To all Americans reading this, Happy Fourth!
This day is notable in a couple of respects, beyond the fact of it being American Independence Day. And I will take the liberty of noting the personal connection first: Today marks five years since my aliyah: since I came to Israel to begin a new life. What has it meant to me? Israel is my home, in all meanings of that term. I was driving in the beautiful Jerusalem hills today, and my thought, as always, was, "This is mine." It would be hard to imagine ever again living in a place where Judaism isn’t normative, and where I am separated from my heritage and my history. There is a sense of immediacy about life here. This isn’t always easy, as this evokes tensions, and passions, and worries. But life is real here, and filled with purpose.
Today also marks the thirtieth anniversary of the rescue at Entebbe. In a dramatic operation, Israeli commandos flew over 2,000 miles to Uganda and rescued more than 100 Jewish hostages held by Palestinian and German terrorists after they hijacked their plane. To do this, they surprised and killed the terrorists in the dead of night, and destroyed 11 of Uganda’s Soviet MIG fighters so that there would be no pursuit. The entire rescue operation on the ground took less than an hour. A time of enormous national pride and sense of purpose. Binyamin Netanyahu’s brother, Yonatan, the commander of that raid, died in the course of the rescue. Carolyn Glick, in her column in the Post today, says that Yoni has been immortalized as an "embodiment of…Israeli morality…the Israeli warrior ethos and the inherent justice of Zionism."
Today, the Entebbe rescue is being compared to our current struggles. Boston Globe commentator Jeff Jacoby, writing about this issue, cites a quote about Entebbe from Newsweek: "Once again, Israel’s lightning-swift sword had cut down an enemy, and its display of military precision, courage, and sheer chutzpah won the applause and admiration of most of the world."
Asks Jacoby: "Does that Israel still exist?"
Now is the time when our mettle is being tested. Of late, this country has fallen short. Jacoby’s final word on the subject: "…Israel will either defeat its enemies or be defeated by them; "disengaging" from them is not an option. In 1976, Israelis understood that in their bones. Thirty years later, do they still?"
It is necessary, I think, to pray for Israel.
The Israeli government and the terrorists holding Gilad Shalit appear to be in a deadlock, each waiting to see if the other will blink first. The "deadline" set by the kidnappers came and went, and no real "consequences" have yet become apparent. Of course, they now say they won’t provide any more information on Shalit — as if there had been running bulletins until now. The prevailing opinion is that Shalit is worth more to the kidnappers alive than dead, and, indeed, there was an announcement of sorts that the Koran requires them to treat captives with respect. That’s news to me, but if that is the cover they choose to use, OK. The fact remains. when all the talk is done, that we don’t know if he is still alive.
Olmert continues to insist vociferously that no trades are forthcoming in order to secure Shalit’s release, and he has been unanimously backed up by the security cabinet. Reports from Arab sources filter in regarding the fact that such a trade is being negotiated, but they are unverified.
Several commentators have noted that last March, PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar gave an interview with the satellite channel Al Arabiya in which he said that while Abbas failed to win the release of Palestinian prisoners, Hamas would do it by kidnapping soldiers and then negotiating for their release. To capitulate by releasing prisoners now would be to strengthen Hamas even further. We’ve strengthened them more than enough already, with the pullout from Gaza.
Not only has the launching of Kassams continued during this time, today there was an escalated attack: An "upgraded" (more powerful with two engines) Kassam was launched from an area in north Gaza that had been a Jewish settlement and it landed, for the first time, directly into Ashkelon. It fell near a school, damaging it. This in spite of the Israeli presence currently in northern Gaza.
As I said, Israel’s mettle is being tested.
The residents of Ashkelon are responding with alarm. There were demonstrations in the streets, and Ashkelon mayor Roni Hamitzri said, "We’re talking about a new situation that we’re not familiar with and don’t want to be familiar with. A city of 120,000 residents should not be living under the firing of Kassams."
MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) is calling for an operation in Gaza similar to Defensive Shield, an extensive ground operation in Judea-Samaria in 2002 that took out terrorists, weapons factories, weapons, and planning sites. Said Steinitz: “If the government again refrains from acting decisively in the defense of Israel’s residents it should ‘put down the keys’ and go to new elections.”
Is the Israeli government ready yet to declare war (to acknowledge the already existing war), and seek the objective of winning it?
The three men responsible for the kidnapping and murder of Eliyahu Asheri have surrendered to the IDF in Ramallah.
Zevulun Orlev, head of the National Religious Party, has forcefully raised an issue that has been festering for all too long, and is to be highly praised for doing so. Several times I have written here about Arab members of the Knesset who clearly are not loyal to Israel. There always seemed to be some very perverse and twisted political correctness that has permitted them to behave as they have without consequences. But now Orlev has had enough.
Said he: “Either Arab MKs that restrain themselves before the elections continue to keep their mouths shut after them as well, or the law will start restricting them. I am not prepared to accept a situation in which MK Bashara stands at the Knesset podium and refuses to condemn the kidnapping of a soldier across Israel’s recognized international borders. I refuse to accept MK Ibrahim Sarsur meeting with Hamas ministers and encouraging them.
"This is the Israeli parliament…I won’t feel like I’m in a Palestinian parliament here. We won’t let them incite Arab Israeli citizens and encourage Hamas terrorists. Whoever wants to speak in this manner can go join the Palestinian Authority’s parliament — now is their chance because the PA is missing a few parliament members right now."
Why is this tremendously important? Because it’s a step towards Israel’s redeeming herself with an unapologetic sense of what we are supposed to stand for. It’s a step towards doing away with political correctness that makes it impossible for us to finger our enemies forthrightly.
Orlev proposes a law that would withdraw or limit the immunity of members of Knesset who support terrorist organizations. Sort of obvious, isn’t it?
The influential political commentator Charles Krauthammer came out in favor of the "disengagement" last year. While he does not do what Gerald Steinberg courageously did, and say, "I was wrong," one rather gets that message with a piece he w
rote in Time Magazine this week.
Writes Krauthammer: "Gaza is free of occupation, yet Gaza wages war. Why? Because this war is not about occupation, but about Israel’s very existence…"
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