|Israel Resource Review
||21st January, 2008
Insight into the "Humanitarian Crisis" in Gaza
Senior Policy Research Analyst, Center for Near East Policy Research Ltd.
The situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate . Israel has given guarantees that there will be no humanitarian crisis: that sufficient supplies to prevent this will be allowed through crossings.
This doesn't mean there will be no hardship -- no fuel, perhaps for private autos.
What has continued to enrage Israel is the false emergency being manufactured by Hamas. I wrote yesterday about how ostensibly the turbines in the Gaza generator had to be turned off because fuel was lacking, and there are pictures being broadcast of Palestinian families functioning by candlelight.
Well . . . the simple reality is that some 70% of Gaza's electricity comes from the Israel Electric Corporation, which has not stopped supplying, and another 5% from Egypt. Not quite as Hamas is representing.
In fact, Israel Electric is furious because workmen in their Ashkelon plant -- which supplies to Gaza -- are at risk of getting hit by Kassams, and it sends out its repairmen to Sderot, where on occasion someone is injured.
As to the turning off of turbines, that was a politically motivated Hamas decision regarding where to allocate the fuel that was available.
Hamas is fingering Abbas as having some responsibility for the current "humanitarian crisis" in Gaza because he hasn't been tough enough in criticizing Israel. An interesting state of affairs, considering that Hamas-fired rockets are causing the entire crisis.
And a significant state of affairs. I've maintained for some time that Hamas sets the tone of Palestinian political discourse, and this proves the point. Abbas would never turn and point a finger at Hamas for causing problems; rather, he's quick to show what a loyal Palestinian he is by further criticizing Israel.
It should be clear as clear can be that there is no real possibility of negotiations within such a climate. And, in fact, pressure from Hamas on Fatah to stop negotiations is growing. For Abbas to associate with us runs him the risk of appearing a "traitor" by Hamas lights.
MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud) said today that according to representatives of the defense establishment, who spoke before the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, all building projects beyond the Green Line have been frozen.
"There is no building beyond the line, even in what is considered sovereign Israeli territory. The prime minister has assumed authorities without the government's approval."
That son of a . . . whoops, I must remain professional. This is absolutely not what Olmert led us to believe he was going to do. Remember the brave statements regarding continued building at Har Homa, which is part of Jerusalem?
Olmert's office is denying this report , saying that it is unfounded. To this Rivlin has countered that there has to be special permission from the PM's office for construction to be done in Jerusalem:
"The truth has come to light in all its gravity. There will be no construction outside the Green Line, even in sovereign Israeli territory, including Jerusalem's neighborhoods.
"The prime minister has taken liberties without awaiting the government's approval or a Knesset discussion, and in contradiction with the road map, which recognizes Israel's right to expand the settlement blocs in accordance with natural growth."
I rather like the statement of Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski, who has said the municipality will continue to build everywhere in Jerusalem: "Israel must not become the first country in the world to turn its capital into an illegal outpost.
"This is an illegal decision which stands in contradiction to the government's own decisions, as stipulated in the Jerusalem Law."
I mentioned recently that the Jewish community of Hevron had hired an expert who concluded that the purchase of Shalom House from the Palestinians was legal. Since then there has been renewed pursuit of this matter within the legal system. Arutz Sheva reported that the Palestinian who sold the house -- which purchase he claimed was a Jewish forgery -- has now been arrested by the PA for selling to a Jew.
In the midst of all of this turmoil, I did want to touch , at least briefly, on the political situation here. Somehow it keeps getting tabled in these postings because of other things that are happening.
An overview (with the understanding that things might change an hour from now):
-- In the final analysis it seems Winograd has been politicized and will not be severely criticizing Olmert and company in its final report in the manner that had been anticipated. There is some nonsense about the failures of the Lebanon War falling to the IDF. But, excuse me, it is my clear understanding that the political echelon made horrendous mistakes. I think there will be enough fault to go around when the report is released in ten days.
-- As I indicated yesterday , there is a major grassroots campaign developing -- the activity of the Reservists being only part of it -- that is aimed at getting both Olmert and Barak to quit. Emphasis is being put on Barak, who would bring down the gov't if he brought his party out of the coalition; Olmert swears with his every breath that he will not move up the date for elections or resign.
-- Barak is being put on the spot because he made a very clear statement about leaving when the final Winograd report came out. But he is reluctant because if there are elections it is highly likely that Netanyahu and Likud will come out ahead and not Barak and Labor -- he's afraid of losing all power.
An alternative scenario he is said to be considering is to try to push Olmert out, which would make the electorate happy, without actually forcing elections; this would allow him to remain part of a governing coalition.
-- Should Olmert actually go, it had been assumed for some time that Livni would step up. But she is being challenged from within Kadima, and this is no longer a working assumption. Mofaz is Livni's chief rival, though there are others.
-- Yet another scenario recently advanced by Caroline Glick has 11 members of Kadima breaking off and starting another party, which would destroy the coalition. I have no clue what sort of likelihood there is of such an occurrence. It seems that earlier talk of former Likud members of Kadima returning to Likud has fallen flat -- their welcome back being something less than overwhelming. And yet, these people have a desire to cut and run before Kadima falls totally on its face.
Statistics of note: In spite of all the difficulties, 10,000 additional Jews moved to Judea and Samaria this past year, bringing the number to 270,000, living in 130 settlements, with 80% in major settlement blocs.
Posted on Monday, January 21, 2008 at 03:52 p.m. by Arlene | Post a Comment | Email | Print
January 20, 2008: Gaza and Sderot
In the course of this past week , 160 Kassams and some 70 mortar shells have been fired from Gaza into the western Negev, primarily at Sderot. This has generated a situation of totally intolerable conditions for the local residents.
The IDF response has been to get tougher without actually getting tough enough. There have been a growing number of "pinpoint operations," and the Gaza Strip crossings have been sealed. Obviously without achieving the desired effect.
Today this was an issue of grave contention at the weekly Cabinet meeting, as Public Security Minister Avi Dichter demanded that the government "direct the IDF to bring the firing [of rockets] to a complete stop. Not to curb or reduce it but to stop it, whatever the cost for the Palestinians."
I quite agree. The government is failing the people of Sderot.
But Barak responded defensively: "I don't remember such anxious talk in the government like what I'm hearing here," he said.
That might be because there hasn't been a previous Israeli gov't that has failed its people the way this one is.
Barak opined that the government should show itself united despite differences of opinion, or else it is weakened. In certain cases this is unquestionably the case, but here Dichter is to be applauded for having the fortitude to speak out.
And, naturally, here we go again:
Palestinian officials said they had to close most of the turbines of their Gaza generator today because the closing of the crossings prevented them from bringing in the fuel needed to power those turbines.
Not so! said Shlomo Dror, spokesman for IDF operations in Gaza. There is enough fuel but the Palestinians are attempting to create the impression of a crisis where none exists.
Par for the course, UNRWA saw fit to register its complaints as well, criticizing Israel for generating a humanitarian emergency.
Minister of Housing and Construction Zeev Boim (Kadima) noted dryly that when it came to condemning Palestinian terrorists for subjecting Israeli civilians to barrages of rockets, "I don't hear the UN's voice."
And Hamas? It is singularly unconcerned with the inconvenience it is causing the local Palestinian community. Said spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri: "We will not raise the white flag, and we will not surrender."
And speaking of Hamas . . .
Underneath the surface of various political doings are currents that keep shifting. Sometimes I feel I'm just about ready to make a statement regarding a situation and I look again and find it has changed . . . .
The Fatah and Hamas rapprochement had seemed to be coming closer and closer, with Abbas's expressed condolence last week to Hamas's Zahar on the loss of his son in an IDF operation working to solidify it. And now? Hamas is charging that Abbas's office is behind a plot to kill (former PA prime minister) Haniyeh via a suicide bombing. Abbas's office is, of course, denying the charges and saying that Hamas has invented them to foment problems. And there we go . . .
"Funding Hate Education," the first in a series of papers to be released by the Tax Payers Alliance -- a British NGO analyzing the effectiveness of British overseas aid -- provides evidence on the millions of pounds in British tax revenues that has been funneled into supporting hate education in the PA.
A spokesman for the British Department for International Development said in response to the TPA report that the department ran "stringent checks" to assure that monies provided were not misused for violent purposes.
The blanket denial, rather than a declared readiness to re-examine the situation, does not bode well for official British attitudes.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah -- by speaking of "body parts" of Israeli soldiers that he might be willing to trade -- has so thoroughly enraged and repulsed the Cabinet that there were calls today for his assassination.
Just ten days before the Winograd Report, reservists -- working with the Reservists' Struggle -- are heating up their innovative grassroots campaign to get Olmert and Barak to resign. Today they hung large creatively worded signs along the Ayalon Highway, which can be seen from the windows of Barak's Tel Aviv apartment. "We want him to wake up every morning recalling his promise and realizing that he's run out of excuses."
Reservists who took part told Ynet that "We used these billboards to pass a clear message to Barak that his promise (to resign following the final Winograd report) is out in the open for everyone to see and so he must live up to it. We also want Olmert to know that the nation has effectively fired him."
I will be following this campaign and related events closely in the days ahead.
Posted on Sunday, January 20, 2008 at 03:50 p.m. by Arlene | Post a Comment | Email | Print
January 17, 2008: Read It and Weep
Jeff Jacoby writing on the "Death of the Bush Doctrine" in the Boston Globe:
"The Bush Doctrine - born on September 20, 2001 , when President Bush bluntly warned the sponsors of violent jihad: "You are either with us, or you are with the terrorists" - is dead. Its demise was announced by Condoleezza Rice last Friday.
"The secretary of state was speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One en route with the president to Kuwait from Israel. She was explaining why the administration had abandoned the most fundamental condition of its support for Palestinian statehood - an end to Palestinian terror. Rice's explanation, recounted here by The Washington Time, was as striking for its candor as for its moral blindness:
"'The "road map" for peace, conceived in 2002 by Mr. Bush, had become a hindrance to the peace process, because the first requirement was that the Palestinians stop terrorist attacks. As a result, every time there was a terrorist bombing, the peace process fell apart and went back to square one. Neither side ever began discussing the "core issues": the freezing of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the right of Palestinian refugees to return, the outline of Israel's border, and the future of Jerusalem.
"'The reason that we haven't really been able to move forward on the peace process for a number of years is that we were stuck in the sequentiality of the road map. So you had to do the first phase of the road map before you moved on to the third phase of the road map, which was the actual negotiations of final status,' Rice said . . . What the US-hosted November peace summit in Annapolis did was 'break that tight sequentiality . . . '
"Thus the president who once insisted that a 'Palestinian state will never be created by terror' now insists that a Palestinian state be created regardless of terror."
How does one comment on this? It makes the blood run cold.
I do thank the several people who brought this piece to my attention.
The Shas party is shameless. Many of us knew this already, but please consider what is happening now. Party leaders said they would not stay in the coalition if there were negotiations on Jerusalem. And, as we all know, those negotiations on "core issues," which include Jerusalem, have begun.
But wait! Shas leaders had a solution. They have asked Olmert to negotiate Jerusalem last. (I am not making this up.) So everything's OK. We know Olmert wants to negotiate on Jerusalem and that he has committed to doing so. But as long as he's not actually doing so at this time, it's all peachy keen and Shas can stay in the government! Phew! That was a close one. Shas almost had to give up its perks. But see what a little creative thinking can accomplish.
This also makes the blood run cold.
So, what we need, more than ever , is to push Barak into resigning. He's under a great deal of pressure. Lieberman is being lauded as a man of principle for keeping his word. This is no small matter, and it makes it harder for Barak, who also gave his word.
Word is that Meretz will support the coalition from outside, but not join it. Haven't heard about UTJ.
Things have heated up seriously regarding the situation with Gaza, with some 50 rockets shot at Sderot and the western Negev a couple of days ago and a growing response on our part. The PA sent condolences to Zahar on the death of his son, and several members of Fatah went to pay a condolence call in Gaza. According to Khaled Abu Toameh, this actually caused divisiveness within Fatah -- as Zahar was a leader in the coup that caused Fatah deaths.
But it seems in the main that Fatah is reacting with great anger at the Israeli action directed against Hamas terrorists. For Fatah leaders to act differently would make them seem complicit in the Israeli operations. This, my friends, is a no win situation in which we're being told that we cannot defend our people.
Abbas is saying that he may resign if Israeli "escalation" doesn't stop. But Abbas is always threatening to resign. Others close to Abbas said he was thinking of halting negotiations. Threats, threats. Let them carry out what they say!
For his part, Defense Minister Barak is saying that operations will increase until the Kassams stop. This should please be so, but I am not yet convinced. With Hamas's military wing making threats, I fear that it will get worse before it gets better.
Tzachi Hanegbi, chair of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, says that while final decisions have not been made, an invasion of Gaza is inevitable, because otherwise Israel will eventually find itself "facing Iranian brigades" there.
A mark of the mixed-up world we live in: Noam Shalit, father of Gilad, who is held in custody by Hamas associated groups, has sent a letter of condolence to Zahar on the death of his son, one father to another.
Posted on Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 03:48 p.m.
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Detention of Activists Blasted: Following Arrest of Those who Distributed Booklet That Challenged the Notion that Abbas and the Fatah are Moderate
Washington - The detention of three activists during President Bush's visit to Israel has sparked claims that Israeli police are intentionally targeting groups and individuals who oppose the push of Ehud Olmert's government for a two-state solution.
The three activists — from the Israel office of the Zionist Organization of America and the National Council of Young Israel — were taken in by police in Jerusalem while trying to hand out booklets to reporters who were covering Bush's trip. Israeli police said that the officer in charge initially suspected that the booklets, which criticized Palestinian leadership, might have contained "seditious material."
The booklet can be accessed at:
For Israeli and American groups opposed to the Olmert government's willingness to compromise with the Palestinians, the incident last Wednesday, January 9, is seen as the latest in a chain of events. Tensions began with restrictions on demonstrations during the Gaza disengagement in 2005 and culminating in the violent events surrounding the evacuation of the Amona outpost in February 2006.
"What kind of country is this? I would expect to see this kind of behavior from other countries, not from Israel," said Morton Klein, national president of the ZOA. Klein described the incident as a "clear violation of the rights of free speech and assembly."
The incident occurred as Bush was beginning his visit to Israel. A handful of activists stood at the entrance of the Dan Panorama, the hotel housing the White House press corps, and tried to distribute booklets to reporters covering the visit. The 27-page booklet, titled "Fatah as 'Moderate': A Hard Look Post-Annapolis," http://israelbehindthenews.com/pdf/ModerateFatah.pdf
argues that Fatah, the leading party in the Palestinian Authority, is not sincere in pursing peace. Researcher Arlene Kushner wrote the booklet. It was published by the Massachusetts-based Center for Near East Policy Research, which is headed by journalist David Bedein.
Israeli police officers approached the activists and confiscated the booklets. Later they took the three protesters who remained in the area to Jerusalem's Russian Compound police station. The protesters were all released an hour later and were ordered not to return to the hotel. No charges were pressed.
Among those detained was Jeffrey Daube, 57, head of ZOA's Israel office. This was a first-ever encounter with Israeli law enforcement agencies for Daube, who moved to Israel from New York only two weeks earlier to open a new ZOA office. "This was a very unusual welcome, but I'm not discouraged," Daube said after being released. He charged, however, that his detention was more than a misunderstanding. "In my humble opinion, there was a concerted effort to suppress any protest in order to make the impression that the public here acquiesces with the government's policy," he said.
Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told the Forward that the activists were detained because the lead officer on the scene became suspicious of the material being handed out. According to Rosenfeld, the protesters were released after the booklets were examined,. "In general, we did not take any chances regarding the security during President Bush's visit," Rosenfeld said, adding that the police had prepared for several scenarios — including possible provocations by right-wing activists.
Thousands of police officers fanned out across Jerusalem during the visit, virtually closing any route through which the presidential motorcade traveled. According to police reports, there was only one arrest of protesters, during a demonstration outside the residence of Israeli President Shimon Peres.
While Israeli law enforcement officials portray the incident as a result of extraordinary security measures during the visit, activists see it as a violation of their right to freedom of speech and assembly. Knesset member Arye Eldad of the pro-settler National Union party raised the issue in a formal query to Avi Dichter, minister of internal security, demanding an explanation of police behavior. "The police should allow the distribution of material to journalists and not act like the police in a totalitarian state," Eldad said.
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Bombardment of Sderot and its Human Side Effects
Published in the Philadelphia Bulletin, January 18th, 2008
Jerusalem - There was another Kassam rocket barrage at the Negev on Thursday morning.
Twelve rockets landed near Sderot just as students were making their way to school. One woman was hurt by shrapnel and one house was damaged. A number of children suffered from shock.
Revital (family name withheld by Israeli Security), who owns a family business, next to which one of the rockets fell, related: "Our business is not fortified. To fortify it we have to pay a great deal of money. To be able to hear the Red Color alert properly we also have to pay. This is what the state decided, that we have to do this on our own, with our own money."
Residents of Sderot and the Western Negev have experienced a great many frightening moments as the terrorist organizations in Gaza stepped up their activities and fired some 50 Kassam rockets at Israel.
The massive rocket fire on Israel from within the Gaza Strip began on Wednesday morning, with approximately 25 rockets being fired at Western Negev communities within the course of a single hour. By 3 p.m., around 40 Kassams had fallen, and by the evening the number had risen to 50.
However, the continual shooting notwithstanding, the political echelon instructed the army to continue to act against terrorist elements in Gaza without embarking on the extensive ground operation for which the IDF has been prepared for a long time. The instructions handed down by the political echelon accord with the position adopted by the IDF's most senior officers, who fear that a ground operation, unless it continues for a very long time, will not necessarily put an end to the rocket fire on the Western Negev.
Because of the massive rocket fire and because schools in Sderot are not completely fortified against such attacks, local resident Batya Katar on Wednesday appealed to Arkady Gaidamak and asked him to evacuate high-school children from the town. Gaidamak responded by ordering buses to take 200 of the town children away for a long weekend in Jerusalem's Tzippori Forest, but the wait for the buses' arrival was fraught with moments of fear, as a Red Color alert was heard while the children were waiting. The terrified youngsters scrambled to take cover in a small concrete fortification. Fortunately the rocket fell in open ground just outside the town. A few minutes later another Red Color alert was heard, and this time the rockets fell inside the town. Five people suffering from shock were treated by Magen David Adom.
Only a few children responded to Mr. Gaidamak's invitation to take a break in Jerusalem. School teachers and principals called children and their parents and asked them to reconsider leaving town. "Unfortunately, some parents are so scared that they are willing to get their children out of town at any price, even if this means missing school," said one high-school staff member.
After the Kassam attack Sderot police chief Dep. Cmdr. Shimon Nahmani talked to Batya Katar and suggested postponing the children's trip, because of the dangers involved in waiting for the buses. "I accepted his suggestion, and so only 85 children left town," said Ms. Katar.
While Sderot residents were under Kassam fire, the government on Wednesday informed the High Court of Justice that it was unable at this stage to take an operative decision regarding the fortification of the residents' homes. The government was responding to a petition to the court by residents of Sderot who are demanding a budget allocation this year for the fortification of 800 homes whose roofs are unable to withstand a Kassam attack.
The government, by means of attorney Dina Silber of the State Attorney's Office, explained to the High Court that a decision on this matter depended on other factors apart from the present situation of Sderot residents. "The government cannot take a decision regarding the area of Sderot in isolation from the question of overall policy," said the government's response. "This position is liable to create an extreme precedent with regard to the homes of residents of other parts of the country who find themselves at present, or may find themselves in the future, under threat of high trajectory fire." The Prime Minister's Bureau said in response: "When the government takes a decision regarding the form and scope of the fortification, NIS 50 million will be added for the purpose, as the prime minister has promised."
At the same time, the Israel National Insurance Institute has increased the number of teams of social workers working in Sderot to meet the pressing needs of the town under fire. National Insurance Institute Director-General Yigal Ben Shalom will go to Sderot this morning to inspect the teams' work. Mr. Ben Shalom suggested to the Ministry of Defense that a plan of operation should be formulated to change the procedure for recognition of victims of shock.
The IDF "Home Front Command" recommends activating the Red Color alert warning system against rockets in Ashkelon, however at this stage, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, who is in charge of home front affairs, accepts the view of the mayor not to do so, out of concern that activating the system would deal a fatal economic blow to the city.
The dilemma over whether to activate the system in Ashkelon recently became more acute in light of two cases in which Grad rockets fell in the city. In order to alert Ashkelon residents in all cases of a rocket launched in their direction, the Home Front Command installed the Red Color alert system quite some time ago, but the activation button is still turned off. Ashkelon Mayor Roni Mahatzri believes that this should not be done on the grounds that activating the alarm would lead to a dramatic plummet of real estate prices and badly damage commercial life.
The dilemma was put at the doorstep of Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai. Defense Minister Barak and Prime Minister Olmert also support the decision not to activate the system.
On the other hand, some military sources say that we should hope that the rocket fire at Ashkelon does not continue and does not cause casualties. "In such a case, everyone will ask how it was that the residents were not alerted," said one source. Incoming OC Home Front Command Yair Golan has still not expressed an unequivocal opinion on the matter. Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai's bureau commented: "The security establishment holds situation assessments on the security situation and the necessary response, and employs judgment corresponding to the risks and threats against the various communities."
The Response To The Attacks
The Israeli security establishment believes that IDF attacks in their present form are exacting a price from the Palestinians.
Osama al-Muzaini, the Hamas terrorist in charge of matters relating to the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, threatens that if the incursions into Gaza and the West Bank continue, Mr. Shalit's fate is liable to be the same as that of Ron Arad - the Israeli air force pilot who was captured in Lebanon on 1986 and never released.
Another Hamas terror leader, Moussa Abu Marzuk, confirmed that the continuing IDF attacks were having an effect on the understandings and mediation with regard to Mr. Shalit. He added, however, that as no deal had been concluded so far, it was impossible to talk of postponement or change. He said that Hamas was still waiting for Israel's response with regard to Mr. Shalit. Mr. Abu Marzuk reiterated that the disagreements within the Israeli government were delaying the exchange deal. He was interviewed by the Palestinian news service, Al-Quds al-Arabi.
"I received a written letter of condolence from Gilad Shalit's father," Hamas "foreign minister" Mahmoud a-Zahar revealed to a correspondent from the Israeli newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, as he was sitting in a mourners' tent set up after the death of his second son in the Air Force strike two days ago in Gaza.
"I haven't yet replied," he told us. "I haven't had time because I was busy all day in the mourners' booth."
Yediot asked Mr. a-Zahar: Will the death of your son affect Gilad?
"I have not been in touch with those handling the Shalit matter and I don't know what's going on with him," Mahmoud a-Zahar said. "I don't know what to tell you at this stage . . . "I am not the only one mourning my son.
All of Gaza mourns for him.
Yediot also asked him the most critical question: "Why don't you stop the Kassam rocket fire and bring about quiet"?
"You are responsible for the rockets," Mahmoud a-Zahar was quick to reply.
At the same time, Hamas' Damascus-based terror chieftain Khaled Mashal said, "Gilad Shalit will not see the light of day until all the Hamas prisoners are released." At a press conference in Damascus, he attacked Prime Minister Olmert and Defense Minister Barak and said, "the slaughter in Zeitoun" would have a negative effect on the negotiations to release Mr. Shalit.
"Our response will be in acts, not in press conferences or talk. The Zionist prime minister wants Shalit in order to gain ratings in Israeli public opinion before the Winograd report comes out to obscure his failures in the war in Lebanon," said Mr. Mashal. "And I am telling Olmert: We will not give you Shalit and we will not help you be popular on the Israeli street."
David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.israelVisit.co.il/BehindTheNews
©The Evening Bulletin 2008
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