Friday, July 11, 2008

Incisive Commentary on Events in Israel

by Arlene Kushner

Posting: July 11, 2008

"Still Iran"

Iran remains very much in the news -- and with solid reason.

No one -- except the parties both here and the US who are directly involved -- know exactly what's going on. And probably even they don't all know, because so much remains in the air.

There is, first, the question of how far Iran has progressed towards nuclear capability -- with Israel convinced that it's closer than US experts believe; there's apparently a discrepancy of some six to 12 months in terms of how close Iran is perceived as being.

Then, as I've indicated before, there is disagreement within the US on whether to hit Iran. There is also the issue of what Israel, which is inclined to go the military route, needs in terms of US cooperation, agreement, support, before proceeding.


On Wednesday, Iran launched a missile as part of an exercise, claiming that this was an improved version of the Shahab-3, capable of reaching Israel.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates declared, The test "is certainly contrary to the spirit of Security Council resolutions and the will of the international community."

Well, wake up, guys! (As one of my readers, Michael Poppers, pointed out to me the other day, it is not only Israel that has leaders that refuse to see long-range consequences -- and here is a stunning example of just that.) Why should Gates remotely imagine that Iran is interested in the will of the international community?

But, said William Burns, to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, "We view force as an option that is on the table but a last resort. We do not believe we have exhausted all the diplomatic possibilities."


The US, for its part, did anti-missile training last week: two Aegis warships -- one off the coast of Israel, and the other in the Persian Gulf -- practiced defeating a combined missile attack from Syria, Lebanon, and Iran against Israel.

In tests to date, the Aegis system has knocked down nearly 90% of the missiles fired towards it.


In concert with this came warnings from Sec. Rice:

Washington, she said, had strengthened its "security presence" in the Gulf. "We will defend American interests and the interests of our allies... In the Gulf area, the United States has enhanced its security capacity, its security presence, and we are working closely with all our allies... to make [sure] they are capable of defending themselves. These are all elements of America's intention and determination to prevent Iran from threatening our interest or the interests of our friends and allies."


Minister of Defense Ehud Barak will be headed for Washington on Monday, where -- in the course of three days -- he will meet with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and probably President Bush.

Mossad Chief Meir Dagan just returned from Washington, and Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi will be going within days.

The urgent goal of the Israelis is said to be convincing American officials that Iran is closer to becoming nuclear than many believe. Close consultations are on-going as the time for final decisions and planning comes closer.

Barak told his Labor party faction that:

"The Iranian issue is a challenge not just for Israel but for the entire world. Israel is the strongest country in the region and we have proven in the past that we are not deterred from acting when our vital interests are at stake."


In reporting other happenings (or potential happenings) here, I have an enormous sense of deja vu, and so am reluctant to belabor too much what has been said and said again.

Take, for example, comments by senior Israeli defense officials that the "ceasefire" -- which is seeing almost daily violations -- may be ending soon. The IDF, we are told, is preparing for a possible military action.

Yes, we know. The IDF has been preparing for military action for a long time. But is Olmert about to stop being "patient" and give the order now, when he's in so much political trouble?


Then there is the announcement by the PA that it is "considering" a freeze on negotiations with Israel because of Israeli plans to build more housing in Jerusalem.

If I had a shekel for every time the PA has made such a threat, I'd be a rich woman by now.

~~~~~~~~~~ Today Olmert will be interrogated, and Talansky is back in Israel in preparation for his cross-examination next Thursday. Olmert's lawyers are hoping to discredit him.

I will, of course, deal with this in greater detail next week.

The off-the-record assumption (offered, for example, by the former head of police investigations) is that when the dust settles and all is done, Olmert indeed will be indicted, possibly in August.

According to reports offered via Kadima officials, Olmert has just agreed -- after previously balking -- that when the Kadima primary is held in September, the winner can form a new government and take over immediately.

My take on this is that he agreed because he knows he likely to be indicted and forced to resign anyway.

Seeing -- at long last! -- the fall of Ehud Olmert will be blessing. But it is not enough for this country. Kadima needs to be out of power completely -- we need a clean sweep, not Livni or Mofaz moving in with the same crew carrying on.


Posting: July 9, 2008

"Maddening Mentality"

There's a common Hebrew expression: yeeyeh b'seder. "It'll be OK." Routinely said by way of assurance in any one of a number of situations.

Words of comfort are good, but often a situation will be "b'seder" only if proper action has been taken towards that end. And what is commonly seen is that the action is missing while the comfort is offered.

I've lived in Israel for seven years now and proudly consider myself Israeli in many ways. But this thinking baffles me. We're talking here not just about things like whether someone will find a new apartment. We're talking about the major issues the nation deals with.

I raise all of this now because we are facing one of the worst droughts in Israel's history and all sorts of emergency measures have just been announced. The baffling part of this, however, is that it was evident by the end of the winter -- say, by April -- that we had had insufficient rainfall over the winter rainy season, just as we had had insufficient last winter. And yet the emergency measures were not put into place until the situation had become dire. We might have saved considerable water between April and now, had action been taken sooner.


This paradigm of thinking: a lack of planning -- a lack of ability to anticipate potential consequences and then move in a timely fashion to avert them -- can be found in matters concerning serious security and political issues that affect Israel deeply.

What is this?

In part -- I don't delude myself otherwise -- this comes with self-concerned politicians who don't look beyond their own noses. They're in it for the short term, and concerned with looking good now -- the future be damned.

But in part, I am convinced, it comes with living perpetually in a state of stress and crisis, so that perhaps the only way that it becomes bearable to function is by closing some of it out and imagining that all will be well.

Unfortunately, this national mentality puts us at serious and unnecessary risk. And over and over in the last couple of years, I've had the maddening feeling that the government should have seen this or that coming -- "duhh," as they say -- and yet seemed to be blind-sided instead.


So, now, here's the sort of thing we are seeing -- and this is so typical: Senior Israeli defense officials have announced that Security Council resolution 1701 -- passed at the end of the Lebanon war two years ago -- is failing. It set in place what was supposed to be an enhanced UNIFIL (international) force in Lebanon that would work with the Lebanese army to stop Hezbollah from re-arming and re-deploying in the south of Lebanon.

But guess what? It didn't work. Syria is re-arming Hezbollah at a rapid clip.

Should anyone who has been staying abreast of happenings be surprised? I'm not surprised. Most of you are likely not surprised. So why do our officials announce this now as if it were news and not something that could have been anticipated from the beginning?

Anyone who's followed the situation in southern Lebanon over the past several years knows that UNIFIL tilted towards the Arabs. And I here have written about the declared reluctance of UNIFIL troops to do patrols at night and the fact that eye witnesses near the Syrian border attested to the presence of trucks driving over that border at night carrying weapons and supplies.

Is there anything I knew that Olmert and company were unaware of? Certainly not. But this resolution seemed to Olmert and Livni at the time a way out of the morass of the war. Livni, breathtakingly, referred to it as a diplomatic victory. No concern for consequences down the road. "Yeeyeh b'seder." Except that now these consequences have caught up with us. So Livni is reported to have said this week, "Hezbollah must be disarmed." Fat chance. And Olmert is convening the Security Cabinet to discuss the situation.


In spite of the fact that more mortars were shot from Gaza, we're keeping crossings open. This is, I suspect, linked to threats Hamas has made that only if this is done will there be progress on Shalit negotiations. If I am correct -- I cannot prove it -- then we're seeing one more sign of caving and loss of deterrence power.


Two Israeli Bedouin, who were arrested some weeks ago, have been indicted on charges of supplying information to al-Qaida that included routes for infiltrating the country and potential targets for terror attacks. They are both from the Bedouin city of Rahat, in the Negev, near Beersheva.


Announcement has been made of the arrest in May of four Hamas affiliated members of a cell in Nablus that was plotting suicide attacks inside of Israel utilizing chemical bombs. Apparently major hi-rise buildings in Tel Aviv were planned targets for these attacks. The cell members were working with an instructional video prepared by a senior Hamas bomb maker who was killed by the IDF in 2002.


A bill allowing the State to confiscate the property of terrorists has passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset.


As expected, the appeal to the High Court to block the trade with Hezbollah has not been accepted by the court, which declined to be involved.


Look for the Olmert-Talansky scandal to start becoming news again. Olmert has now admitted that he took envelopes of cash from Talansky, but says they contained only hundreds of dollars and were intended for expenses. Olmert is scheduled to be interrogated on Friday, and Talansky is due back here and is scheduled to be cross-examined by Olmert's lawyers next week.


Posting: July 7, 2008

"Iran and the US"

In the last few days, there has been a series of leaks from the American establishment with regard to the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran.

None was more startling than the comment last week by Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, that an Israeli strike on Iran might "destabilize" the region. One was forced to ponder whether Mullen considered the possibility that Iran might develop nuclear capacity something that would lead to relative stability in the admittedly volatile Middle East.

Mullen had been briefed by Israeli military brass in Washington recently, but declines to indicate what he knows about Israeli intentions. His concern, as voiced, was that opening a "third front" -- in addition to Iraq and Afghanistan -- would be very stressful, though not impossible, for the US.


According to some analysts the intensifying US debate regarding the repercussions of what Israel might do reflects two camps at odds with each other within the US: Vice President Dick Cheney, who is for an attack on Iran, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who is opposed.

At the end of the day, Israel requires US support in order to attack, because we would go through US controlled airspace over Iraq and because we would require help in responding after the fact.


The sense I've had in the last few days regarding Arabs with Jerusalem residency cards is that they're running scared. There were loud protests from the neighborhood of Sur Bahir that Husam Taysir Dwayat wasn't a terrorist at all, but only an Arab who liked Jews and happened to go berserk.

There are several flaws in this reasoning, however. One is the fact that he shouted Allah Akhbar! which is what terrorists shout when about to kill Jews. And that an aunt of his, on hearing the news, yelled, "He's a shahid ! (martyr)." Then there is the information that Dwayat was convicted a few years ago of raping a Jewish woman. Rape is an act of aggression. And in an interview given yesterday to the Post, the Jewish woman who lived with him for some time (and with whom he fathered a child) said she left him because he was abusive: "He would really hit me hard... "


The decision was made a few days ago to raze his house, and with it the house of Ala Abu Dhaim of Jebl Mukaber, the Mercaz Harav yeshiva terrorist. This was after Attorney General Menahem Mazuz had informed the government that "In view of the rulings of the High Court of Justice over many years, it cannot be said that there is a legal obstacle to activating the authority to demolish homes." However, he said, in a statement that was not clarified in the press, "such action arouses significant legal difficulties."

And so, Defense Minister Barak gave the IDF the order to begin the demolition process. But -- wouldn't you know it? -- in short order there was backtracking. Seems another family lives in the house where the Dwayat family lives. So it has been decided to seal the living quarters of the Dwayat family, which doesn't not have the same impact. Apparently no one was interested in pursuing the option of simply relocating that other family. The home of the family of Abu Dhaim will also be sealed rather than razed, even though I haven't heard of any other family living there.


Preliminary work has begun on adjusting legislation so that families of terrorists will not receive Israeli benefits. As the law is structured now, Dwayat's widow is eligible for benefits. Yes, I know this is incredible.

And the family of Dwayat has been prohibited by the police from erecting a traditional mourning tent.


An update on the "pretend" ceasefire: Intermittently we continue to be hit by rockets and mortars (a mortar was fired just today). Although Hamas has not fired any of these weapons, Israel is holding it responsible.

One of the groups that does fire rockets -- along with Fatah's Al Aksa Brigades -- is Islamic Jihad, ostensibly because of "ceasefire violations" in Judea and Samaria. But we hadn't agreed to a ceasefire in Judea and Samaria, although that is what the terrorists had been plugging for. We're continuing to take out terrorists there, which isn't sitting well with IJ.


In fact, the IDF is also gearing up for major operations in Judea and Samaria against Hamas civilian infrastructure. A senior IDF officer was reported by Haaretz as saying of Hamas:

"They have knowledge, funds and skilled people, much more so than Fatah.... They won the elections in many towns and local authorities, and they are gradually gaining control of more education, health, welfare and religious institutions... The Palestinian public prefers Hamas, because they are less corrupt and more efficient."

As Hamas has taken over not just blatantly Islamic bodies, but also those that used to be under PA control, this is an attempt to strengthen the PA, which currently has little control. The IDF has received permission to confiscate buses, prohibit the opening of a school with Islamic ties, and shut down offices and warehouses tied to providing funds for Hamas. Just today four facilities associated with a Hamas-affiliated charity were closed in Nablus.

The first question that comes to mind is how long the "lull" in Gaza will last with this going on.

And the second is how it can be imagined that this will "strengthen" the PA if it needs the IDF to step in for it.


In spite of the intermittent fire alluded to above, we have opened crossings into Gaza off and on. Presumably we are closing the crossings for a day or two every time there are rockets fired, but it doesn't seem to have a noticeable effect.

In a breathtakingly foolish statement last week, Olmert declared that “an absolute lull cannot be imposed within a short while, and therefore we have shown and will show some patience. However, no one should interpret this patience as weakness."


Please see the Jerusalem Post article detailing what Hamas is doing to strengthen for war under cover of the ceasefire, and then decide for yourself if our sitting still is a weakness:


Meanwhile, Hamas declared on Friday that it was discontinuing negotiations on Shalit -- with Abu Marzuk telling Al Hayat in London that Hamas would not send a delegation to the talks that were supposed to take place in Cairo. First there was some claim about unspecified ceasefire violations that Israel was said to be guilty of.

But then came the truth of the matter, with an unnamed "activist" with Hamas telling the paper that: "After the prisoner swap deal between Israel and Lebanon, according to which Lebanese prisoner Samir Kuntar is slated to go free, Israel is expected to display greater flexibility in talks over a prisoner swap with Hamas."

This was so predictable. So painfully predictable.


Today the brothers of Eliyahu Shahar, a police office killed by Kuntar at the same time that he murdered Danny Haran and his daughter in 1979, have appealed to the High Court to block his release. The way these things work, I have doubts that the appeal will be successful, but it's certainly worth the try.

The process for releasing Kuntar apparently requires having the president, Shimon Peres, pardon him. That won't happen until a "certain" stage, when everything is in place, but the mere thought of "pardoning" him, even if it is simply form, brings shudders.

At present Israel is exhuming bodies of some 200 terrorists, which are to be returned. Someone from the rabbinate, which will be supervising this, made a point of saying that dead bodies are treated with respect, no matter whose they are. Let the world note this.

The Israeli government doesn't consider the deal finalized yet, as a report on Ron Arad that was part of the agreement has not yet been read. Arad was captured after his plane went down over Lebanon in 1886; while he is now presumed dead, no definitive information on him has been forthcoming.


Posting: July 3, 2008

"A Closer Look"

It is being said that Husam Taysir Dwayat, the terrorist who went on a rampage yesterday, was not a political man and not religious. He was, however, in the words of one relative, a "hot head," and believed to have been involved with drugs.

Apparently he either lived with, or was married to, a Jewish woman at one point (although in recent years he had a Muslim wife), and, protested a family member, "he was on good terms with many Jews with whom he used to work."

Well... this is somehow supposed to be evidence that he didn't have anti-Jewish feeling. But, sorry, this can be read another way, as well: that even Arabs who seem to be friendly to Jews may harbor murderous inclinations towards them. This is not the first time an Arab with "good relations" with Jews has done such a thing. Sometimes such a person is recruited by a terrorist group.


Khaled Abu Toameh did a piece in today's Jerusalem Post, in which he gives voice to some of the discontents and concerns expressed by the residents of the neighborhood, Sur Bahir, from which the attacker had come. An examination of their positions seems to me to be very much in order:

Abu Toameh cites Zuhier Hamdan, a mukhtar (sort of neighborhood chief) in Sur Bahir:

"Hamdan said that while he condemned the killing of innocent civilians, he was also concerned about the 'pressure' that the Jerusalem Municipality and the Israeli authorities were exerting on residents of Sur Bahir in particular and east Jerusalem in general."


"'Many people in Sur Bahir and other Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem are angry because of the demolition of illegally built houses,' he said.

"'They are also angry with the taxes imposed on them'...

"He also complained that Israel's refusal to grant citizenship to thousands of Arabs in the city was another reason why many of them were angry."

A great deal of talk about anger, and this seems very typical of the culture.


Let us consider each complaint:

Anger about demolition of "illegally built houses." Those houses are often put up in an attempt to establish facts on the ground (efforts supported by the PA) and to acquire lucrative profits for the builders. Israel has been extraordinarily lax in allowing many of the structures to remain standing and goes through a defined legal process before doing any demolitions.

Attorney Justice Reid Weiner, of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, five years ago wrote a definitive monograph on this very issue in which he reported that thousands of illegal structures -- many substantial and frequently situated on land that does not even belong to the builder -- dot the Jerusalem landscape.

What is more -- while one might assume from Hamdan's statement that demolitions are directed specifically at the Arab population of Jerusalem -- Weiner notes that illegal housing construction is an international problem and that demolitions take place everywhere.

There is a great deal more to say on this subject, and I will come back to it. This is emblematic of a larger problem and rife with public misunderstanding.


"They are also angry with the taxes imposed on them." But taxes aren't imposed on "them" -- they are imposed on all of us. Somehow they expect selective dispensation -- never mind that this would require Jewish Israelis to disproportionately cover the expenses of their social services.


Perhaps most grievous is the complaint about citizenship. In 1967, when Israel acquired eastern Jerusalem, with its Arab population, that population was offered citizenship. Almost all turned it down. So they were given Jerusalem residency status instead. That status allows them to move freely about the country, vote in municipal Jerusalem elections, and receive benefits such as health care and welfare. Plus they receive protection under the law, and human and civil rights not found in neighboring Arab localities. Not bad.

What is lacking is the right to vote in national elections, but they were allowed -- an ill-advised decision in the opinion of many -- to vote in the PA elections (and, it must noted, they voted Hamas).

Now, as they come to the realization that they would be absorbed into the PA if Jerusalem were divided (G-d forbid), some several thousands have decided citizenship would be a good idea, because it's far better in Israel than the PA. They're not happy that at this juncture it's not automatically forthcoming.

Even though their desire now for Israeli citizenship does not stem from true identification with or loyalty to the State of Israel, they believe it should be theirs for the asking. What an inflated sense of automatic entitlement!


I've written many times about the welfare mentality of the Palestinians, who have received more international aid money per capita than any other people on earth and yet persist in seeing themselves as victims -- and have convinced the world of this.

The mental set of Arab residents of Jerusalem is much the same, and Hamdan's litany of complaints and explanations as to why they are angry is exceedingly telling in this regard.

What is missing is a tone of responsibility, or any hint of introspective sadness about what happened yesterday. Hamdan is a presumptive community leader, yet he doesn't talk about working within his community to make sure such a thing doesn't happen again. This is not the way he is thinking. Not remotely.

Instead, complained Hamdan: "Each time an Arab from Jerusalem carries out an attack, some Israeli politicians start inciting against all the Arabs. The Israelis need to understand that the majority of Jerusalem Arabs are peaceful people."

But there is something he needs to understand: If there are, let us say, 20,000 Arabs in this neighborhood (and I believe there are many more), and only 1/2 of 1% of them are not peaceful people, this means 100 people who represent a danger to the Jewish population. It behooves the Israeli politicians to consider actions to prevent those 100 from hurting us. No more yeshiva students gunned down, no more babies tossed from cars before their mothers are crushed.

If the Jerusalem Arabs truly wish to be part of the body politic of Israel, it also behooves their community leaders to work for that very same goal. But -- with increased identification of Jerusalem Arabs with Hamas -- we are today further from that than ever.


In a commentary on the attack yesterday -- "Palestinian Terrorism as a Natural Act" -- Bradley Burston wrote the following in Haaretz:

"On a quiet morning in Jerusalem, a man behind the wheel of a bulldozer has taken it upon himself to kill Jews. Women and children and the elderly and the infirm. What's a decent person to think when Palestinian groups fall over one another trying to claim the bulldozer attack? And when one of the groups is the Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade?

"What is it that Palestinians really want? I no longer believe that it's as simple as wanting statehood. This is what I don't yet want to admit: that for all these years, what a critical mass of Palestinians want most, perhaps even more than statehood, may be nothing more than seeing Jews dead and gone."


While Gerald Steinberg had this to say in his piece â€" “Terror's Predictable Spontaneity” -- in The Jerusalem Post:

"Palestinians have been raised on the armed struggle, and many are capable of acting on their own, with whatever weapons are most readily available. The steady flow of incitement in the media plays a central role in this process, including Palestinian television programming preaching the virtues of martyrdom and the glory of fighting the Zionist enemy. As a result, the isolated action may appear to be spontaneous, but the foundation and preparations are never far away." ~~~~~~~~~~

Posting: July 2, 2008


An Arab resident of eastern Jerusalem, in possession of an Israeli residency card, murdered at least three people and injured some 66 today when he went on a terrorist rampage utilizing a bulldozer at the junction of Jaffe Road and Sarei Yisrael Street, not far from the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem. The man is reported to have had a criminal record.

Husam Taysir Dwayat, a 30 year old husband and father, who lived in the Sur Bahir neighborhood of southeastern Jerusalem, was driving the bulldozer because he was working on construction near the entrance to Jerusalem for the light rail being established for the city. He drove the heavy machine away from the construction site and headed for a main intersection, where he began his insane attack -- turning over buses and squashing cars and leaving a swath of destruction in his path.

According to reports, in one instance a woman tossed her baby out the window of her car before it was crushed with her inside.


Moshe Plesser, 18, a soldier on furlough from the elite Egoz unit of the Golani Brigades, witnessed the rampage as he was riding his bike down Jaffa Road. Throwing his bike down, he took off after the bulldozer on foot, shouting for a gun as he ran. Plesser, aided by a civilian, climbed the bulldozer and was handed his assistant's weapon. Dwayat cried "Allah Ahkar! (God is great! -- what Muslim terrorists cry before killing Jews) and Plesser shot him in the head three times.

Immediately following this, Eli Mizrahi, a police officer from the elite Yassam anti-terror unit, climbed aboard and finished the terrorist for good.

Plesser -- who is the brother-in-law of David Shapira, the IDF officer who killed the Mercaz Rav Yeshiva terrorist in March -- said, "I think I did what is expected from every soldier and citizen... I thank God who gave me and my brother-in-law the strength to do what we did." He credited his nationalist religious education and special army training with giving him the ability to do what he did.


There are reports of at least three terror groups taking credit: Al Aksa Brigades (Fatah), the Galilee Freedom Battalion, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. But police are saying that there was no advance warning of an attack and are speculating that this man may actually have acted alone. That seems to me a premature judgment. I am SO cynical that I wonder if it's not easier -- more politically correct -- to say this than to finger a group that is associated with the PA as responsible.


It is of more than a little concern that this is the second instance in a row of a terror attack inside Jerusalem perpetrated by someone with residency rights in Jerusalem. There is talk now about limiting the mobility of such residents within the city and taking punitive measures against the family that remains. The home of the Mercaz Rav attacker was not demolished, but it is very likely that this man's home will be.


I regret that the transmission of this report was delayed first by a computer glitch and then by a power outage! Tomorrow is another day and further information will undoubtedly follow before long.


Posting: July 1, 2008

"Looking Back"

I was away from my computer for a solid two weeks, and returned to issues that required immediate attention. But there are other matters of importance that have occurred recently which also require mention -- and attention -- here.

Of considerable significance is this: On June 15, when Condoleezza Rice came here for a brief visit, she was informed by IDF officials in no uncertain terms of the failure of the US initiative to bolster PA security forces. This plan is under the direct supervision of Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton, the US Security Coordinator to Israel and the PA.

As part of Dayton's plan, PA forces ostensibly received training by US defense contractors in Jordan to prepare them (I wrote previously about the weakness of that training) and were then deployed in Nablus and Jenin. The IDF is saying that these forces are not fighting terrorism, and that terrorism has increased since they've been deployed. Terror suspects that are arrested are released within days or even hours, as there is no effective judicial system in place.

In addition, weapons the US was providing to the PA force were finding their way to Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists in Jenin and Nablus.

So, not only is Dayton's plan not successful, it is actually strengthening terrorists.

Some very hard questions must be asked. Not only should Rice and those functioning at her behest not be permitted to carry on without accountability here, the point must be made that the PA is not a partner for peace if it cannot function in this respect.

Please, if you are an American citizen, contact your Congresspersons and Senator about this, as well as the White House: fax 202-456-2461; comment line 202-456-1111;

The link for the full article detailing this information:


Then there is the matter of positions being taken by Defense Minister Ehud Barak. MK Silvan Shalom (Likud) had been garnering support in the Knesset for a vote to dissolve the Knesset, which would have led to setting of early elections. That vote was to have occurred last week and it was anticipated that it would pass -- and the Olmert government would finally be coming to an end -- because Barak had said Labor was on board for this vote. A good deal was made about his obligation to listen to the people on this, etc. etc.

At the last minute, as a compromise gesture, Olmert agreed to call for a Kadima primary in September. It was said in some quarters that Barak actually initiated this compromise, because Olmert would have fired him immediately if he had voted to dissolve the Knesset -- and after all, his holding his position is of critical importance.

Implicit in this was an understanding that Olmert would step down when the new leader of the party was in place, and based on this, Barak withdrew his commitment for Labor to support the vote to dissolve the Knesset.

Consequently, that vote was never taken, as it was clear it would fail.

However, Olmert subsequently made it clear that he had no intention of resigning as prime minister after a primary was held. In fact, he was thinking of running in the primary.

But Barak is sailing along, with business as usual. Is it necessary to say more about this man?


In response to Barak's refusal to withdraw from the governing coalition, MK Danny Yatom (Labor) has resigned from the Knesset.

Said Yatom:

"The leadership in Israel has made political survival its only goal. Moral and ethical codes that were once fundamental have been eroded.

"Olmert failed in the task of leadership in war and did not succeed in moral and public tasks, [but] he is not alone, and corruption standards and improper behavior continue. As a Knesset member in a coalition party, I feel as though I am a partner in the deterioration when I vote in favor of the government. I can no longer function in a reality in which political considerations fill the void of leadership and take precedence over basic values."


Lest you think there's nothing positive to report, allow me to share two happenings that are constructive:

MKs Zevulun Orlev (NU-NRP) and Estherina Tartman (Yisrael Beiteinu) have co-sponsored a bill that is based on Basic Law of Israel and states, in essence, that anyone who has illegally visited an enemy state cannot have his or her name placed on a party list for election to the Knesset for seven years. It passed 52-24.

This was inspired by the galling spectacle of Azmi Bishara (currently under suspicion for treason), who made several trips to Syria while sitting in the Knesset and it is long overdue.

Said Tartman, "This law will return some of our trampled honor as a nation and will give us a good reason to stand upright... From now on, Israeli citizens can be calm - enemies will no longer sit in the legislature."

While Orlev said, "From today onward, Arab MKs will have to decide - the Syrian parliament or the Israeli parliament. The law will put the brakes on the infiltration of Trojan horses into the Knesset. We must demand of the Arab leadership unconditional loyalty to the state of Israel."

I say Bravo!

Needless to say, the Arab MKs are screaming and intend to challenge this. The fact that this angers them, when they might simply accede, eager to show loyalty to Israel, tells the story.


Another promising bill passed its first reading in the Knesset on Monday, 65-18. This is the Golan referendum bill that would require a national referendum before the Golan could be turned over to Syria. It further provides protection for other land surrenders -- such as eastern Jerusalem, as it requires any concession of land under direct jurisdiction and administration of the State of Israel to pass both cabinet and Knesset approval, as well as a national referendum.

So, in the face of considerable insanity, we see that there are people who are motivated and sane and decent, and acting for the betterment of our nation. There is hope.


Posting: June 29, 2008

"Insanity Plus"

Comprehension of what is going on -- or, rather, WHY it is going on -- eludes me, my friends.

Announcement has been made of the Cabinet vote of 22-3 in favor of releasing Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar, Palestinian prisoners, and bodies of Hezbollah guerillas for the bodies of Israeli soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev -- who at this point are clearly thought to be dead. The ministers who voted against were Roni Bar-On (Finance), Ze'ev Boim (Housing) and Daniel Friedmann (Justice).

For the details of the agreement, see:


This vote came in spite of the advice of top security officials (the heads of Shin Bet and Mossad) that this was a bad move and would encourage further abductions. It even gives the message that it's OK to kill those Israelis who are abducted, and Israel will still trade.

Olmert's statement on the matter before the vote was that "... I came to the conclusion that as the prime minister of Israel I should recommended approval of the resolution that will bring to an end this painful chapter, even at the painful price that it extracts from us."

In the course of his statement, he indicated that release of Kuntar was probably the reason that Goldwasser and Regev were abducted in the first place. And we give them what they were seeking??

It must be noted that the families of Goldwasser and Regev have received a lot of publicity regarding their right to have their loved ones returned to them, and the pleading they've done to make sure the government would make this possible. Olmert and company undoubtedly hope to capitalize on popular sentiment in this regard.

Amongst leaders and potential leaders here, it was only former Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon who raised the question of the price being too high.


And Samir Kuntar? We held this Lebanese Druse -- who was a member of Palestinian Liberation Front -- in prison for years, but the death penalty would have been more appropriate (if we routinely levied a death penalty, which we don't).

In 1979, he entered Nahariya, Israel, from Lebanon, by boat, with a group of three fellow terrorists. Entering the apartment of the Haran family, and knowing the police were on the way, they took Danny Haran and his four year old daughter, Einat, hostage and brought them down to the beach. When a shoot-out with police erupted, Samir Kuntar shot Danny in the back at close range in full view of his four year old daughter. Then he drowned Danny in the sea to make certain he was dead, and proceeded to smash Einat's head against the rocks, while she screamed, "Mommy, Daddy help me!" Then he crushed her head with the butt of his rifle.

This subhuman we release from prison? A great deal has been made of the feelings of the Goldwasser and Regev families, but what of the feelings of the Haran family?

It should be noted, by the way, that Kuntar is a declared recidivist. He has already announced that he will return to terrorism. And this we release from prison.

Wrong, shamefully, pathetically wrong.


So the Kuntar family and other despicable beings in Lebanon are celebrating tonight.

The Israeli government should collectively hang its head in shame.


Meanwhile, Palestinian Media Watch reports that the PA, our alleged partner in peace negotiations, has made the claim that Kuntar represents "heroism." PA TV has broadcast a picture of Kuntar alongside a map of Israel completely covered with the Palestinian flag.

Insanity plus.


A correction: The link to the piece on the Hamas truce from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs was incomplete on Thursday, and I offer here the full link (with thanks to Cheryl Hoffer for calling my attention to this):


Posting: June 20, 2008


I write this briefly, away from my computer -- out of the country, actually. Briefly, but with bewilderment, anger, distress. It is difficult indeed to remain "cool" in the face of the news I'm picking up regarding the "temporary ceasefire (tahdiyah)" with Hamas in Gaza.

It weakens us, and strengthens Hamas. This is because it gives Hamas enhanced credibility and leverage, and permits this terrorist group to continue to build its armaments and army inside of Gaza, as we sit quiet -- against that inevitable day when they will hit us again. (In fact, Haniyeh of Hamas is denying that a commitment was even made to stop smuggling, which commitment Mark Regev, Olmert's spokesman, says was made.)

It renders it more credible, as well, for Fatah to form a unity govenment with Hamas -- a unity government that will seek to negotiate with Israel, even as Hamas continues its policy of eradication of Israel.

Release of Shalit is not part of the deal, and, incredibly, even as we've stopped shooting at Hamas, Olmert is talking about stepping up negotiations on Shalit. So, instead of telling them that if they want us to refrain from blowing the heads off their leaders they had best release our soldier, we're still prepared to discuss releasing some of their terrorists in return for Shalit.

There's talk, as well, particularly from the terrorist factions, of extending the "ceasefire" to Judea and Samaria after some months. This would serve their purposes well.

Right now it appears that the so-called leaders of Israel have made collosal errors in judgement -- whether for their own political reasons or under duress from the US becomes irrelevant.

The one redeeming possibility is that they expect the ceasefire to collapse in short order and believe this will provide a stronger rationale for doing that major operation into Gaza that must be done. In the end of the day Hamas must be taken down.

There are mutiple precedents for Hamas "ceasefires" falling apart rapidly, and even now Islamic Jihad and others are saying they may not honor the lull in violence, threatening to respond against Israeli actions in Judea and Samaria, as well

There is no written agreement. All of this is fluid and tentative word of mouth.

Within less than a week I will return to my computer and comment more extensively.

For now I strongly recommend visiting the IMRA site:, which provides several links to articles about this issue -- note in particular the interviews in the last couple of days with Israeli officials, who hedge and evade on the question of when we would respond to evidence of terrorist activity inside Gaza.

Additionally, a piece from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, "Hamas's Interest in the Tahdiyah (Temporary Truce) with Israel," by Jonathan Halevi, which provides important insights:


Posting: June 9, 2008

"The Blessing"

Here in Israel, we have just completed the holiday of Shavuot, which -- marking the receiving of the Torah at Sinai -- is the culmination of the Exodus from Egypt celebrated at Pesach. (Outside of Israel, the holiday extends for yet another day.)

It is customary on this holiday to study all night long. And the blessing is this: After dinner with friends last night, we had a discussion as to where each of us had chosen to go for shiurim -- study sessions. The marvel is that there are so many places to choose from within an easy walk. And then, once out on the street, at midnight and beyond, we encountered many others walking here and there to places of learning. Truly a blessing, that this should be the situation here in Jerusalem.


I now enter a period of several days away from my computer. This is likely the last posting for some two weeks. Should there be an occurrence of significance, I will try my best (bli neder, as it is said: "without an oath") to post.


The most likely occurrence of significance to take place before I return to regular postings is a military operation in Gaza. But, if multiple reports are true, how shamefully it is shaping up. Not an earnest effort to take down Hamas, but some nonsensical effort to teach Hamas a lesson. This is reported to be the plan shared now by Barak and Olmert. The clamoring for action in Gaza is strong, but they are inclined for a variety of reasons to go with a ceasefire. So, they will do a "medium strength" action to take Hamas down a peg or two and not let them gloat that they had it all their way. Then a pull-out and a ceasefire that is coupled with release of Shalit. (This is not my idea, but the government's, I assure you.)

No guarantee that things will actually play out this way, but it is, for me, embarrassing to even describe this plan. It seems as if they are telling Hamas in advance: Don't get too upset, guys, because we won't hit too hard, and when we're done you can have that ceasefire. Even if this is their plan, why speak of it at all?

The political ramifications here are enormous. I hasten to note that Abbas is very much opposed to a major action in Gaza, which he fears would backfire on him.

It must be noted, as well, that there is nothing spelled out regarding a cessation of arms smuggling.

But the IDF is ready, and awaiting the go-ahead from the political echelon. Decisions reportedly to be made within days. Reportedly.


Then, too, there is the wonderful news that Rice is due back here shortly. Presumably to assess the progress of the "peace process."


Regarding that process, chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurei announced recently that the parties have begun drafting a document. This, however, does not mean agreement (apparently there is no agreement yet on any of the core issues), but rather that the position of each side if being committed to writing for the first time. Qurei is also saying that the parties have agreed that all issues must be resolved -- there can be no partial agreement, such as borders but no decision on Jerusalem. But, says Qurei, all of the issues are being discussed.

Olmert's office is playing down the significance of this preliminary document. And, indeed, Qurei has said it would take a miracle to reach an agreement by the end of the year.


Members of the opposition are stating clearly that if an agreement is reached, they will not honor it when a new government is formed. I myself have some questions about this, because the legality is complicated, but apparently there is precedent.


61% of Israelis think Olmert should resign.


Posting: June 6, 2008


The situation. Sometimes I see us simply going in the most frustrating circles, but now (very tentatively) I see a shift in some of what we're dealing with.

We might start with the chances for an agreement with the PA. It's been unsettling, to say the least. There has been fear of a divided Jerusalem and of forced withdrawal from Jewish communities beyond the Green Line.

But now, even though we must continue to be on our guard and to fight against the staged destruction of Israel, the chances of a negotiated agreement between us and the Palestinians seems much reduced.

I have already written about Abbas's call to renew talks with Hamas (without demanding it first relinquish Gaza). But yesterday Abbas made his position even firmer: He is calling for talks based on the Yemenite initiative. That's the initiative that brought about a signed document that Abbas walked away from within hours after the PA representative put his name to the paper.

At that point Abbas was walking a fine line between relationship with Hamas and keeping the West happy. This is what seems to have shifted at present. At a gathering in Ramallah yesterday, Abbas said if we want peace we must withdraw to the lines of June 4, 1967 (essentially the Green Line). He's giving notice that no compromise will be forthcoming, and that with everything else he expects us to give them the Kotel and the Temple Mount.

Abbas says he will spare no efforts in restoring "national unity." He has thrown in his lot with Hamas rather than the West. Because of his enormous weakness, something like this was fairly predictable. He may backtrack again, if he sees loss of Western materiel and financial support. But my betting is that this is the way he's headed.


According to Khaled Abu Toameh, most Palestinian analysts see this move by Abbas as a reflection of his disillusionment with negotiations. But, says Abu Toameh, there are those who believe this is a ploy to gain concessions from us. Said one such analyst, "Abbas is telling Israel, either you give me everything I want, or I go to Hamas."

In his dreams. There's a signal lesson here. Each time efforts are made toward negotiations, there is talk of moderation, and hope for peace. But the Palestinians have never compromised. They always expect, somehow, to get it all and have prepared their populations to expect nothing less. As the Palestinian political rhetoric becomes more radical and Hamas influence is greater, the situation becomes less and less flexible. I do not believe Abbas wants to compromise, but even if he did, his throat (literally) might be slit if he tried to do so.


Olmert's visit with President Bush has been declared a huge success, as the US-Israel strategic alliance is strengthened in the face of the Iranian threat.

Bush has agreed to connect Israel to an advanced US satellite system that warns of the launching of ballistic missiles immediately after they are launched.

Additionally, we are to be given permission to purchase F-35 single engine, single seater stealth fighter jets, which will upgrade our capabilities.

We may also be able to purchase F-22 "Raptor" single seater, double engine jets. Until now this hasn't been possible because of a ban on their sale to foreign countries, which US House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), now indicated he's in favor of lifting in Israel's case. "I'm a strong supporter of Israel getting all the material and equipment they need," he said.


The F-22 is exceedingly important to the Israeli capability to hit Iran, as it can fly into enemy airspace without being detected. This, of course, is very much to the point in terms of US willingness to consider supplying us now.

After meeting with Bush, Olmert declared that he had "fewer questions" regarding the US determination and plans for dealing with Iran. "... every day we are making real strides towards dealing with this problem more effectively."

Perhaps Bush has reassured Olmert on US intentions to hit Iran. What is clear is that the US is making it more possible for us to do so if the US does not. And the betting here is that we will if, indeed, the US does not.


Yesterday morning, a mortar shell killed Amnon Rosenberg of Kibbutz Nirim and wounded five others. Hamas has claimed credit.

I'm almost embarrassed to report that Olmert, headed back to Israel, has declared that the day of reckoning is close and there may be a major Gaza operation soon. How many times can he say this without actually doing it? What has happened how, interestingly, is that Barak, who had been pushing for that ceasefire is now said to be in favor of an operation as well, declaring that Hamas will pay a price before there is a ceasefire. So perhaps (just perhaps) the political climate has shifted here.


Members of Labor are now saying that unless Kadima holds a primary soon to remove Olmert from the head of the party, they will support Silvan Shalom's efforts to pass a bill to dissolve the Knesset.

With all of the political jockeying, this is a wait and see situation. Wait and hope, perhaps.


Obama. I had not intended to start writing about him so soon, but what he has done is so blatant, so indicative of the problems he presents, that I must.

At the AIPAC (American-Israel Public Affairs Committee) meeting the other day, he declared, to rousing cheers, that he was for an "undivided Jerusalem."

But now he has backtracked in a clarification. Explained a member of his campaign: "Jerusalem is a final status issue, which means it has to be negotiated between the two parties." Obama, it was explained, is certainly in favor of Jerusalem remaining Israel's capital. But he does not rule out Jerusalem also being the capital of a Palestinian state, or Palestinian sovereignty over certain neighborhoods.

So, what does a "united Jerusalem" mean? "... it's not going to be divided by barbed wire and checkpoints as it was in 1948-1967."

Huh?? "United Jerusalem" universally refers to Jerusalem remaining united under Israeli rule. To have used this term to mean something else, without clarification, was misleading and rings all sorts of bells.

My own guess is that when Obama spoke at the AIPAC meeting, he was, in essence, shooting from the hip, providing a vision that would appeal to his audience. And then, when pro-Palestinians expressed fury (this I know happened), he needed to have his campaign "clarify" to mollify them. Indeed, this rings all sorts of bells regarding sincerity as versus lip service, and raises serious questions about what his "real" positions are.


Before closing, I want to look at one other aspect of Obama's campaign that is exceedingly troubling: His choice of Daniel Kurtzer as a key advisor on Middle East issues (and someone who would likely get a major post should Obama win).

For those of us in the know, Daniel Kurtzer is recognized as very problematic for Israel:

When Kurtzer did his Ph.D. at Columbia, he blamed Israel for the "radicalization" of the Palestinians, and he referred to the terrorists as "guerillas." A bad sign. A worse sign: He was a speechwriter for James Baker, who is a hater of Israel and the Jews. According to Joseph Farah, "Probably more than any other State Department official, Kurtzer has been instrumental in promoting the goals of the Palestinians and in raising their grievances to the center of the U.S. policymaking agenda."

In a recently written book, co-authored with Scott Lasensky, Kurtzer expresses the following opinions:

-- that the US is "overly deferential" to the stated political problems of Israel

-- that the US should work to balance "asymmetries" in the power between the Palestinians and Israel

He further expresses the attitude that the perpetuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the key to peace in the Middle East. This is patent nonsense as it ignores Shiite-Sunni tensions, and the Jihad goals of militant Islam, which will persist no matter what Israel does. But he actually sees fit to place blame on Israel for inclinations among militant Islamists to attack the West -- Daniel Pipes has just written about this, and puts the onus on us for resolving this conflict (which means he would just as soon see us disappear).

A Middle East structured as Kurtzer would have it would weaken all US goals and interests in this part of the world and actually foster extremism. The Islamists see Israel as the "little Satan" -- a tool of America, and America as the "big Satan." If we are weakened, then the radicals are encouraged that they are winning the battle against America. And you can believe it, the battle IS against America.


Posting: June 4, 2008

"Uh Oh"

What many American-Israelis here have been worried about has come to pass: Barack Obama has captured the nomination.

Here I will simply say that we are praying mightily -- for the good of the US and Israel -- that McCain will win. (Obama's stunning speech at AIPAC not withstanding.) In the course of the campaign I will share observations from this part of the world on issues of consequence that relate to the presidential contest.


To my readers: Please know that a host of responsibilities requires me, at least in the short term, to post less frequently than has been my habit. Other work I am doing (I am beginning research on a major report, for example) competes with these postings for my time and attention and a balance is necessary. I will do my best to do these postings as is possible for me. In the course of June, I will be away from my computer for a considerable amount of time.


As many are aware, Olmert is in the US primarily with regard to the issue of Iran. He has addressed the AIPAC policy conference and has met with President Bush. Also on the agenda, reportedly, is a request for cutting edge military equipment.


At the same time, members of the Israeli National Fraud Unit are also in the States. They are seeking documentation of Talansky's testimony -- regarding funds drawn from his banks at the time he says he gave money to Olmert, and the identity of the other people that Talansky spoke of in his testimony as having also provided cash to Olmert.


At present Talansky is due to return here for cross examination by Olmert's lawyers in July, but there is talk about bringing him back sooner. The lawyers are said to be caught between legal considerations, which require them to take their time reviewing all the evidence, and political considerations, which make it prudent for them to take the offensive as quickly as possible to dispel the current public impression.


The government has announced construction of over 800 new housing units in the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Pisgat Ze'ev and Har Home, both over the Green Line.

Olmert was singularly unfazed by protests registered by the PA and Condoleezza Rice. (This building "exacerbates tensions" and "obstructs the peace process.") When his eye is on sustaining his coalition, he is able to stand strong.

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