February 11, 2008: Holding Pattern

Perhaps the best thing that happened here today is that the protesters from Sderot moved from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and blocked traffic on two main arteries. More power to them. It falls to all of Israel to join them now and to continue to raise the roof until the necessary actions to defend our nation are taken.


There was also a suggestion from a group in Sderot that they make their own rockets and launch them at Gaza. Don’t know how seriously this was meant, but a bit of tit for tat might not be bad.


A brief and poignant story: In November 2000, a school bus was bombed in Kfar Drom (Gaza), and three children of one family — the family of Noga and Ofir Cohen — lost limbs, four limbs among the three kids. I remember the shock of that news, and the awe I felt at the strength of the parents, who held tight where they were and helped their children get on with their lives.

I heard today that Noga Cohen called the mother of Osher Tuito, the eight-year old who lost his leg this week. It will be all right, Noga told her. My children do everything, and your son will too.

It must get a whole lot better than this. But I’ve said before, and I see it here, that the people of Israel are strong and good people. This is why we shall ultimately prevail.


But it won’t be because of the support of Shas that we will prevail, that’s for sure. Their response to the information that was exposed yesterday regarding negotiations on Jerusalem is pathetic. First the comment was that they won’t stay in a government that negotiates on Jerusalem, and they will expect Olmert to tell them if this is happening (as apparently he had promised to do). But come on! These were secret negotiations, guys.

Now, having been told by many, in essence, that this is nonsense and that it’s time they faced what was going on, we see a slightly different response.

Shas Chairman Eli Yishai says that "if the reports [about negotiations on Jerusalem] are true," they will leave the government. Exactly how they will determine for themselves that this is the case, he didn’t say. It’s starring them in the face, and they won’t see it yet.

Then another issue was raised by Yishai — the error of negotiating while Israel continues to sustain Kassam rocket attacks. In fairness to him, he did say the other day that we should stop negotiations if we keep getting hit by Kassams.

But, says a Shas official, "currently there is no progress in the negotiations; it’s all talk at this point." But that’s the time to leave — while it’s still talk and not on paper! Yet they have apparently determined that this means they don’t have to leave. Soon maybe, but not now.


I would like to turn to clarification of a critical issue that is most often left fuzzy: the question of what our goals are with regard to Gaza. Mofaz raised this at the Cabinet meeting yesterday, and the whole failure of our government in this regard in Lebanon was criticized by Winograd. Perhaps it seems obvious, but it’s not. The Olmert government is simply shooting from the hip without thinking strategically.

There are potentially two or three goals. One is to simply stop the launching of Kassams. Many seem to suggest that this is all we need. But it is sorely insufficient as long as Hamas, which has a stated goal of destroying us, still has the capacity to start launching again whenever it suits them.

The second is to establish deterrence power with Hamas and other terrorist groups. Deterrence power is what we’ve lost, by pulling out of Lebanon in 2000, pulling out of Gaza in 2005, and then by not decisively winning in the Lebanon War in 2006.

Deterrence means making them afraid of us. Then they might still have the means to hit us again, but they would think very seriously about doing so because the repercussions would be severe. We badly need to regain deterrence, and this is a far better goal then just making them stop for now.

Lastly, there is the goal of taking out the terrorist capacity that currently exists in Gaza: the weaponry and the army.


As various glib statements are made by officials , it helps to keep the issue of goals in mind. Particularly is this the case right now with a number of things Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has said — statements that are unclear in their implications and might make anyone who thinks carefully on these matters more than a little uneasy.

On the one hand, I’ve read statements by her that suggest we cannot negotiate a Palestinian state unless they stop launching rockets at us from Gaza first. But here we come to the issue of whether it’s enough to just get them to stop. Suppose (this is not going to happen now) Hamas decided to play along with Abbas, and stop Kassams so that he could negotiate that state, which would include Hamas in Gaza — and then once there was a state they started again. Livni is trying to motivate a stop in Kassams, but she’s not on solid ground here.

Then, I’ve read it put by her a bit differently : Israel won’t negotiate a Palestinian state that includes Gaza unless they stop those rockets. And here we come to an even more problematic (and yet more possible) scenario. Suppose Hamas doesn’t stop. Does this mean we’re now willing to negotiate a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria only? The implications are huge. Either there is Palestinian nationalism or there isn’t. (There isn’t.)

I would suggest that Livni has not thought through the consequences of her various comments, and is not really certain, long term, what our goals should be.

Actually, let me carry that one step further: Olmert and Livni have backed themselves into an untenable situation. There is no way, really, to negotiate a state with the Palestinians, and yet that is what we’re ostensibly doing. And so we encounter statements that reflect an attempt to grapple with this.


Ismail Haniyeh has gone into hiding in Gaza for fear that Israel might target him.


Couldn’t happen to a better group: The Israeli government has determined that Peace Now (Shalom Achshav) has broken the law. A report released by the Justice Ministry, following an investigation, indicates that Peace Now used money earmarked for a non-profit educational group for political purposes. There is talk of dismantling them, but I won’t believe it until I see it. It should only be.