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August 17, 2008: Bad News

August 16, 2008

Bad, bad news:  According to Maya Bengal in Maariv today, Olmert has submitted a proposal on Jerusalem to Abbas in an effort to reach an agreement before he leaves office.  Reportedly this entails Israeli control of Jewish neighborhoods, Palestinian control of Arab neighborhoods, and the issue of the status of holy sites — including the Temple Mount and Mount of Olives — to be tabled with administration of these places by a joint Israeli-Palestinian body until there is final resolution, which, since there is no timeline, could be indefinitely.

There is so much wrong with this, beyond the simple fact that Jerusalem is ours and should remain undivided:

The Jewish and Arab neighborhoods are so intertwined that dividing jurisdiction according to Jewish and Arab residency simply won’t work.  Not to mention that it would put terrorist-prone Palestinians within easy shooting distance of Jewish neighborhoods.

Plus, tabling the most sensitive issue, control of holy sites, and calling it a “deal” is a cop-out that would only lead to continuing lack of resolution and growing tensions. 

Lastly, assigned shared jurisdiction over these most sensitive areas is an invitation to a situation that would be nightmare from hell.  It is simply not workable.


The PA is demanding all of Jerusalem beyond the Green Line.  That means Jewish neighborhoods built since 1967 and all of the Old City. They are not going to settle for Jewish neighborhoods outside the Green Line to remain under Israeli jurisdiction, with the Old City issue unresolved, and call this a “deal.”  I don’t believe they’ll even remotely consider going for it. They’ll scoff.

What is much more to the point for me is where Shas is in this. They said they would pull out of the government if Olmert negotiated on Jerusalem.



What makes it even more certain that the PA would not sign on to a deal with us is something else just reported by Ben Caspi, also of Maariv.  He says that Israel has submitted security requirements for a final deal to the US. These include:

1. Demilitarized Palestinian state not to have tanks, cannons, rockets or air force.
2. Security pacts prohibited between the Palestinian state and other nations.
3. Israeli warning stations on the mountain ridge.
4. IDF presence on the Jordan River.
5. Israeli control of airspace.
6. Israeli access to routes going deep into Judea and Samaria


Now there’s more in the Caspi article, and I ask all Americans to pay special attention here:

“In the meantime it turns out that one of the two presidential candidates, who visited Israel sent emissaries and special messages to president Al Assad in Damascus and Abu Mazen [Abbas] in Ramallah, with an interesting message: continue the negotiations with Israel, any progress is welcome, I want to jump into the conflict immediately upon my entry onto the position and the more advanced the negotiations are the better.”

That presidential candidate was Obama, clearly, and this constitutes a sort of meddling that is outrageous.


The message I have consistently communicated here is that Egypt — in spite of having a peace treaty with us — is not only not our friend, but often works against our interests. 

The most glaring example of this is the failure of the Egyptians to stop the smuggling of weapons into Gaza in spite of commitments to do so.  MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud), former head of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, has over a period of time vociferously proclaimed Egypt not trustworthy.  It was he, in particular, who pointed out how ridiculous is Egypt’s lament that they’d like to stop the weapon smuggling but can’t find many of the tunnels used by the terrorists.  If they were sincere, he pointed out last year, all they would have to do was make a no-man’s land in the Sinai a kilometer or two before the border with Gaza, and stop all vehicles traveling the sparsely-used roads in that open desert area well before they reached the tunnels.


Not long ago I sat with an Arabic-speaking researcher who explained that as much as the Egyptians dislike and fear the radical influence of Hamas (which is an off-shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and sponsored by the hated Iran), they dislike and fear Israel even more. Thus they have been willing to foster a situation that makes trouble for Israel.

I will add here that there is enormous and virulent anti-Semitism in Egypt.  While, for all their suspicions of Hamas, the Egyptians have strong cultural and linguistic bonds with members of Hamas, not as Hamas per se but as Muslim Arab residents of Gaza. Egypt controlled Gaza from 1948-1967 and there was considerable interaction.  Culturally, the ties between Gazan Palestinians and Egyptians is said to be stronger than the ties between Gazan and West Bank Palestinians.


And so, the news from the very reliable Khaled Abu Toameh in the Post today came as a bit of a surprise:  A Hamas official is now saying they’ve been told by Egypt that they won’t open the crossing at Rafah (between Gaza and Egypt) until Hamas releases Gilad Shalit to Israel.

What is more, Egypt is saying that when it does permit the crossing to be opened, it will be under the supervision of the PA, and not Hamas.  This is in accordance with the arrangements made under extreme pressure by Rice, after Israel pulled out of Gaza three years ago.  We were supposed to stay in Rafah, but she pushed hard for us to leave and the PA to take over.  The PA remained in charge, more or less, in a highly unsatisfactory arrangement, until Fatah was routed by Hamas in June of last year.

This feels like a shift: an Egypt willing to take positions amenable to Israeli, US, and PA stipulations and requirements, at the expense of Hamas.  One must ask what is going on behind the scenes to foster this.


Needless to say, Hamas is declaring this to be a totally unsatisfactory scenario.  They maintain that Egypt is supposed to open Rafah because of the ceasefire and regardless of the situation with Shalit.  However, they neglect to mention that the ceasefire itself included a stipulation that they were to speed up negotiations on Shalit.  What has actually happened is the reverse — a slowdown, with Hamas complaining that Egypt, which acts as the negotiating go-between, is favoring Israel by not applying enough pressure with regard to release of prisoners.

The issue of who supervises Rafah when it is opened is considered critical: Hamas is trying to establish a veneer of legitimacy as the governing power of Gaza that is undercut by Egypt’s position.


One facet of Egypt’s current position echoes its long-standing desire to make trouble for Israel, however:  The Egyptians are saying that when the crossing is opened it will be for personnel only.   Fuel, food and other humanitarian supplies would have to come exclusively via crossings from Israel — for Israel, and not Egypt, is responsible for Gaza.


It never ends.  Remember the recent promise by Olmert to Abbas to release at least 150 prisoners as a “good will gesture”?  Well, the cabinet today approved the release of 200, including two with blood on their hands. Transportation minister Shaul Mofaz and the three Shas ministers in the cabinet voted against, 16 voted for. A ministerial committee, headed by Haim Ramon, will finalize details, with release expected next Monday.

Tzipi Livni defended this decision, saying that:

“When Israel releases prisoners only to groups that exert force, it sends out the message that it gives in to pressure and that the use of violence and kidnapping are [effective] ways of acting against Israel.”

This is going to “strengthen” Abbas, you see, by showing he can be moderate and still get something.

That’s just great.  Let’s not only grant prisoner releases in exchange for something.  Let’s let out murderers and those associated with terrorist acts just for the doing of it, with nothing received in return.


Criticism with regard to this has been strong from many quarters. 

As MK Yisrael Hasson (Yisrael Beitenu) so aptly put it: 

“The government insists on ‘fixing’ the damage it causes by inflicting significantly more damage.  A government that would not have given in to Hezbollah and Hamas demands in the past, would not have to give in to Fatah today, by releasing prisoners in return for nothing.”

Shas’s Eli Yeshai (Trade and Labor Minister) predicted that this would cause us problems with the negotiations on Shalit:  If we give away prisoners for nothing, then Hamas will want even more in an exchange.

There was an outcry from MK Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud, head of opposition), and from National Union-NRP.


Are officials of the PA happy with this Israeli generosity?  Don’t be silly.  Said PA Prime Minister Fayyad:

“We welcome the release of any Palestinian prisoner. It is considered a victory for Palestinians.  We ask Israel to change its conditions for releasing prisoners and we ask for the release of all prisoners without exception.”

Have you noticed that they always demand more?


Hamas, meanwhile, is saying that Israeli’s projected release of Fatah prisoners is designed to widen the rift between Fatah and Hamas.  Not sure exactly how that is, actually.

Realize how surreal the situation is, as Fatah and Hamas have established a rivalry based on who can get us to release more of their prisoners.


While the claim is that this is being done to strengthen Abbas, there is another factor that must be noted:  Rice is due here again soon, to see progress on the “peace negotiations.”  She is breathing down the necks of the Cabinet, you can be sure.

I’m a bit vague on when she will arrive, because her trip here may be delayed by matters concerning Russia.


Speaking of Russia, I would like to share this quote from the Middle East Newsline:

“What does the Russian-Georgian war have to do with the Middle East?

“Everything. Moscow’s invasion of Georgia has tested Western intentions toward Russia and its allies, particularly Iran. The United States, a sworn friend of Georgia, did nothing to save Tbilisi from Russian troops. European Union countries, particularly Germany, prostrated themselves to Russian Prime Minister Putin. This is not the kind of Western alliance that will save the Gulf Cooperation Council and Israel from a nuclear Iran.”


And another take, from Scott Peterson at the Christian Science Monitor:

“American criticism of Russia’s military action in Georgia is almost certain to jeopardize a very different U.S. strategic objective: stepping up pressure on Iran with another layer of UN sanctions. ‘This will make any hope of cooperative effort on Iran much more difficult,’ says Michael McFaul, a Russia and Iran expert at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. Support on Iran, he says, is ‘without question’ the biggest strategic casualty of the renewed U.S.-Russia tension. Iran is ‘the one place…of high national security interest to the United States where Russia plays a direct role in what we are trying to do. In that sense, it towers over all these other things.'”


The chief of the Iranian air force today declared that it has war planes capable of flying 3,000 kilometers without refueling — enough to reach Israel and return. 


Every time it seems the situation could not become more incredible, it does:

We’ve known from the beginning that Resolution 1701, which ended the Lebanon War in 2006 and put a UNIFIL force into place that was to stop Hezbollah from re-arming was going to be a joke. And we’ve seen evidence that the re-arming was indeed taking place at a furious level.

But now we have a statement, made last Thursday at the UN in New York City, by UNIFIL commander Maj.-Gen. Claudio Graziano.  Israel Air Force forays over Lebanon, he said, constitute a “permanent violation of 1701.”  We’re violating Lebanese airspace. 

But he leaves out the reason why we do this: To monitor the re-arming of Hezbollah. Without those flights it would be hard to keep track.  Apparently General Graziano doesn’t think there’s any need for such forays, for he says that UNIFIL enjoys excellent relations with Hezbollah.

“At this moment Hezbollah is one of parties that agrees with 1701.”

According to him, no one south of the Litani River is armed except the UNIFIL forces, the Lebanese army and hunters.

So, he’s not only turning a blind eye to the re-arming of Hezbollah, he’s covering for this terrorist organization and attempting to block Israeli efforts to expose them.


Luckily, not everyone is either crazy or totally corrupt.  There is the internationally-based Lebanese Committee for the implementation of 1559, which refers to the UN Security Council resolution that calls for the disarming of militias in Lebanon and sealing the border between Syria and Lebanon so that no weapons can get to Hezbollah; this is incorporated in 1701.  This group acts as a consulting  body of the UN, and monitors the implementation of relevant UN resolutions.

Says Tony Nissi, the general coordinator of the group:

“…Hezbollah is violating 1701 big time, and not only by hiding its weapons in warehouses in the south. Also, we haven’t seen any weapons coming out of the south after the war of 2006, so did Hezbollah throw its weapons used in the 2005 war into the sea?

“[UNIFIL is] coordinating with Hezbollah and not with the Lebanese government.  [Resolution] 1701 says clearly no arms south of the Litani.  No militias south of the Litani.  That is why UNIFIL is there.

“Is the UNIFIL mandate to coordinate with Hezbollah or to kick Hezbollah out south of the Litani?”


Nissi acknowledged that UNIFIL is stymied in its ability to function because its mandate requires it to receive approval from the Lebanese army for actions against Hezbollah, and the army isn’t giving that approval (another part of this complex story).  However, he said, UNIFIL should either request the UN for a mandate change so that it can operate or leave Lebanon, rather than coordinate with Hezbollah.



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