An incredibly painful day, fraught with various happenings.
The body of 18 year old yeshiva student, Eliyahu Asheri, kidnapped by terrorists, was found outside Ramallah last night. Apparently he was shot at point blank range shortly after being taken.
The pain, his mother confessed, was almost too great to bear, and we were all stabbed in the heart as she said this. Thousands attended his Jerusalem funeral today.
The rabbis have decreed now that it is forbidden to risk your life by hitching a ride with unknown drivers. Asheri was caught when hitching such a ride, this practice being commonplace in Israel until now, especially in Judea-Samaria, where there is a paucity of public transportation.
A ground operation that was supposed to begin in northern Gaza has been delayed, with Defense Minister Peretz suggesting that "something" (presumably with regard to Gilad Shalit) may be about to happen. There has been shelling of northern Gaza from across the border and the air force struck power stations in the north (at which point two were injured by shrapnel — the very first injuries).
Ostensibly this phase of the operation — into the north — is also going to be aimed at stopping the Kassams. But what is intended is totally unclear, for as soon as we pull out, the launchings will start again, unless there is an extended operation such as Defensive Shield in 2002. But the size of the force called out so far — Battalion 13 of the Golani Brigades — is not sufficient to this task. In Defensive Shield entire reserve Brigades were called up. Stored rockets and rocket factories would have to be taken out; those who do the manufacturing and the smuggling and the launching would have to be killed or arrested.
However, I am picking up from several sources the sense that what happens next is open-ended, with the military preparing plans for all eventualities. This may get bigger, and last longer, than what seems to be the case at first blush.
Part of what continues to be so frustrating and enraging as this unfolds is the tendency within the western world to pressure Israel to soft pedal its response, or, at the very least, to imply that it would be a bad thing if Israel proceeded too far. The fact of the matter is that a major response is precisely what is called for. I watched American cable TV today and heard interviews of office holders (I won’t even say "leaders") in the States. They are so reluctant to say, upfront and simply, that Israel is dealing with terrorists who have gone altogether too far and deserve now whatever Israel does by way of retaliation and defense. One fool even expressed concern that oil prices will go up if Israel doesn’t cool it. Always and ever, the onus rests on us.
The way in which we have been tiptoeing in response to this is maddening. Does the world see and understand this? We even dropped leaflets in northern Gaza, in anticipation of the operation there, warning residents.
This is the operation that Mahmoud Abbas refers to as a "crime against humanity." The Arabs are not known for their understatement.
The Israeli Air Force dropped missiles today on a car carrying two wanted Islamic Jihad terrorists. They escaped unharmed, and there were no casualties.
Very significantly, Israel has arrested more than 60 top members of the Hamas PA government. Legislators and ministers among them. Those arrested, who have connections to terrorist activities, will be charged in criminal proceedings and will be tried under the Terror Prevention Act. Israel has been looking into the possibility of doing this since Hamas won the election, but sat tight. The current situation pushed the buttons that helped the political echelon here decide that now was the time: “Until now Israel avoided arresting Hamas members because we wanted to give Mahmoud Abbas a chance to fight terror, but the latest incident changed Israel’s position.” Love it.
According to Arutz Sheva, Israeli diplomats have indicated that this operation is in line with international rules of war. If indeed this is what has been said, this represents a turning point. It means we are admitting, at last, that we are at war with the PA. Certainly this is what the PA is saying now — indicating that they see this as an act of war. Well, OK. We’ve been at war for some time now.
From Defense Minister Peretz came this today:
"The Palestinians have not taken advantage of the window of opportunity given to them, so we now have to act against the terrorist organizations."
He declared that the "masked ball" was over. "Israel will no longer allow any officials, who for part of the day are politicians and for the other part of the day are militants, to use suits and ties as a cover for their participation in kidnappings and support of terror."
Peretz also referred in his statement to the brutal murder of Eliyahu Asheri, saying, "We will get to the murderers, but that alone will not suffice."
Right on! It’s beginning to sound as it should.
Abbas is talking about appointing another government soon, since everyone is in jail. On Israeli TV tonight I heard a terrorist expert who said this is irrelevant, since the PA government stopped operating months ago anyway.
I recommend the latest JINSA report which covers some of the same ground I’ve been dealing with. JINSA is taking a hard look at the failure of the U.S. government to support Israel in this time, and attributes it to the desire for European support with regard to the American position in Iraq. The U.S., suggests JINSA, is at risk of "selling out" Israel, and says this would be "shameful."
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