|Israel Resource Review
||27th Febuary, 2008
Witness to Sderot:Gazans launch 44 missiles at Israel: Student Killed, Direct Hit on Dining Hall
Israel's Sapir College, affiliated with Ben Gurion University , bustling with more than 8,000 students, located at the edge of the southern Israeli city of Sdeort, had take steps of late to dissociate its image from Sderot, which has been under missile attack over the past seven years.
The radio ads for students to visit Sapir on its annual open-house day were devoid of the word “Sderot”.
A news item sourced in the Sapir College that ran on the Voice of Israel radio news on February 20th mentioned that the Sapir College was located near Ashkelon, Israel’s nearby southern port city.
Some recent Sapir College maps do not mention the word “Sderot”.
All this in a seeming attempt to distract the public from associating Sapir College with the missile attacks on Sderot,
On Wednesday, at 3:30 p.m., however, Sapir’s image was changed forever
Roni Yichia , a 47 year old Adult Education student at the Sapir College, father of four children, was killed on the Sapir campus by a direct hit from a missile fired from Gaza which also wounded five other students on the Sapir campus. .
Only one hour before, a factory dining hall in Sderot was also hit by a missile, causing the roof to cave in completely- ten minutes after th150 workers had filed out, after completing their lunch break .
A total of 44 Kassam rockets were launched at southern Israel Wednesday
afternoon from the Gaza Strip.
Sitting on the balcony of the Sderot Media Center which overlooks the modest center of Sderot, this reporter witnessed Sderot citizens erupt into panic every few minutes on Wednesday afternoon, as people scampered for cover each time the “color red” siren was fired.
Earlier in the day, an Israel air strike in southern Gaza had killed five Hamas terrorists, including a senior rocket engineer and a regional missile squad commander, according to the Hamas spokesman. .
Palestinian sources estimated that the bus had been under surveillance since it left its base at the UNRWA United Nations refugee camp at Jabalya in Northern Gaza.
Meanwhile, Palestinian sources in Gaza also reported night that an Islamic Jihad member, Zaki Abu-Zeid was killed in an IDF strike at the UNRWA Al-Bureij refugee camp, located in central Gaza. .
The Israel Defense Forces spokesman confirmed these attacks, saying they had been conducted in cooperation with the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and was targeting armed terrorists
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on a state visit to Japan, said that a war was being waged in southern Israel and the Gaza Strip, and vowed that "no one in Hamas, not the low-level officials nor the highest echelon, will be immune against this war."
However, in answer to a reporter’s question, the prime minister added that "I don't recall even once speaking about a large-scale ground operation in the [Gaza] Strip."
U.K. Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells issued a response Wednesday
following the deadly attack saying "we unreservedly condemn the barrage of
rockets on southern Israel that has left one man dead and several others
injured. I offer my deepest sympathies to the family."
"There can be no justification for the almost daily rocket and mortar
attacks on Sderot and the surrounding area. We call on all Palestinian
factions to stop attacks, including rocket strikes, against innocent
However, Howells used the opportunity to scold Israel to “l show restraint in the face of these attacks,"
"The U.K. offers its full support to the Israeli and Palestinian leaders who reiterated their commitment to the peace process at Annapolis and in
negotiations held since. Israel and the Palestinian Authority, with the full support of the international community, must find a way to restore calm for the sake of the civilian populations on both sides," Howells concluded.
A statement issued by a PR firm that works closely with the Israeli government, was entitled, “Palestinian Rocket Kills Israeli Student - Israel Still Committed to Peace Despite Latest Attack”
That PR statement went on to day that “More than 800 rockets and mortar shells have been fired from Gaza into Israel this year. That amounts to more than a third of the 2,300 fired at Israel during all of 2007. Since August 2005, when Israel withdrew all of its citizens and military from the Gaza Strip in hopes of paving the way for an independent Palestinian state, terrorists in Gaza have fired more than 4,500 rockets and mortars at Israel…. Despite the ongoing rocket fire, Israel continues to facilitate the transfer of humanitarian supplies into the Gaza Strip, including 385,361 tons of food, medicine and raw materials and more than 29.3 million gallons (112 million liters) of fuel”
The PR statement concluded that “Israel also remains committed to the peace process with the Palestinian Authority. On January 28, 2008, Israel Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said, “The goal is to end the conflict between our two nations, our two peoples, by the creation or giving the answer to the national aspirations of the Palestinians by creating a Palestinian state.”
This PR statement, which reflects Israeli government policy, did not seem to dwell on the contradiction of an Israeli government policy aimed at the creation of an armed and sovereign “independent Palestinian state” , after Palestinians used land ceded to them in Gaza as a launching pad for lethal attacks against Israel.
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Senior Policy Research Anslyst, The Center for Near East Policy Research Ltd.
Posting: February 27, 2008
Over 40 Kassams were launched from Gaza today. Hamas has claimed credit for this barrage.
One rocket hit in Sderot near Sapir College , killing student Ronnie Yechiya, who was the father of four. Yechiya, who died of massive wounds to the chest, had had a kidney transplant five years ago.
Two other students on the campus were lightly wounded.
I already said "Damn them!" last time. What is there left to say now?
At least four rockets today went into Ashkelon , one near Barzilai Hospital. A couple of rockets came down on or near factories. One man was wounded when a rocket landed in the street.
David Tal (Kadima) knew what to say: "I think we're nearing the limit of the IDF's patience, the army is obligated to defend the citizens of this country."
But then there is Yossi Beilin, who insisted that the way to stop the rockets was to negotiate a long term "cease fire" with Hamas. Beilin, I swear, is a menace to the nation. A cease fire -- need I say it again? -- would give Hamas the opportunity to continue to arm without interference from us. Getting them to stop launching is not sufficient in and of itself.
And our vaunted prime minister? From Japan he declared, ""There is an ongoing war in the south. We regret that it once again cost human life." Note the passion in this message, the furious indignation. If there is a war in the south -- and there is -- it's time for him to start fighting it for real.
Maj.-Gen. Gadi Shamni of Central Command yesterday declared: "Without the massive IDF presence in the West Bank, Hamas would take over the institutions and apparatuses of the Palestinian Authority within days." That's even faster than I had thought them capable of doing it; they're gaining strength.
Shamni said that Hamas is working continually to gain greater influence in the region. While rockets attacks are not emanating from Judea and Samaria, some are manufactured in the region. While the PA was working to maintain order, said Shamni, it was not making serious efforts to stop terrorists.
That is so important it merits a repeat: The PA is not making serious efforts to stop terrorists.
And it's the IDF, which is doing an incredible job, that continues to stand between us and terrorism. All hell would break loose in a matter of days if we were to pull out.
Surely Olmert knows this. Perhaps this is why, also from Japan, he indicated that we might not achieve a full "peace" agreement in 2008, even though he really really wants to.
Just days ago I mocked the idea of international forces in Judea and Samaria to take over from the IDF "until the PA was strong enough to do the job." And here we see it: It ain't gonna happen. Not ever. The PA is going downhill.
Off the record, Israeli officials now admit that Egypt has quietly upped the number of troops it has on the border with Gaza.
Our peace treaty with Egypt from 1979 gives them permission to have no more than 750 troops there, as the Sinai is demilitarized, and now they have 1,500. We've permitted it with a wink and a nod. To deal with it officially would require making adjustments in the treaty.
There are Israeli officials sympathetic to the situation Egypt is contending with, who see this increase as no threat to us. And others who are simply not eager to take on Egypt right now.
But, warns MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) -- who, with solid reason, is ever mistrustful of Egyptian intentions -- it's a slippery slope: who knows how many troops will be in the Sinai in short order now that we've permitted them to go over the limit. And it's Aaron Lerner of IMRA who keeps pointing out that there are many things Egypt could do to control the border, such as bulldozing a no man's land, that would not require an increase in forces.
And, once again let us consider Olmert's words from Tokyo: Egypt, he told reports, is not violating the peace accords by increasing their troops as they have. He cannot be that ignorant. In point of fact, he is wrong.
Posting: February 26, 2008
"Response and Self Respect"
Bret Stephens (former editor of The Jerusalem Post), writing in the Wall Street Journal, today addresses the issue of the constraints that the international community attempts to put on Israel with regard to responses to Kassam attacks. Bless him, he has it exactly right:
" . . . The more vexing question, both morally and strategically, is what Israel ought to do about Gaza. The standard answer is that Israel's response to the Kassams ought to be 'proportionate.' What does that mean?
" . . . Israel's presumptive right to self-defense has no practical application as far as Gaza is concerned. Instead, Israel is counseled to allow goods to flow freely into the Strip, and to negotiate a cease-fire with Hamas.
" . . . But technology addresses neither the Islamic fanaticism that animates Hamas nor the moral torpor of Western policy makers and commentators who, on balance, find more to blame in Israel's behavior than in Hamas's. Nor, too, would an Iron Dome or the Phalanx absolve the Israeli government from the necessity of punishing those who seek its destruction. Prudence is an important consideration of statesmanship, but self-respect is vital. And no self-respecting nation can allow the situation in Sderot to continue much longer, a point it is in every civilized country's interest to understand." (emphasis added)
The head of the Electric Authority of the PA has announced financing from Saudi Arabia intended to underwrite a project to connect Gaza's electric grid to Egypt over the course of the next 12 to 18 months, so that a considerable portion of its electric power would then be supplied by Egypt rather than Israel. There has been, as yet, no comment from either Egypt or Israel. This project, besides reducing Gazan dependence on Israel, would bolster the PA claim to being in charge in Gaza.
Head of Military Intelligence, Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin, reported to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee yesterday that during the time that the fence at Rafah was breached, Al Qaida was able to enter Gaza.
He also said that the open border "enabled Hamas to bring back those who had left for training in Syria and Iran, including snipers, explosives experts, rocket experts and engineers." Additionally, large amounts of weaponry were brought in.
MK Tzvi Hendel (NU-NRP) spoke with clear understanding when he then observed that the situation in Gaza now was reminiscent of what happened during the years that we were aware that Hezbollah was building up and did nothing. "We must enter the Gaza Strip" he said, "not [just] in order to stay there for two days or two months, because there is no other solution." And how very right he is!
With regard to a Hezbollah reprisal attack on us because we are presumed to have assassinated Mughniyeh, Yadlin reported that it might come, as is traditional, following a 40 day mourning period.
Posting: February 25, 2008
"Damn Them All"
I cannot say that it's beyond what's acceptable now, because it's been beyond acceptable for a long time.
Today a ten year old boy, Yossi Haimov, who ran for cover when the alarm sounded but did not make it into the shelter, was badly wounded by a Kassam -- one of several that has fallen on Sderot today. He was hit in the shoulder and his arm was partly detached from his body. The first news was that he might require amputation, but now it is being reported -- thank G-d! -- that the arm seems to have been saved in surgery.
We are a powerful nation. We have the ability to protect our children. And we don't.
And so, damn them, I say. Damn those who launch those Kassams -- the Popular Resistance Committees have taken responsibility on this occasion -- and all those who have it in their power to protect these children and do not for perverse reasons and political reasons and every reason except the one that matters.
In another attack an infant girl and her mother were lightly wounded.
And a number of people were hospitalized for shock . I have never written specifically about shock, although scores of residents of Sderot have been hospitalized for this reason over time. It sounds relatively minor. No amputations, no gaping wounds in the body. But a gaping wound in the psyche, let me assure you. People who live constantly with heightened anxiety, who go over the edge, screaming, crying, trembling.
The very same Resistance Committees who claimed responsibility today also claimed responsibility yesterday for launching of Kassams. And do you know why they were launched? To protest against the "occupation," for sure. But now we're being given a new reason: "In response to the cartoons published in Denmark degrading the memory of Prophet Muhammad. If this is so, the number of excuses for launching Kassams is nearly inexhaustible. Will there be anything that's not our fault?
And consider this: Mahmoud Abbas today, after meeting with King Abdullah in Amman, warned the Bush administration that if it didn't "make 2008 the year to broker peace, then there will never be any future chances to achieve this goal." A rather audacious statement, designed to pressure the US to pressure Israel.
One must assume he means that there won't be another chance for him, and perhaps not another chance for his Fatah party. That's because they're losing ground. But if they are, how can they be legitimate "peace partners"?
What he told reporters is that the US "must understand it is to play an active role, not just as a supervisor, by intervening directly to help make peace."
And he called upon Israel "to stop escalating the situation in the Palestinian territories and stop all attacks in the Gaza Strip, including firing missiles there."
Note that he didn't call upon Hamas and the other terror groups, including his own Al Aksa Brigades, to stop launching missiles. That's because it's Hamas he's losing ground to, and he would never challenge them directly.
Never mind that in his heart of hearts he undoubtedly approves of what they do to weaken the "enemy," even as he gives lip service to moderation. Yesterday I provided an overview of the PA textbooks, which promote jihad and martyrdom and speak of Israelis as colonial occupiers.
So damn him too.
As to those negotiations that Abbas is so eager to see advanced -- quick quick while he's still here -- there has been an announcement by our Foreign Ministry of "progress." Three committees have been set up to deal with civic affairs such as water and economic issues. If there were to be a true peace, ultimately these things would need to be discussed. But as it is, I see these discussions as a way of treading water, or giving the impression of moving ahead, and little more. For if the major issues such as borders and refugees and the status of Jerusalem are not resolved, then the rest is meaningless. And on those issues there is next to no progress.
On the other hand, Kaddura Faris, chief of the PA committee on negotiating prisoners affairs, submitted his letter of resignation to Abbas yesterday, citing as his reason lack of coordination between the committee, the head of the Palestinian negotiations team, Ahmed Qurei, and the PLO chief negotiator, Sa'eb Erekat.
At least one potential crisis dissipated today. Hamas had announced for this day a protest against the siege of Gaza -- a human chain of perhaps 30,000 people who would link hands from the north to the south of Gaza. Our military was greatly concerned that the intention was to have the crowds breach the fence and come streaming into Israel, as they had into the Sinai so very recently. Large numbers of troops were brought to the border of Gaza. Contingency plans were laid with talk of non-lethal techniques and possibly shooting people in the legs. It was determined that under no circumstances would this mob be allowed to advance.
But, as it turns out, there was no mob advancing. I like the headline in the Post: "human chain a few links short." About 5,000 people came, many school children who had been released early. There was no storming of the fence even attempted.
Olmert is in Japan, and in his absence 11 members of his Kadima party met in the Knesset today to discuss the negotiations. In the main, according to a YNet report, they were distressed about the fact that Jerusalem was being discussed with an eye towards dividing the city.
MK David Tal: " Jerusalem cannot be touched, and making concessions on this issue are not part of Kadima's platform. When the public elected us, it did not know that we plan to make concessions in Jerusalem."
MK Otniel Schneller: "I can consider conceding a number of isolated neighborhoods, but Jerusalem belongs to the Jewish people."
MK Yoel Hasson: "[Kadima's] platform speaks about a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. Those who say otherwise are causing damage to Kadima."
OK, guys. You don't like what's going on? What will you do about it beside complain behind the prime minister's back? There has been much talk about Kadima members leaving the party, but so far no one's moved.
Posting: February 24, 2008
PA-produced textbooks , that is.
The questions are fairly straight-forward : What is the Palestinian Authority teaching its young people with regard to peace with Israel? And what does it teach them about Jews?
To get some answers, one week ago , on behalf of the Center for Near East Policy Research, I interviewed Arnon Groiss, Chief Researcher for The Institute for Monitoring the Impact of Peace and Tolerance in School Education (formerly known as CMIP).
In the early years after its establishment , the Palestinian Authority continued to use for children in its schools in Judea & Samaria and Gaza books that had been produced by Jordan and Egypt respectively. In 2000, the PA began producing its own texts, releasing books for two grades each year. Textbooks for grades 1 through 10 were published by 2004. CMIP analyzed all of these texts.
In 2005, texts for grade 11 were released , and in 2006, texts for grade 12. Only now is the analysis of these texts about to be released.
Dr. Groiss, in his interview with me , provided an overview of what was found not just in these latest texts, but in all the texts, complete with some comparisons and important background information.
What is significant about this latest report is that it is being supported by the American Jewish Committee for the first time. More about this below.
The review of the texts makes clear that Palestinian youngsters are not being taught to prepare for peace, but rather for on-going war.
There is no legitimacy accorded the State of Israel , or Jewish people. Jewish holy places such as the Kotel, Rachel's Tomb, and the Machpelah, are all identified as exclusively Arab. It is made clear to the students that all of the land is "occupied," not just the land beyond the Green Line.
“Martyrs” and jihad are praised. One seventh grade book declares: “Hearing weapons clash is pleasant to my ears. And the flow of blood gladdens my soul.”
In addition, Jews are represented as evil and responsible for just about everything bad that happens. From an eighth grade text: “Your enemies kill your children, split open women’s bellies . . . ”
Please, take the time to read my report at: http://www.arlenefromisrael.info/textbooks/ It's detailed enough to make an impact, but short enough to be readily digested.
AJC will release the full report -- with details about various texts -- shortly, and then, I believe, it will go up on the website of the Institute for Measuring the Impact of peace, at http://www.edume.org/
What I describe above is one part of the story. Yet, there's another: The government of Israel, sadly, infuriatingly, pays scant attention to the contents of the PA textbooks. While the government is actively involved in other issues of international anti-Semitism, the PA is not on the radar screen.
Why? It's all part of the syndrome I've been describing in recent days. The government of Israel, pathologically, does not wish to attack the entity that is supposed to be our peace partner.
And, I'm sorry to say, most mainstream Jewish organizations (with a handful of exceptions such as the Zionist Organization of America) would rather not cross the Israeli government on this issue, and so they, too, are mute regarding what's in the PA schoolbooks.
In fact, rumors are afloat in several quarters saying that the books are now improved. It is my understanding -- from a top notch source -- that a top correspondent for a major US anti-Israel paper, speaking at the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations, made just such a claim, in the hearing, presumably, of representatives of most of those organizations -- and was not countered.
Well, I'm here to tell you that the books are still denying our existence as a Jewish state and promoting violence. And the participation of the American Jewish Committee in spreading the word on this is much to be applauded.
And so, here's a way in which all of the Israel supporters reading this can be of assistance. Use the material in my report. (When the full report is available, you'll be able to draw on that.) Inform people as you can, and write letters to the editor.
Ask the basic question: How can Israel make peace with an entity that promotes violence among its children and teaches them that Israel has no legitimacy?
It's most important that the information in my report should also go to all of your Congresspersons and Senators -- provide the link -- with these or similar questions posed. Tell them that rumors regarding the improvements in the texts -- which indicate that we have no need to be concerned -- are not accurate, and that there can be no peace in the Middle East until this sort of issue is honestly addressed.
You can find contact information for Congresspersons and Senators here:
Remember that faxes or phone calls are most effective.
Lastly, if you belong to a major Jewish organization , vigorously raise this issue with the national leadership. Don't accept answers such as that they are also concerned -- find out what they are doing in terms of contacting Congress, publicizing the issue, etc. If you are a donor, use that leverage.
Posting: February 23, 2008
Motzei Shabbat (after Shabbat)
"Word to the Wise"
Unfortunately, we have a paucity of wise people in charge in Western nations.
David Horovitz, Editor of The Jerusalem Post, did an interview with Martin Gilbert, Churchill's biographer, on Friday. It should only be that Gilbert's words would make people sit up and take notice.
Gilbert, a noted historian, in describing the mistakes that were made before WWII, draws potent lessons for today:
When Chamberlain first met Hitler, he declared that "In spite of the hardness and ruthlessness I thought I saw in his face, I got the impression that here was a man who could be relied upon when he had given his word."
In 1938, Hitler's generals were saying that if Britain declared war, "there's nothing we can do. We can't win, we don't have the resources." However, says Gilbert, "appeasement gave the Germans time to create a war machine which was virtually impregnable," and which couldn't be . . . even seriously weakened for the first three years [of the war]. The British weren't even building up their military in the years from 1936 to 39, because they were busy talking about dealing with Germany, seeking a disarmament, and being "fair." Thus ultimately what might have been a six month war became a six year war.
Says Gilbert, "A grave mistake was made in the 1930s in finding all sorts of reasons for not regarding the Nazi threat as a serious one. When you're working out your thoughts on the current situation, about fundamentalism, just remember that it is very easy for highly competent, educated, civilized, sophisticated people to find excuses and benign explanations for everything that happens."
The obvious and most potent parallel is with regard to Iran, of course. But I think it also applies to what we are dealing with here in Israel and issues of taking out terrorist infrastructure (say via a serious ground operation in Gaza) before the existing Hamas war machine has a chance to grow even more sophisticated and powerful than it already is.
And how about all of the "benign explanations" offered for what Fatah does?
National Infrastructure Minister and Former Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) gave a perfect example of just how deluded some purported leaders can be (not that I'd exactly call him sophisticated and highly competent): He suggests that we cannot have peace with the PA as long as Abbas is in charge because he's too weak. We need a strong leader and thus should release Marwan Barghouti from prison. This is not the first time this has been suggested, of course, and it never fails to astound me. That there are people so very eager to have that "peace accord" that they would deal with a terrorist and murderer of Jews, assuming that this is someone who could be trusted. (Never mind the immorality of releasing a murderer of Jews and according him respect.)
Another Barghouti, by the name of Majed , who was a Hamas activist and preacher in Samaria, has died in a PA prison in Ramallah of a heart attack after allegations of abuse. Tensions between Hamas and Fatah have been fueled by this incident and Hamas is saying the PA prisons have "become worse than Israeli occupation prisons with regards to prisoners' rights." Not "have become," but always were -- there is no comparison. It's just that Hamas is only willing to say this now.
(I have no information on Majed's relationship to Marwan, if any exists, but more often than not the same Arab family name, especially among people from the same region, indicates some extended family link.)
I close with a link to an unsettling -- indeed, alarming -- article regarding a virulently anti-Israel children's book out by the United Methodist Women's Division. This will open eyes to what we're up against not only in Arab nations, but in certain quarters in the US.
A teachers' guide that accompanies the book advices teachers to tell their students "to gather a pile of stones. They are to be told that in 'Palestine,' stones can represent the rubble left when Israelis have bulldozed Palestinian homes for having done 'something' against the Israeli government. Stones can 'also be the means by which a young person resists the presence of Israeli soldiers in the town.' Palestinian youth 'sometimes throw stones at the soldiers.' Likewise, in ancient times, the stones could 'mark a holy place,' the teacher’s guide recalls."
We need to be aware that this sort of material exists, and vigorously challenge it whenever possible. And my thanks to Leif Thorvaldson for calling this to my attention.
Posting: February 21, 2008
Before returning to current news items , I would like to refer back to one of the themes of yesterday's posting, regarding the inability of some Israelis (some Jews) to defend the Israeli narrative.
Every so often I receive communications from people in the US who are staunch supporters of Israel that are essentially laments -- expressions of frustration, perhaps, or confusion. How can I speak out, I am asked, when the prime minister doesn't? How can I tell people that a two-state solution is a disaster when Olmert is pursuing it vigorously? Bottom line: How can I contradict the government of Israel?
My response has been that it is important to support the people of Israel, not the government. But I think yesterday's discussion examines another, and very important, dimension of that same issue. Olmert and Livni may have lost the ability to tell Israel's narrative. They may have forgotten how to defend Israel because they are committed instead to a two-state solution, which leads them to believe that they must actually defend our enemy's goals.
But their position represents a pathology. And if your thinking is not pathological, if you clearly understand Israel's narrative, then it is your responsibility to tell it, and to defend without hesitation Israel's rights, even if this contradicts the goals of Oslo and what Olmert and Livni are about.
Very simply: Olmert and Livni may believe they are doing what is right. But they have lost their way, and what they promote is a danger to Israel. You want to tell a different story.
Orient House, a building owned by the prominent Palestinian Husseini family, has in the past been utilized by the PLO to conduct business in Jerusalem. An Orient House website, somewhat dated, refers to the establishment as "the Palestinian national gathering place for Palestinians in Occupied East Jerusalem. As the PLO Headquarters in the occupied city, the Orient House aspires to develop Arab East Jerusalem as the capital of the emerging Palestinian state . . . "
It was closed down in 2001 at the time of the Intifada because of political activities in Jerusalem forbidden by the Oslo agreement.
This past Monday, Maan, a Palestinian news agency, reported that the PLO has now again employed 30 - 40 people to work in Orient House. A Palestinian leader, Hatem Abdul Khadar, of Fatah, was quoted as saying that he and others were meeting with foreign dignitaries in the building. This is precisely what is forbidden -- using it as an unofficial embassy.
According to the latest news from the Post, however, Israel has renewed the order to keep Orient House closed tight. In fact, a Jerusalem police spokesman says that the site is checked regularly and there's nothing going on there.
The Palestinians, claiming that Olmert had promised to open Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem, are bemoaning that "This is not a good sign for the peace process." They have asked the US consulate in eastern Jerusalem to intervene, but were told there would be no quick resolution.
Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shalom Harari, a former senior adviser on Palestinian affairs at the Defense Ministry, has offered comments on this situation, explaining, according to the Post, that the closure had led to a dramatic reduction in anti-Israeli activity and an increase in security in eastern Jerusalem.
"Since its closure, the Palestinians have been mourning the loss of Orient House, and say they have lost the center of their revolutionary zeal in Jerusalem. I don't know if such a promise [by Olmert to the Palestinians] was made, but if it was, it was made secretly, because nothing has been made public about such a commitment."
During the Oslo peace process, Orient House acted as "an organizing factor" for riots and demonstrations. "We allowed the PLO to operate in Jerusalem during the 1990s, but not the Palestinian Authority. However, Orient House was quickly infiltrated by PA elements who turned it into a kind of 'extraterritorial embassy.'
"It . . . became an institution. Police were afraid to enter or search it, and Orient House enjoyed an informal diplomatic immunity status.
"The shutting down of Orient House was the end result of a long effort by right-wing Knesset Members, led by [then-Public Security Minister] Uzi Landau, who said that Orient's use as a PA base was a violation of Oslo . . .
"After a major suicide bombing, Landau effectively forced the police to close it down." Harari explained that the police at first did not wish to raid the center due to fears of a violent backlash. But it never materialized. [Note: police fear of acting against illegal Palestinian behavior because there might be violence.]
After the raid, the center's records were confiscated; they vindicated the demands of the Knesset members who had wanted it closed down.
"I can say that closing down Orient House was one of main acts that caused a reduction in open anti-Israeli activity in Jerusalem," Harari said.
And an enlightening side observation : According to the Post, "[Hatem] Abdel Khader said the Palestinians had given the necessary assurances to the Israelis, adding that the office was to be used for cultural, economic and social projects."
But this is the same Abdul Khadar who told Maan, a Palestinian news agency, that he was meeting with foreign dignitaries in the building.
US Special Envoy Gen. James Johns is floating the idea of bringing in NATO troops for Judea and Samaria for an interim period between when Israel would pull out and the PA would be able to secure the area. It's just an idea at this point and Israel has not signed off on it. If our government does agree -- G-d forbid -- it's even more lost than I think it is.
Allow me to enumerate all the things wrong with this: First, the PA isn't supposed to get territory until it is ready to administer it. If other troops are necessary, they should be given nothing. What is clear here is that the US, which truly has lost its way completely, is so damn eager to put an agreement in place that they would turn it over to an incompetent PA and then attempt to bolster it from outside. What craziness.
Foreign troops would interfere with our ability to secure intelligence or do operations to take out terrorists or stop planned operations, as necessary. It is not even clear that we'd be able to do hot pursuit of those who have committed terrorist acts and are seeking refuge.
Does anyone -- including Johns or Rice -- remotely believe that NATO forces would do what we've been doing, with night operations, intensive intelligence work, and all the rest? Clearly, if territory were to be turned over to an incompetent PA, this means a situation in which the terrorists would not have been eliminated, arrested or disarmed. Actually, some of them would still be in the PA security forces. What would result is a free ride for terrorists, with international forces standing between them and our troops, and the terrorists actually able to strengthen themselves.
Johns, it should be noted, served as a commander in NATO. Just a few days ago, the American ambassador to Israel, Richard Jones, hinted at the same thing.
The precedent is there with UNIFIL in Lebanon (about which more below), which has allowed Hezbollah to rearm while protesting that we are "violating" the truce if we do flyovers to monitor what is happening.
I do think, however, that this is all moot, because I don't believe any European countries will want to get in the middle of this. Hamas has made it clear that they would shoot at any international forces placed in Gaza (where a similar suggestion has been made), as they would consider it an occupation. International forces in Judea and Samaria might be similarly vulnerable. And there certainly would be no guarantee, after NATO troops were in place, that the PA would ever be ready to assume responsibility. What we're looking at here is an assignment with -- as it's put -- no exit strategy.
Reports are that Israel would like to predicate its exit strategy from Gaza, in event of a ground operation, on being replaced by international forces. But I think the same international reluctance to be involved would apply here, and more so because of Hamas threats. Some sources say that the IDF will go in if it's deemed necessary, even if there are no international forces in place.
It's time to wake up, I think, to the fact that when we go back in, we will not be exiting any time soon (and preferably never).
Olmert made a statement earlier this week that was a serious misrepresentation (lie) and requires response. Said he: "Despite the [continuing] Kassam fire, [the "disengagement"] was a very good move since there are no longer 30,000 soldiers protecting 1,200 citizens."
First of all, it was 8,000 citizens, not 1,200. But more significantly, the soldiers were not there just to protect them. They were there to protect Israel, by securing areas from which Kassams might be fired, going after tunnels through which weapons might be smuggled, and stopping terrorist operations. Anyone who is ready to be honest about the situation will admit that the pullout was a security disaster. But it's clear Olmert isn't ready.
We haven't even received the approbation of the international community for this pullout, as promised by Sharon; we've met instead with condemnation because of how we're "treating" Gaza.
As to UNIFIL: Spain may be thinking of pulling its troops out of that operation, and there is concern that this will influence others to follow suit. Matters are, shall we say, greatly unsettled in Lebanon right now with the prospect of escalating Hezbollah violence. A weakening of the UNIFIL force would further destabilize Lebanon and allow Hezbollah to move down into the south of the country unimpeded.
We have deployed a battery of US-made Patriot air defense missiles in the vicinity of Haifa, as a precaution against an attack by Hezbollah.
At the same time it has been announced that the Iron Dome system against short range rockets such as Kassams is in an advanced stage of development.
Regrettably, it has also been announced that the government is going to fortify only 3,600 homes in Sderot instead of the 8,000 originally announced. Homes within a range of 4.5 kilometers from the Gaza border are being targeted, as the Iron Dome system will not have enough time to respond to rockets launched from a distance of less than 4 kilometers. The plans call for building safe rooms over the course of the next two years.
Abbas came to town a couple of days ago , to meet with Olmert, after which Olmert declared, "We didn't talk about Jerusalem!" while Saeb Erekat said they did.
Progress in negotiations is reportedly slow or non-existent, with Fayyad declaring that an agreement cannot be reached in 2008. All sorts of plans are in the works now for (shudder) "speeding things up," with more frequent meetings.
Abbas, however, has vetoed the suggestion of Yasser Abed Rabbo that the PA follow Kosovo's example and unilaterally declare independence.
However slowly, said Abbas, negotiations are still going on and that's the path to take at present. If matters stalemate entirely, it would be time to consider other alternatives.
A pragmatic Saeb Erekat opined that what the Palestinians need is "real independence" and not just a declaration. "We are not Kosovo. We are under Israeli occupation and for independence we need to acquire independence." In other words, it wouldn't play here. Nor would the US be supportive.
What their strategy will be (other than more violence) when negotiations stalemate remains to be seen.
A bit of humor: Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, in an attempt, I assume, to motivate us to move more quickly, has now said, "We hope that Israel responds positively to the strenuous efforts we are making, so that we do not despair and think about taking back our offer."
Strenuous efforts? Despair?
The offer: If we pull back to the pre-67 lines, which means giving the Palestinians the Kotel and the Temple Mount, allow a Palestinian state to be established with Jerusalem as its capital, and then permit four million "refugees" to "return" to Israel, the members of the Arab League will "normalize" relations with us. What this means with regard to full diplomatic relations has not be specified.
Not so funny this week was a statement made by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who said that Israel absolutely must reach a cease fire with Hamas to halt the "cycle" of Kassam attacks and responses. Israel responded to the implied moral equivalency with anger.
What angered me the most , however, was Kouchner's statement that he knew Israel was concerned that Hamas would use a ceasefire to build its strength, but Israel had "to take a chance . . . , to take a risk."
Really now. How nice of him to decide this for us.
When Olmert returned from his recent trip to Germany, there were reports coming from Der Spiegel that he was going to declare Goldwasser and Regev officially dead. The decision of the government has been not to do so, however, because there is no solid evidence of this (although there has been no sign that they are alive, either).
For some days there were hints that a deal was close for bringing Shalit home, but that now seems not the case. Apparently there was agreement on 240 prisoners to be released, but now there is contention about an additional 120.
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