I have returned from a few days in the north , including the Golan. Always when I am there, I am strengthened once again in my absolute conviction that this is ours and under no circumstances should be surrendered to Syria. This would be insanity, but then insanity abounds these days (about which more below).
The only reassuring note I have found is the fierce opposition of the defense establishment to turning over Shaba Farms, which is on the edge of the Golan. In 2000 we withdrew from southern Lebanon to the international line (the Blue Line); the fact that we had done so and were no longer on Lebanese territory was confirmed by the UN after careful assessment. Shaba Farms was considered part of the Golan — from our perspective part of land we had annexed; from a broadly international perspective, an issue between us and Syria at most. Hezbollah claimed this as Lebanese territory, for this provided the rationale for continuing to attack us: we were "occupiers." But now the UN has had a change of mind and is leaning towards honoring a Lebanese demand for this area; international pressure is being put upon us to withdraw from the area to strengthen the Lebanese government. Secretary General Ki-Moon is sending surveyors to review the lines.
The IDF says that to withdraw would set a precedent that is dangerous for Israel’s security.
The Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades — which is Fatah — is saying they will no longer honor the "truce" that was arranged between Israel and the PA. This initially involved IDF "amnesty" for a list of 178 Brigades people who were on a wanted list: the IDF would no longer go after them, and in return, the people on the list were supposed to turn in their weapons and sign a piece of paper renouncing terrorism. The Palestinians then said there was a second list of 110, and while this hasn’t been confirmed by Israel, the broader sense that had begun to emerge was that we were going to be cutting the Brigades slack across the board.
Now, according to the Brigades, two people on the list who were supposed to have been given amnesty — Iyad Bisharat and Ahmed Abu Jalboush — were arrested by the IDF. My best information is that Bisharat was on that first list and Abu Jalboush on the second.
At any rate, there was never a moment of doubt in my mind about the fact that if these guys were arrested, there was a reason. We know that they are not honoring their commitment to renounce terrorism. And, indeed, what I’ve learned at long last from an unofficial source is that they were shooting at the IDF.
What was incredible today is the lengths I went to simply to try to find out if they had weapons on them when arrested and why they were arrested. Numerous phone calls to the Ministry of Defense got me no where and I was told to be in touch with the Prime Minister’s office. But my communication with PMO representative David Baker yielded next to nothing: Security, he reported, had no comment other than to say that "continuous steps will be taken to prevent terror from being perpetrated whenever and wherever possible." Why the stonewalling? Is it not in Israel’s best interests from a PR perspective to show that there was reason why these particular Brigades members were arrested?
The answer I have obtained, from my unofficial source, is that this refusal to comment reflects a severe conflict currently on-going between the political echelon and high members of the IDF: Olmert and company, eager to pursue "negotiations" with the PA, would prefer to ignore the "occasional lapse" in the agreement and pretend that all is going marvelously. The IDF is adamant that operations to stop terrorist operations must continue and is acting without political sanction. Thus the desire to keep it low key. And thus, too, Defense’s insistence on throwing it in the lap of the prime minister’s office.
G-d bless our IDF officials, who not only have their heads screwed on properly but are insistent upon acting.
And Olmert and company? Here is a piece of the insanity referred to above. One must ask WHY? If the Palestinians cannot be trusted and will continue to perpetrate terrorists acts, WHY would he cut them slack and move ahead in dealing with the PA? Because he has an agenda and will advance it at all costs. This is the inescapable conclusion to be drawn.
We have hardly seen the last.
The rumors continue to fly fast and furious and there is no way to pin down what is real and what is not: rumors, that is, regarding those purported negotiations going on between Olmert and Abbas. Of late we have "information" from President Shimon Peres that there is an attempt to complete an agreement before the "summit." And there have been reports of Olmert’s willingness to compromise on control of Har Habayit.
I spoke with one very well informed individual who confessed that he was also unable to pin down the truth of the various rumors but said that his understanding was that, at most, a very vague, short document was to be the outcome of these "negotiations." Vague, so that each side could claim to have achieved what he wanted. (Makes sense since Abbas demands exceed anything Olmert could deliver.)
Following this would be the inevitable arguments about what was agreed upon. In a nutshell, in spite of how sickening this is, it is exceedingly unlikely that a Palestinian state will evolve from what’s going on.
Abbas is so weak and ineffectual, that in the end even someone like Olmert, ready to turn a blind eye, will have to confront certain realities regarding terrorist actions that Abbas cannot control.
This is what Olmert ultimately will not be able to ignore:
According to Khaled Abu Toameh , reporting in the Post in the beginning of the week, high level PA security officials have admitted that they have been unable to block a Hamas presence in Judea and Samaria in spite of their best efforts. Hamas’s military arm, Izaddin al-Kassam, has become "very active" in particular in Samaria, near Nablus, where it is creating new cells and attacking IDF patrols.
"We are going after the wrong guys," a PA official said. "We are detaining journalists, university students and low-level political operatives. Meanwhile, Izaddin al-Kassam is establishing secret cells and acquiring more weapons." They are also recruiting Palestinians from Judea and Samaria.
PA security has been unable to secure adequate information on these Hamas operations in spite of serious concerns that what is going on now is the first move towards overthrowing Abbas. A Hamas cell was found in the Bethlehem area that was said to be taking orders directly from Hamas leadership in Syria, but was released because of insufficient evidence.
Additionally, according to Abu Toameh , there are unconfirmed reports that Jabil Rajoub, a close confident of Abbas met with Mashaal in Damascus in an attempt to resolve the Fatah-Hamas rift.
Our undeclared, low-level war with Gaza persists . Rockets are still being launched at us, and we are still taking limited actions inside of Gaza. In one action today, the Air Force struck at a group of armed men in Gaza, killing a high level Hamas commander. Earlier three Islamic Jihad operatives were taken out. Yesterday, in the north of Gaza, Israel targeted a team loading a Kassam rocket. Following this operation, two children were killed. They were seen going into the field right after a rocket had been launched — they had been sent, as is routinely done by the terrorists, to retrieve the launcher
and were killed by an exploding shell.
The response of Abbas was to call Israel’s actions "a massacre which cannot be justified. This escalation casts doubt on Israel’s real intentions regarding the peace process, which is first of all expressed in halting all violent activities, attacks and assassinations." He said the peace process cannot advance if Israel continues: “the occupation regime and its army are fully responsible for the escalation and the shedding of innocent people’s blood in order to provoke retaliation and provide the Israeli occupation army with an excuse to commit more crimes.”
Note that Abbas is defending Hamas in Gaza, and attacking Israel for taking action against Hamas and other terrorists. Not a word about Hamas needing to stop all rocket launchings. I wonder how Olmert swallows this.
The US State Department is about to begin training security officers for the PA. In spite of everything, they’re going to do this.
According to Aaron Klein , writing for the NY Sun, a senior Fatah militant has admitted that if it were not for previous assistance and training provided to PA forces by the US, they would not have been so successful in the Intifada that began in 2000. "I do not think that the operations of the Palestinian resistance would have been so successful and would have killed more than one thousand Israelis since 2000 and defeated the Israelis in Gaza without these trainings," said an officer in Abbas’s Presidential Guard. "All the methods and techniques that we studied in these trainings, we applied them against the Israelis."
Olmert, you see, does not have a monopoly on insanity. The US State Department is apparently working according to a philosophy that says, "If it doesn’t work, don’t abandon it, do more of the same."
Caroline Glick’s column in yesterday’s Post, "Israel’s Reeducation Minister," is enough to make you weep. If you’re a Zionist, that is. Glick is writing about Education Minister Yuli Tamir, who is a founding member of Peace Now and is injecting that agenda into the school curricula.
Barry Rubin has written a most instructive column, "The Middle East’s titanic battle." Radical Islam, he says, has now reached a critical mass and presents a threat to every Arabic speaking country. The battle is, and will be for years to come, between Arab nationalism and Islamism. This, and certainly not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is the central theme at the core of every conflict in the Middle East. The Islamist cause is championed by Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas. The parties have mutual goals and ideologies, and their cooperation is not likely to be split apart.