Before returning to current news items , I would like to refer back to one of the themes of yesterday’s posting, regarding the inability of some Israelis (some Jews) to defend the Israeli narrative.
Every so often I receive communications from people in the US who are staunch supporters of Israel that are essentially laments — expressions of frustration, perhaps, or confusion. How can I speak out, I am asked, when the prime minister doesn’t? How can I tell people that a two-state solution is a disaster when Olmert is pursuing it vigorously? Bottom line: How can I contradict the government of Israel?
My response has been that it is important to support the people of Israel, not the government. But I think yesterday’s discussion examines another, and very important, dimension of that same issue. Olmert and Livni may have lost the ability to tell Israel’s narrative. They may have forgotten how to defend Israel because they are committed instead to a two-state solution, which leads them to believe that they must actually defend our enemy’s goals.
But their position represents a pathology. And if your thinking is not pathological, if you clearly understand Israel’s narrative, then it is your responsibility to tell it, and to defend without hesitation Israel’s rights, even if this contradicts the goals of Oslo and what Olmert and Livni are about.
Very simply: Olmert and Livni may believe they are doing what is right. But they have lost their way, and what they promote is a danger to Israel. You want to tell a different story.
Orient House, a building owned by the prominent Palestinian Husseini family, has in the past been utilized by the PLO to conduct business in Jerusalem. An Orient House website, somewhat dated, refers to the establishment as "the Palestinian national gathering place for Palestinians in Occupied East Jerusalem. As the PLO Headquarters in the occupied city, the Orient House aspires to develop Arab East Jerusalem as the capital of the emerging Palestinian state…"
It was closed down in 2001 at the time of the Intifada because of political activities in Jerusalem forbidden by the Oslo agreement.
This past Monday, Maan, a Palestinian news agency, reported that the PLO has now again employed 30 – 40 people to work in Orient House. A Palestinian leader, Hatem Abdul Khadar, of Fatah, was quoted as saying that he and others were meeting with foreign dignitaries in the building. This is precisely what is forbidden — using it as an unofficial embassy.
According to the latest news from the Post, however, Israel has renewed the order to keep Orient House closed tight. In fact, a Jerusalem police spokesman says that the site is checked regularly and there’s nothing going on there.
The Palestinians, claiming that Olmert had promised to open Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem, are bemoaning that "This is not a good sign for the peace process." They have asked the US consulate in eastern Jerusalem to intervene, but were told there would be no quick resolution.
Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shalom Harari, a former senior adviser on Palestinian affairs at the Defense Ministry, has offered comments on this situation, explaining, according to the Post, that the closure had led to a dramatic reduction in anti-Israeli activity and an increase in security in eastern Jerusalem.
"Since its closure, the Palestinians have been mourning the loss of Orient House, and say they have lost the center of their revolutionary zeal in Jerusalem. I don’t know if such a promise [by Olmert to the Palestinians] was made, but if it was, it was made secretly, because nothing has been made public about such a commitment."
During the Oslo peace process, Orient House acted as "an organizing factor" for riots and demonstrations. "We allowed the PLO to operate in Jerusalem during the 1990s, but not the Palestinian Authority. However, Orient House was quickly infiltrated by PA elements who turned it into a kind of ‘extraterritorial embassy.’
"It…became an institution. Police were afraid to enter or search it, and Orient House enjoyed an informal diplomatic immunity status.
"The shutting down of Orient House was the end result of a long effort by right-wing Knesset Members, led by [then-Public Security Minister] Uzi Landau, who said that Orient’s use as a PA base was a violation of Oslo…
"After a major suicide bombing, Landau effectively forced the police to close it down." Harari explained that the police at first did not wish to raid the center due to fears of a violent backlash. But it never materialized. [Note: police fear of acting against illegal Palestinian behavior because there might be violence.]
After the raid, the center’s records were confiscated; they vindicated the demands of the Knesset members who had wanted it closed down.
"I can say that closing down Orient House was one of main acts that caused a reduction in open anti-Israeli activity in Jerusalem," Harari said.
And an enlightening side observation : According to the Post, "[Hatem] Abdel Khader said the Palestinians had given the necessary assurances to the Israelis, adding that the office was to be used for cultural, economic and social projects."
But this is the same Abdul Khadar who told Maan, a Palestinian news agency, that he was meeting with foreign dignitaries in the building.
US Special Envoy Gen. James Johns is floating the idea of bringing in NATO troops for Judea and Samaria for an interim period between when Israel would pull out and the PA would be able to secure the area. It’s just an idea at this point and Israel has not signed off on it. If our government does agree — G-d forbid — it’s even more lost than I think it is.
Allow me to enumerate all the things wrong with this: First, the PA isn’t supposed to get territory until it is ready to administer it. If other troops are necessary, they should be given nothing. What is clear here is that the US, which truly has lost its way completely, is so damn eager to put an agreement in place that they would turn it over to an incompetent PA and then attempt to bolster it from outside. What craziness.
Foreign troops would interfere with our ability to secure intelligence or do operations to take out terrorists or stop planned operations, as necessary. It is not even clear that we’d be able to do hot pursuit of those who have committed terrorist acts and are seeking refuge.
Does anyone — including Johns or Rice — remotely believe that NATO forces would do what we’ve been doing, with night operations, intensive intelligence work, and all the rest? Clearly, if territory were to be turned over to an incompetent PA, this means a situation in which the terrorists would not have been eliminated, arrested or disarmed. Actually, some of them would still be in the PA security forces. What would result is a free ride for terrorists, with international forces standing between them and our troops, and the terrorists actually able to strengthen themselves.
Johns, it should be noted, served as a commander in NATO. Just a few days ago, the American ambassador to Israel, Richard Jones, hinted at the same thing.
The precedent is there with UNIFIL in Lebanon (about which more below), which has allowed Hezbollah to rearm while protesting that we are "violating" the truce if we do flyovers to monitor what is happening.
Reports are that Israel would like to predicate its exit strategy from Gaza, in event of a ground operation, on being replaced by international forces. But I think the same international reluctance to be involved would apply here, and more so because of Hamas threats. Some sources say that the IDF will go in if it’s deemed necessary, even if there are no international forces in place.
It’s time to wake up, I think, to the fact that when we go back in, we will not be exiting any time soon (and preferably never).
Olmert made a statement earlier this week that was a serious misrepresentation (lie) and requires response. Said he: "Despite the [continuing] Kassam fire, [the "disengagement"] was a very good move since there are no longer 30,000 soldiers protecting 1,200 citizens."
First of all, it was 8,000 citizens, not 1,200. But more significantly, the soldiers were not there just to protect them. They were there to protect Israel, by securing areas from which Kassams might be fired, going after tunnels through which weapons might be smuggled, and stopping terrorist operations. Anyone who is ready to be honest about the situation will admit that the pullout was a security disaster. But it’s clear Olmert isn’t ready.
We haven’t even received the approbation of the international community for this pullout, as promised by Sharon; we’ve met instead with condemnation because of how we’re "treating" Gaza.
As to UNIFIL: Spain may be thinking of pulling its troops out of that operation, and there is concern that this will influence others to follow suit. Matters are, shall we say, greatly unsettled in Lebanon right now with the prospect of escalating Hezbollah violence. A weakening of the UNIFIL force would further destabilize Lebanon and allow Hezbollah to move down into the south of the country unimpeded.
We have deployed a battery of US-made Patriot air defense missiles in the vicinity of Haifa, as a precaution against an attack by Hezbollah.
At the same time it has been announced that the Iron Dome system against short range rockets such as Kassams is in an advanced stage of development.
Regrettably, it has also been announced that the government is going to fortify only 3,600 homes in Sderot instead of the 8,000 originally announced. Homes within a range of 4.5 kilometers from the Gaza border are being targeted, as the Iron Dome system will not have enough time to respond to rockets launched from a distance of less than 4 kilometers. The plans call for building safe rooms over the course of the next two years.
Abbas came to town a couple of days ago , to meet with Olmert, after which Olmert declared, "We didn’t talk about Jerusalem!" while Saeb Erekat said they did.
Progress in negotiations is reportedly slow or non-existent, with Fayyad declaring that an agreement cannot be reached in 2008. All sorts of plans are in the works now for (shudder) "speeding things up," with more frequent meetings.
Abbas, however, has vetoed the suggestion of Yasser Abed Rabbo that the PA follow Kosovo’s example and unilaterally declare independence.
However slowly, said Abbas, negotiations are still going on and that’s the path to take at present. If matters stalemate entirely, it would be time to consider other alternatives.
A pragmatic Saeb Erekat opined that what the Palestinians need is "real independence" and not just a declaration. "We are not Kosovo. We are under Israeli occupation and for independence we need to acquire independence." In other words, it wouldn’t play here. Nor would the US be supportive.
What their strategy will be (other than more violence) when negotiations stalemate remains to be seen.
A bit of humor: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, in an attempt, I assume, to motivate us to move more quickly, has now said, "We hope that Israel responds positively to the strenuous efforts we are making, so that we do not despair and think about taking back our offer."
Strenuous efforts? Despair?
The offer: If we pull back to the pre-67 lines, which means giving the Palestinians the Kotel and the Temple Mount, allow a Palestinian state to be established with Jerusalem as its capital, and then permit four million "refugees" to "return" to Israel, the members of the Arab League will "normalize" relations with us. What this means with regard to full diplomatic relations has not be specified.
Not so funny this week was a statement made by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who said that Israel absolutely must reach a cease fire with Hamas to halt the "cycle" of Kassam attacks and responses. Israel responded to the implied moral equivalency with anger.
What angered me the most , however, was Kouchner’s statement that he knew Israel was concerned that Hamas would use a ceasefire to build its strength, but Israel had "to take a chance…, to take a risk."
Really now. How nice of him to decide this for us.
When Olmert returned from his recent trip to Germany, there were reports coming from Der Spiegel that he was going to declare Goldwasser and Regev officially dead. The decision of the government has been not to do so, however, because there is no solid evidence of this (although there has been no sign that they are alive, either).
For some days there were hints that a deal was close for bringing Shalit home, but that now seems not the case. Apparently there was agreement on 240 prisoners to be released, but now there is contention about an additional 120.