported that the smuggling of weapons into Gaza has continued without letup, as well, and that the group has rockets that can reach Kiryat Gat and likely Ashdod. As Hamas is gaining strength during this time, it has a vested interest in maintaining the “quiet.”
Diskin is opposed to the “ceasefire,” and says that we need a presence inside of Gaza in order to combat terrorism. He is also opposed to the release of Barghouti.
Arlene Kushner Senior Research Policy Analyst, Center for Near East Policy Research