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December 22, 2008: Who Knows?

December 22, 2008

…what’s going to happen with regard to military action in Gaza. The situation shifts almost hourly, and the politicians are posturing. And so, I will make this review of the situation as concise as possible:

That we are, or were, on the edge of a major action is to my mind fairly irrefutable. In fact, I had information on Friday that a ground operation was due to start the following evening after Shabbat — an operation that was, apparently, then cancelled.

It is also, to my mind, clear that it is Barak who is blocking this action, at this point letting the nation know — with an eye to the election — that he is the “wiser, more careful” statesman for acting this way. Don’t believe it for even a second. It was Barak in 2000 who, as prime minister, precipitously pulled our troops from the security zone in Lebanon, thereby setting the scene for Hezbollah to move in. No one wants our boys to be at risk — my heart wrenches with the possibility of causalities. But an army must defend a nation.


Head of the Shin Bet gave a briefing to the Cabinet yesterday in which he said that Hamas has rockets now that are capable of reaching to the edge of Beersheva and into Kiryat Gat and Ashdod (farther than ever before) and we should anticipate a strong retaliation if we do go in and prepare for it.


Reports have been released saying that Olmert and Barak (or in another version, also Livni) have met and decided on a major operation.

Olmert, from Turkey, is saying we must respond to the rockets. Livni, campaigning, is saying that if she’s prime minister, she’ll take out the Hamas leadership. But I notice that she says she would do so by a combination of methods, military and diplomatic. This is nonsense: she’s not going to undo Hamas diplomatically, and I haven’t forgotten that she’s the one responsible for the horrific “diplomatic” resolution to the Lebanese war that ended up permitting Hezbollah to rearm.

Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi has now also made a statement about the impossibility of the current situation.

In preparation for this presumed military operation that has been decided upon, Livni, as foreign minister, is preparing a Hasbara (PR) blitz to present Israel’s side to the world. Israeli ambassadors worldwide will be taking our position to various governments and international ambassadors here are to be taken to see Sderot.


Hamas is said to be divided between the military wing, which is eager to confront us without limitations now, and the political wing, which would like a new “lull,” but under their terms, which include opening of crossings and extension of the “lull” to Judea and Samaria. Even this government won’t agree to that. It is our IDF operations in Judea and Samaria that prevent suicide bombings and the like; to agree to stop going after these guys would be a disaster.

A good percentage of the rockets and mortars that have hit in recent days have come from Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian Front, rather than from Hamas itself — but what is clear is that Hamas, which controls the situation, is allowing these groups to operate as proxies.


Egypt is sending mixed messages. Egypt has been angry with Hamas since it boycotted a recent Egyptian effort to bring Hamas and Fatah together for a Cairo meeting. And it is reported that the Egyptians are furious with Hamas now for refusing to continue the “ceasefire” — they know full well that at some point Israel will have to respond to the rockets from Gaza. And yet, Egypt, playing both ends, has “warned” Israel regarding the ill-advised nature of a military operation.

Right now Egypt is attempting to negotiate a new “lull,” and asked Hamas to hold the rocket fire for 24 hours. Three rockets were fired today and gunmen shot at soldiers near the Sufa crossing. In an unusual move, Mubarak invited Livni to meet with him to discuss the “deteriorating situation.” It was said that she would be presenting our position. Unless Mubarak has a new offer from the Hamas side, he is unlikely to achieve his goal. But Hamas is disenchanted with Egypt as a mediator (even where Shalit negotiations are concerned, Hamas wants a mediator other than Egypt) and is not likely to be influenced by Mubarak.


The talk now is about the possibility of achieving a period of quiet again. But this avoids the essential issue, which is that Hamas continues to strengthen during such periods, retaining the ability to hit us at their option. The fact that they are stronger now than they were six months ago is evidence enough that another such “lull” is ultimately a poor and exceedingly short-sighted option for us.

I thank Aaron Lerner of IMRA for pointing out that a letter submitted to the UN secretary-general by Israeli ambassador to the UN Gabriele Shalev protesting the firing of rockets by Hamas does not also protest the weapons smuggling, manufacture and stockpiling. As if all is well as long as Hamas is not using its weapons at a given moment. This is Livni’s “diplomatic” approach?


Who knows? Maybe tomorrow — a day in which clear skies are predicted — there will be the beginning of a serious operation. But, maybe not.


How low can this man sink? The man? Jimmy Carter. And apparently there are no limits to how far down he can go. On his website, for the Carter Center, he reports about his recent trip, which included a stop in Damascus:

“In the afternoon…I met with Khaled Mashaal and his fellow Hamas politburo members, all of whom are scientists, medical doctors, or engineers – none trained in religion. [Implication: they’re good guys and not Islamic radicals at all.] It was the anniversary of Hamas’ founding, and they were watching Prime Minister Haniyeh’s speech in Gaza to an enormous crowd. We discussed items on my agenda that included …formulas for prisoner exchange to obtain the release of Corporal Shalit…”

Incredible. A former US president giving advice to terrorist Mashaal regarding how much to demand for Shalit. We must remember that the Carter Center takes huge donations from Arab nations. Can he be impeached retroactively?


There have been conflicting reports about a situation of serious dimensions: The possible sale to Iran by Russia of state-of-the-art S-300 anti-missile missiles that would seriously retard Israeli efforts to hit Iran.

Iranian sources had said that delivery of the missiles would be starting soon. But Russia has since denied this. Israeli remains convinced that Russia was standing by its agreement with Olmert, who visited in October, that it would not provide Iran with equipment that would “tip the strategic balance.”

Let’s hope the Israeli perception is correct. Amos Gilad, head of the Ministry of Defense military-diplomatic bureau, was in Moscow last week.


Ending again with good news: Scientists at Hebrew University in Jerusalem have discovered a gene mechanism in stem cells that could lead to significant treatment options. Embryonic stem cells are undifferentiated and extraordinary in their ability to develop into various sorts of tissue, Different sets of genes in the cells control the process of differentiation into specific types of tissues. One set of genes makes muscles cells, another makes liver cells, and so forth. What tissue a particular stem cell becomes depends on which genes were activated and which turned off. The discovery concerns the central process involved and may in time lead to generation of tissue for repairing cells damaged by a variety of diseases: heart tissue for those with heart disease, pancreatic tissue for those with diabetes, brain cells for those with Parkinson’s disease, etc.





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