|Israel Resource Review
||10th October, 2007
Incisive Commentary from Arlene Kushner
Posting: October 9, 2007
Not quite . It takes a lot to render me speechless. But the events of the last few days push me in that direction. The foolishness, the essential errors in thinking, the dangers of statements that are being made take my breath away.
I will not belabor those statements here. It is too wearying. But I will touch on some essential points . . .
Olmert addressed the opening session of the Knesset yesterday and said much the same as he had said to the Cabinet a day earlier. "The current Palestinian leadership is not a terrorist leadership," he declared. And I say, "HUH?" Abbas has superb terrorist credentials. " An atmosphere of personal trust [between himself and Abbas] has been created," he explained. How does one deal with this drivel? I tried yesterday to find and could not locate the source, but only a few months ago, before there was so much sweetness and light between Abbas and Olmert, Olmert made a public statement complaining that Abbas had not kept his word about anything. And I've already pointed out that Abbas is dealing with Hamas, even as he deals with Olmert. Trust?
Olmert presented a scenario in which there is no choice -- we must create a Palestinian state or we'll be "contending in tears." The fact is that there will be tears if there IS such a state, and there is a choice.
I will return again and again to this: MK Rav Benny Elon, bless him, with the initiative that he is launching, offers a choice.
See his website for details: http://www.israelinitiative.com. This requires thinking out of the box, and it's about time.
And then there's Defense Minister Ehud Barak. He gave a report to the Knesset State Control Committee today, in which he said that in a few years (?) we would have 90% coverage from missile attacks of any kinds; I will not here deal with the details. All well and good -- this is a necessary defensive tactic. But it's being approached the wrong way. Barak has implied that our withdrawals from Judea and Samaria should be timed to the construction of this defensive field. That is, it's OK to let terrorists establish themselves at our border, as long as we have equipment that will repulse their missiles and rockets. Wrong wrong wrong. Our task is to stop the terrorists and to take out their ability to hit us. Barak's approach smacks of a siege mentality.
It's as if he's resigned to the fact that we are on the edge of creating a situation that presents us with strategic dangers.
And after him there's Marc Otte , who is the EU's Special Representative to the Middle East Process. Said he yesterday, the failure of the "process" now would cause greater repercussions than it did in 2000. So much is this the case, that he agrees with Condoleezza Rice that "failure is not an option." Really, now. He explained that if the Middle East did not achieve stability [by which he means a negotiated deal], it would be a "black hole in globalization."
What fascinates me is his assumption that the Middle East will achieve stability if we turn over half of Jerusalem and all of Judea and Samaria to terrorists. He hasn't the remotest notion that stability in the Middle East starts with a strong Israel.
Ah, but then we have PA Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Adnan Husseini. He has told The Jerusalem Post that any solution to the conflict will require turning over to the Palestinians ALL of east Jerusalem. Nothing less will do:
"The outline for Jerusalem is very clear , east Jerusalem is for the Palestinians and west Jerusalem is for the Israelis." The Old City, with the Temple Mount, the Kotel, and the Jewish Quarter with its abundance of old synagogues and ancient Jewish history, as well as all of the many modern Jewish neighborhoods established beyond the Green Line.
He should live so long, is my first response. But I'm glad he's demanding this. For he may save us from ourselves. He asks too much to expect a positive response, not from Olmert or Ramon or Livni or Barak. And certainly not from Lieberman.
Let me note here, one more time, that the notion that "east" Jerusalem is "Arab" is highly fallacious. East Jerusalem is the heart of Jewish heritage. It was only during the 19 years of Jordanian occupation, during which it was made Judenrein, that it came to seem Arab.
Meanwhile, Syria has said that it would attend the conference if the Golan Heights were put on the table. But Olmert has indicated it will not be.
Assad has declared that he would go to war to get the Heights back.
For the first time Eli Yishai, head of Shas , which is part of the coalition, spoke out against negotiations with the PA, saying Olmert should stop until terrorism is halted.
"Coming to a summit while terrorism continues is a decision that is doomed to failure. The summit is liable to bring about more terrorism, which happened when Barak went to Camp David. Olmert needs to cancel. Drafting a document would be artificial and pointless.
"Jerusalem is stronger than all Israeli governments past and future. I am against talking about what to give up, because it only damages us."
Better than criticizing , let him pull out.
More is becoming apparent about the recent Israeli raid inside of Syria. The latest is that Israel wanted to strike as early as July, and supplied clear and detailed intelligence on what was going on in Syria to US officials, who were astounded by the images provided. But, while some US officials were in favor of the raid, others were not.
And guess who led the nay-sayers? None other than our good friend Condoleezza Rice. She offered to publicly condemn Syria for having a nuclear facility instead. That would have really shamed Syria into stopping.
What was the concern of those opposed? That the raid might have a "negative influence" on the whole region. More people who don't get it. The influence on the region was fantastic.
Justice Eliyahu Winograd has let us down . His commission, which is scheduled to release its final report on the failures of the War in Lebanon, has decided it will not name names for "fear of causing political upheaval." It will point no fingers regarding who was responsible, and will not recommend that Olmert step down. He started out like a house on fire, and I wonder what sort of pressure was brought to bear on him.
The IDF is reporting that there's been a steep rise in smuggling of weapons, including rockets, into Gaza in the last several weeks. Hamas has taken over from clans in controlling the smuggling routes.
Olmert was questioned for over four hours in his home today regarding the allegedly illegal role he played as finance minister in order to help a friend better acquire the controlling interest in Bank Leumi. More questioning will follow on Thursday.
It would be nice if one of these investigations actually led to something.
Posting: October 8, 2007
Prime Minister Olmert made a statement at the Cabinet meeting yesterday. Said he:
"The situation is different than in the past. For the first time, there is Palestinian leadership that wants to reach peace based on two states living side by side in security, and where Israel will be a Jewish state."
I read this and I want to gag. Could it possibly be that Olmert is so self-deluded that he really believes this? Because he has met face to face with Abbas and Abbas said the right things to him? Or is it because he's so damn eager to give away our heritage that he doesn't care how he does it? Or because it serves him politically?
Just yesterday, I quoted Avi Dichter, Minister of Internal Security, and a member of Olmert's own Kadima party, who said, "For seven years the PA did not lift a finger to stop the terrorism . . . " Was Olmert not paying attention?
I know what his response would be: Well, Abbas wanted to do something about terrorism, but he wasn't strong enough. To which I would respond, "Garbage!" This is Abbas's ploy. In Gaza, Fatah was stronger than Hamas -- they had more men, better equipment and better training. But they walked -- or ran -- away because they didn't want to take out Hamas. Abbas has never wanted to take out Hamas.
How is it that Olmert trusts his sincerity regarding peace when Abbas joined the terrorist Hamas in forming a unity government even though it didn't recognize Israel, and is now holding secret negotiations to get back in bed with Hamas?
How is it that he trusts Abbas's sincerity when not so many months ago he stood before a crowd in Ramallah and told them that it's forbidden to aim their guns at each other -- all their guns should be aimed at Israel?
Olmert explained that we would be proceeding in two stages: The "talking stage" and the "implementing stage." We will give them that "political horizon" but deliver on nothing until the PA "passes the test of implementing what it needs to."
Does it sound reasonable and safe to you? I assure you, it's not -- it's a horror.
The PA -- under Arafat and now under Abbas -- has a perfect record. It never honors commitments. Let me provide a small example here out of the hundreds that exist: We agreed to provide amnesty to certain wanted members of Al Aksa Brigades -- a Fatah-affiliated terrorist group -- with the understanding that they had to relinquish their weapons. It was the PA's job to collect those weapons. But it turns out that these guys still have their weapons. Or, to give just one more example, how about the fact, which I alluded to very recently, that Abbas made a public statement saying he would have nothing to do with Hamas ever again, even as he was secretly negotiating with Hamas.
Abbas, who was Arafat's deputy, learned "forked tongue" techniques from him very well.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said at a press conference as recently as September 4, that " we will also have to consider . . . the fact that the parties with which we are conducting the dialogue are not capable of carrying out the commitments that we will be demanding."
Was Olmert not paying attention then either? Not able to honor commitments, not wishing to. Ultimately it doesn't matter because the bottom line is that the PA will NOT honor commitments.
So why proceed to offer something , even on paper, if this is understood at the get go?
And here we come to the most dangerous part of this scenario: If the PA has a perfect record of not honoring commitments, the Israeli government has a near perfect record of not insisting that it do so before moving ahead. Let's return to the examples I provided above. Did Olmert note that Al Aksa gunmen still had their weapons and say that the deal was off and there would be no "amnesty"? You bet your boots he didn't. The guys with the guns are still free from pursuit. And, worse, did Olmert say that Abbas promised not to deal with Hamas and that since he is speaking with its leaders again, our negotiations with Abbas must terminate? That's a rhetorical question. We all know he didn't do that. Again and again and again, we've averted our eyes and continued down the path in spite of PA noncompliance.
So what will happen now if Olmert makes certain promises conditioned on PA compliance? Very very dangerous, I tell you.
And with all of the above , the clincher is probably this: Olmert warns that we have to grab this opportunity to deal with the "moderate" Abbas while we can, for in a couple of years we'll be facing a Hamas leadership instead.
I would suggest that Olmert has it exactly backwards. If we cannot trust that Abbas and his confederates will retain power, and we are able to predict that Hamas is almost certain to co-opt Abbas and gain control of the PA before long, why would we want to promise the PA anything, even on paper? It means that if we make territorial concessions to the PA, down the road we'll have Hamas at our doorstep in the east as well as in the west.
Olmert tried to mollify his ministers by assuring them that the conference would not be the place for negotiations, but only for setting a tone. Besides, he said, it was clear to everyone that a condition for participation in the conference was recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
That is a blatant misrepresentation , however. Nations that avowedly don't recognize Israel -- such as Syria and Saudi Arabia -- are being encouraged to come. What Rice said was that participants should be on board with the two-state solution, but that is something else. There are Arab states who will endorse the "two-state" solution as an interim step towards getting rid of Israel, without recognizing Israel's legitimacy at all. This distinction must be made clearly. In fact, the refusal of the Arab world to recognize Israel's right to exist here as a Jewish state is at the heart of the issue.
In spite of all of this , I still believe, however, that nothing will come of it. PA demands are too maximalist. The PA leadership, for all the noises to the contrary it is making, does not want a two-state solution and end of conflict. It wants us finished. And so those maximalist demands will ensure that nothing really happens. No one is sure at this point that the conference will even come off.
Olmert said again yesterday that he would be bringing nothing but a general and carefully worded declaration, which has not been drafted yet. But just yesterday I cited Qurei, PA negotiator, who said they wouldn't be coming to the conference unless specifics are set down ahead of time. So what will happen remains anyone's guess.
Then there is still the issue of Hamas . Let me say first that even though Olmert is willing now (which he shouldn't be) to continue talking with Abbas in spite of the fact that he is exploring rapprochement with Hamas, I remain convinced that if there really is a unity government again it will shut down our government's readiness to proceed. What is more, I believe that the closer Abbas gets to forming that unity government, the more he will find ways to not attend the conference: this is likely to be a stipulation from Hamas. Guaranteed, one way or another, Hamas is looking to make sure negotiations don't proceed.
Haim Ramon raised again at the Cabinet meeting the notion -- which met with a negative response before -- of giving Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem to the PA. This time, to the shock of many, myself included, Yisrael Beitenu head Avigdor Lieberman signed on to this to some extent: his idea is that we could trade the Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem for certain areas of Judea and Samaria. As wrong-headed as this is, I note here that it falls way short of what the Palestinians are demanding. Lieberman wants to keep the Old City and Mount Scopus. The Palestinians want it all.
The London paper Al-Quds al-Arabi claimed this morning that Olmert and Abbas had reached an agreement to turn the Temple Mount over to Jordan and that the Arab residents of Jerusalem would have Jordanian citizenship. Olmert is denying this (for whatever that denial is worth) and I haven't seen a comment from Jordan or Abbas. Jordan already has special consideration on the Temple Mount, but this is not the same as total control. Commented Mk Aryeh Eldad (NU): if Israel willingly gives up sovereignty of the Temple Mount to a foreign power "it will lose its moral, historical, legal and religious justification for existence." Indeed.
Jordan has been resisting giving Palestinians living outside of Jordan citizenship -- even though that was the situation during the 19 years that Jordan controlled Judea and Samaria.
MK Benny Elon (Chair NU) has come forward with another plan involving Jordanian citizenship for Palestinians that does not involve territorial compromise by Israel.
"The political discourse in Israel consists of old-fashioned concepts and mistakes. The assumptions are that in order to achieve peace, we must relinquish territory; that the Palestinians are a partner; and that Israel is prohibited from dealing with the refugee problem. These conceptions have failed and brought us to the place we are today: No peace, terror, Hamas controls Gaza and is threatening to seize control of Judea and Samaria. We must reexamine all the underlying assumptions that brought us to this current situation, and think differently, 'outside the box.'"
His plan: Israel would retain control of Judea and Samaria while the Arab residents would become citizens of Jordan.
Additionally, there would be a focus on rehabilitating the refugees according to a humanitarian rather than a political solution. I vigorously applaud this approach. The wrong-headed focus has been on their "right of return" -- which in actuality has kept them in a miserable limbo for almost 60 years and has been used as a weapon against Israel. It's time to start helping them individually get their lives together with permanency. UNRWA, the agency that has promoted "return" and kept them in limbo, would be dismantled; the refugees would be rehabilitated -- with permanent housing, grants to get them on their feet and citizenship -- and the camps would be dismantled.
Rav Benny says that surveys indicated that 30% to 50% of the Palestinian refugees are interested in such a plan, which would provide rehabilitation in a third country, and that for the first time, because of the current political climate, there are Arab nations interested in cooperating.
He has launched a million dollar campaign to promote this idea, which he is calling the "Israel Initiative."
Posting: October 7, 2007
"Demands and More Demands"
Saman Abu Sitta, who was a member of the Palestine National Council and is a strong advocate for "right of return," written a letter to Abbas warning him not to fall into the trap of settling for a two-state solution, as this would be to surrender the "right." The two-state solution, he says is "extremely dangerous":
" . . . what has drawn our attention more than anything else is Israel's attempt to redefine the idea of the two-state solution. Israel now wants mutual recognition – Israel as the national homeland of the Jews and, on what's left of the land, Palestine as the national homeland of the Palestinians."
The nerve of us, wanting mutual recognition!
Sitta's concern is that this would mean accepting a Jewish historical claim to rights to the land. "This would constitute a historic burden; no Palestinian could bear its consequences in front of his people and history."
Quite simply, there is no place for Israel in Abu Sitta's scenario. If Abbas, who is still demanding "justice" for the refugees, should abandon this position, he would have to face a Palestinian constituency that includes a very large number of refugees. He is not budging.
On the other hand , even Olmert cannot and would not propose allowing these refugees into Israel.
Meanwhile former PA prime minister Ahmed Qurei has now been appointed as head of the PA negotiating committee. His position? There is no deal without Jerusalem and Gaza. And if this isn't worked out before the conference the PA will boycott it.
Well . . . as he is head of the negotiating committing this may dispense with notions that Abbas will settle for just a vague statement before the conference. But in any event it's worth looking at what Qurei is talking about:
It should be noted that he doesn't refer to "eastern Jerusalem," but rather "Jerusalem." At a bare minimum he wants all of the Old City, including the Jewish Quarter and the Kotel, along with the Mount and all Jewish neighborhoods established past the Green Line, such as French Hill and Gilo. But there is not a snow flake's chance in hell that the current coalition would sign off on this.
And Gaza? This has been a stumbling block because of Hamas control of the area, and so it must be asked what Qurei is suggesting. Is he implying that Hamas be included in negotiations, or, likely, that a Fatah-Hamas rapprochement is in the works? My own take on this is that the closer Fatah gets to reuniting with Hamas, the less eager it will be to participate in the conference, as this might even be a Hamas stipulation. This is Abbas really playing both ends against the middle.
Here it should be noted that Olmert has pledged not to deal with Abbas if he is connecting again with Hamas and I suspect his coalition would hold him to it.
Last week, Avi Dichter, Public Security Minister , gave a statement to Haaretz in which he said: "For seven years the PA did not lift a finger to stop the terrorism . . . " This is particularly important to keep in mind as Bush and Rice, and their lackey Olmert, praise Abbas for his peaceful behavior.
A Grad-type (Russian made) Katyusha rocket was shot from the north of Gaza this morning and landed in adjacent to a residential area of Netivot. This rocket -- which has a 20 km range -- is a more serious weapon than the Kassam and provides virtually no warning time. The last time such a rocket was shot was May but there have been other efforts that failed; terrorists are working on improving their weaponry.
Criticism was forthcoming from many quarters for Olmert's failure to respond decisively here and protect Israeli civilians. MK Effie Eitam (NU-NRP) said that Olmert's failure to respond adequately to the Kassams has let to this, and that "a government that divides Jerusalem will cause a Grad missile to hit the Knesset." While MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) called on the people of Israel to arouse from their slumber and see what's going to happen if there are concessions to the PA, stating that "The prime minister must act decisively to eradicate the rockets from the South instead of offering Abbas further withdrawals to the center the country."
The website for the armed branch of Hamas made note of the Katyusha attack, saying that the rocket was aimed at "the area of Naqab, which was occupied since 1948." Netivot is within the Green Line.
Posting: October 5, 2007
Several hoaxes that the PA has perpetrated have been exposed of late, some more significant than others but all worthy of mention. Collectively, these hoaxes speak load and clear about the duplicitous nature of the PA leadership:
Just a week ago, Fatah-controlled General Intelligence contacted The Jerusalem Post (or, more specifically, Khaled Abu Toameh) and offered an exclusive video of Hamas barbarity. It showed, they claimed, the Hamas honor killing in Gaza of a 16 year old girl. Contact information for two Gaza "eye witnesses" was provided and they verified that they had seen the lynching of the girl.
This went up on the Post website last Saturday night, but was caught by eagle-eyed readers and never made it to the Sunday paper. Seems the honor killing did happen, but in Iraq last April; the video apparently shows members of the Yazidis sect killing young member of their community for romancing with a Sunni Muslim boy. Fatah merely made use of the footage to show that Hamas is evil and they are the good guys. The "eyewitnesses," who turned out to be Fatah militia, have now disappeared.
Then, as well, the Israeli government has finally come out officially with regard to the al-Dura hoax.
Government Press Office Head Danny Seaman has now called the matter a "blood libel" against Israel: "This is an explicit blood libel against the state. And just as blood libels in the old days have led to pogroms, this one has also caused damage and dozens of dead." Evidence showed that the IDF soldiers couldn't have killed the boy. Says Seaman, the events as claimed, "contradict the laws of physics;" the boy could not have been shot from where the IDF soldiers were located. The footage -- which was shot by a Palestinian cameraman, Talal Abu Rahma, for France 2 TV -- was staged.
Note: it is not entirely clear to me at this point if the boy is dead, killed by Palestinian bullets. And yes, they are capable of this. Or if he was never really killed at all, which seems to be the case. Footage of the moment of his actually death is missing.
The Israel Law Center is planning to petition the High Court to have the press credentials for France 2 journalists here cancelled.
Then there yet another hoax, described by Caroline Glick. When in the US recently, Abbas gave an interview to Lally Weymouth of The Washington Post about the fact that Israel can trust the PA, which is working to stop terrorism. Said Abbas: "Last night, [our security forces] seized two rockets. We handed [them] over to the Israelis. We are very worried about these deeds and I think we can put an end to all this. Our security apparatus is ready to stop all kinds of violence." This was to serve as evidence of the PA's preparedness to take over Judea and Samaria.
Except that it was a fabrication. Seems the "rockets" that the PA seized were some pipes that children were playing with. And the IDF noted this fact before the Post article ran. But it ran anyway. Weymouth didn't emulate the journalistic integrity of Abu Toameh.
And so the point here is not just that the PA fabricates, but that the western media often play along, helping to generate a false picture of Fatah as "a terror-fighting, Israel-protecting, peace-seeking, credible, moderate actor."
Her entire piece is worth reading:
Syrian President Assad recently stated that what Israel hit when entering Syrian airspace was an abandoned facility. The Israeli censor has now lifted some restrictions, allowing journalists to write more directly about what happened.
Word is that Russian technicians are now in Syria helping to upgrade their defenses, as Israel, using stealth technology, was able to slip through the anti-missile shield that had already been provided to Syria by Russia. What Israel achieved was undoubtedly a huge shock and a blow to Syrian national honor.
This past week 86 "security prisoners" were released by Israel, first 56 to Judea and Samaria and then another 30 to Gaza.
What made news was the letter sent to government officials by Chief of Staff Ashkenazi expressing the belief that releasing prisoners to Gaza was unethical when Shalit was still in captivity.
It should be noted, by the way, that these prisoners "without blood on their hands" included some who had done things such as plant bombs along roadways, hoping, but not managing, to kill Jews. It's shameful that they were let go, not to mention folly from a security perspective.
Israeli politicians on the far left are decrying Olmert's insistence on watering down the joint document with Abbas, saying that he should pull out of the conference because he's not strong enough (their interpretation of "strong") to make anything happen. One more indication that, indeed, nothing is going to happen.
There is talk from the US, by the way, of postponing the conference a bit to give Olmert and Abbas more opportunity to come to an agreement.
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Israeli Opposition Leader Elon Proposes Alternative Peace Plan
A leading member of Israel's Knesset, Member Rabbi Benjamin Elon, the chairman of the nine-member National Union opposition party, presented a new political plan, called "The Israeli Initiative," Monday, based on the rehabilitation of refugees and the dismantling of their camps; strategic cooperation with Jordan; and Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria.
"This is an initiative based on alternative, innovative thinking, and would allow us to reach a true peace," he said.
According to Mr. Elon's plan, the Palestinian problem requires a humanitarian solution rather than a political one. Instead of giving the Palestinians the territories of Judea and Samaria, the National Union chairman proposes applying Israeli sovereignty there, but the inhabitants of those areas would receive Jordanian citizenship.
"Their status, their affiliation with both countries and the prevailing character of the populated areas would be solidified and detailed in an agreement between the governments of Israel and Jordan," said Mr. Elon, who believes it will be possible to convince the King of Jordan to assist in the process.
Mr. Elon suggested dismantling UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, as part of the process of rehabilitating the refugees. He said UNRWA "perpetuates the plight of the refugees." The inhabitants of the refugee camps would be offered "permanent homes, citizenship and a generous rehabilitation grant."
Mr. Elon said the cost of the initiative is $1 billion, which would be raised by donations. He explained the campaign for the initiative would include a large scale, public relations campaign that would "flood" the country with billboards and that a new Internet site would be built. He claims high-ranking political officials in the United States support the initiative as well.
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