Israel Resource Review 19th July, 2006


Dr. Michael Widlanski

Israel, which is pre-occupied with Lebanon, pulled most of its forces from Gaza Tuesday morning, both Israel and the Palestinians said, without having achieved Israel's two main goals:

1.The release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, kidnapped three weeks ago by Hamas;

2.The silencing of Qassam rocket fire on Israel, which continues daily.

Palestinian leaders and media were not celebrating the occasion.

"There is no doubt that what is going on in Gaza and other Palestinian land and in fraternal Lebanon is an indication that there is a clear and recurrent Israeli policy that encompasses realizing goals far beyond the matter of the soldiers imprisoned in Lebanon or in Palestine," declared Palestinian Prime Minister Ismai'l Hanniye.

" The goals [of Israeli policy] are the breaking the desire of these peoples, and defeating the expectations of this nation, and sowing the defeat of the Islamic peoples and the Arab peoples," declared Prime Minister Hanniye in a briefing aired on Palestinian television Tuesday morning.

Both Hanniye's Hamas movement and the Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas have supported the attacks from Lebanon on Israel, and their respective media have applauded what they call "Lebanese resistance."

For example, the Fatah-controlled Al-Ayyam newspaper ran a cartoon poking fun of Israel's Lebanese experience, including the deaths last week of four soldiers in an Israeli tank trying to rescue two other soldiers abducted Hizballah.

The cartoon shows a tank stuck in the Lebanese mud as the Israeli soldiers inside vainly call for help:

"We're here. Can you hear us?" Al-AYYAM July 13-14-06

Leading Fatah officials have also excoriated Israel and supported Hizballah, including PA President Abbas, who has been trying to stress his own role in trying to free imprisoned Palestinian terrorists, as well as Dr. Nabil Sha'ath an aide to Abbas and late PLO chairman Yasser Arafat.

"We call on the world to stand with Palestine and Lebanon and to stop the tyrannical Israeli aggression-Israeli state terrorism-to stop the destruction of infrastructure and national institutions," declared Sha'ath, generally considered a Palestinian moderate.

"This is not the object of a party in Palestine or a party in Lebanon but rather the object of the Palestinian people and its future and the object of the Lebanese people and its future," said Sha'ath, making a pun and a not-so-veiled reference to Hizballah-which, in Arabic, means "Party of God."

PA Prime Minister Hanniye, whose Hamas movement abducted 21-year-old soldier Shalit, hardly seemed overjoyed at the turn of events in recent weeks, despite the apparent failure of the Israeli operation's main goals, because of three factors:

.--More than 20 Palestinian terrorists were killed in the Beit Hanoun area alone, and millions in dollars in Palestinian infrastructure damage was inflicted;

.--The internal Palestinian political, economic and strategic situation is worse than ever;

.--And Palestinians and Israelis know that in the Israeli-Lebanese arena have momentarily taken precedence, but Israeli forces have not left Gaza permanently.

The Israeli withdrawal did not come from Palestinian pressure apparently but from an apparent Israeli decision to concentrate on three other fronts:

.--the immediate goal of silencing the even greater rocket fire from Iranian-controlled Hizballah terrorists in Lebanon, where 50-100 rockets have rained on a broad swathe of Israel for nearly a week, unlike the average of five to ten smaller Qassam rockets that land regularly in a relatively small section of southern Israel;

.--the longer-term goal of destroying or neutralizing the Iranian-controlled and Syrian-aided Hizballah militia in Lebanon, while also trying to prevent the spread of incipient Qassam rocket attacks from the West Bank to Israel;

.--and the long-term strategic goal of dealing with Iran and Syria, both of whom have essentially used an equipped Hizballah as a unit of their armed forces.

Dr. Michael Widlanski is a specialist in Arab politics and communication whose doctorate dealt with the Palestinian broadcast media. He is a former reporter, correspondent and editor, respectively, at The New York Times, The Cox Newspapers-Atlanta Constitution, and The Jerusalem Post.

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David Bedein

The authoritative Middle East News Line has confirmed that the United States has been quietly encouraging Israel's assault on Hizbullah.

Officials said the Bush administration, after initial hesitation, has determined that the Israeli military campaign against Hizbullah was vital in the effort to reduce the threat from Iran and Syria in the Middle East. They said the administration would not pressure Israel to agree to an immediate ceasefire.

"It's a day-to-day thing," an official said. "But right now, the president feels the Israelis are fighting an important battle and need a few more days to teach Iran and Hizbullah a lesson."

[On Wednesday, Israel Air Force jets struck what officials termed "economic assets" of Hizbullah. The assets were said to be located in the Beirut area and Bekaa Valley.]

Officials said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice initially sought to halt Israel's massive retaliation against Hizbullah, which abducted two Israeli soldiers on July 12. They said Ms. Rice, in twice-a-day phone calls,pressed Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to significantly reduce the operation to prevent casualties and maintain the Lebanese government.

"Olmert politely and respectfully told Condi that the operation must continue until the rocket attacks end and the Israeli soldiers are released," another official said. "The issue eventually came to the president and Condi backed off."

On Tuesday, President George Bush displayed his greatest support yet for the Israeli war. Bush said Iran and Syria were behind Hizbullah rocket attacks as part of Teheran's campaign to undermine the West. On July 15, Bush's national security adviser said the U.S. intelligence community did not have evidence of Iranian or Syrian involvement.

"It is now clear for all to see that there are terrorist elements who want to destroy our democratic friends and allies, and the world must work to prevent them from doing so," Bush said.

Officials said the administration has been pressed by Congress and conservative circles to support Israel during its war against Hizbullah. On Tuesday, the Senate passed a resolution that held Syria and Iran responsible for the "acts of aggression carried out by Hizbullah and Hamas against Israel." The House was expected to pass a similar resolution on Wednesday.

"The Senate has spoken loud and clear: Israel has the right to defend itself against aggression," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said. "While I urge the Israeli government to act carefully, there should be no doubt as to where we stand in this conflict."

Saudi Arabia has also relayed alarm to the United States over the Iranian intervention, officials said. They said Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council states were concerned that Teheran plans to order a Shi'ite revolt in the region. On Tuesday, Bush spoke by telephone with Saudi King Abdullah in a discussion that focused on the Israeli-Hizbullah war.

As a result, Ms. Rice has postponed her visit to the Middle East to help arrange a ceasefire. Officials said the secretary, who had been expected to arrive in Israel on Wednesday, would delay her visit until around July 25.

"A ceasefire that would leave intact a [Hizbullah] terrorist infrastructure is unacceptable," White House spokesman Tony Snow said.

On Tuesday, Ms. Rice disagreed with a call by visiting Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abu Al Gheit during the start of the Egyptian-U.S. strategic dialogue. Ms. Rice dismissed Al Gheit's call for an immediate ceasefire, saying Hizbullah must first release prisoners and withdraw from the Israeli border.

"We have to make certain that anything that we do is going to be of lasting value," Ms. Rice said. "The Middle East has been through too many spasms of violence and we have to deal with underlying conditions so that we can create sustainable conditions for political progress there."

Officials said the administration has been coordinating with Israel to help evacuate the 25,000-member American community in Lebanon. They said Central Command has sent nine ships to Lebanon to evacuate at least 5,000 Americans.

"We have a changing situation [in Lebanon]," U.S. Naval Forces Central Command chief Vice Adm. Patrick Walsh told a Pentagon briefing on Tuesday. "We have a very complex environment that we're about to put a substantial number more of American citizens into, and the security and safety of those people are paramount to us, and that's our No. 1 mission." .9

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