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December 25, 2008: Holding Pattern

December 25, 2008

Today, thank Heaven, it is raining. We’ve needed this so badly, and need much more than is coming down right now.

But the cloud cover makes visibility poor and makes any major action from the sky over Gaza unlikely at the moment in any event.

Arutz Sheva reports today that Barak said, after the Security Cabinet meeting yesterday, that he has given the IDF authorization to plan but not to execute a major operation.

This bewilders me, because the IDF has been planning and for some time now has had in place a number of attack alternatives, pending political approval. Chief of Staff Ashkenazi has said this on several occasions: The IDF is prepared, we’re waiting for a go-ahead.

Arutz Sheva is indicating there will be a slow escalation of attacks (which, I add, might include “pinpoint” ground strikes with soldiers going in and out quickly). But who knows.


I’d like to share a piece of particular thoughtfulness, written by Brigadier General (ret.) Dr. Yossi Ben Ari, former intelligence chief of the IDF’s Central Command. Says he:

“Securing tactical quiet is no longer the objective: Israel would never be able to view Hamas, [in] its current ideological form, as a viable dialogue partner that we can reach even minimal agreements with. Today it is already clear that Israel must view the confrontation with Hamas as a ‘zero-sum game.’ Yes, it’s either ‘them or us.'”

Ben Ari is disturbed that we are seeing no “progress in the required intellectual shift from the disgraceful strategic status of permanent respondent, to the proper status required for our existence – initiators and leaders.” We are not setting the terms, Hamas is.

“However, it’s not too late yet,” he assures us. “We do not have to keep following the path dictated by Hamas. Instead, we can make the Hamastan government scamper as if it had been poisoned.”

He recommends taking the initiative not by re-taking the full Gaza Strip, but by doing the following simultaneously:

— Retaking the Philadelphi Corridor and a kilometer-wide strip around it, to dry up Hamas’s capacity to continue to arm.

— Resuming targeted killings, of both Hamas military and political leaders.

— Doing comprehensive and continuous air assaults on terror infrastructure.

— Treating this as a war. Doing everything possible to prevent Hamas from operating from civilian areas.

“Adopting a wide offensive initiative could make the difference: It will certainly affect the way we view ourselves in the future, and no less importantly, the way our image is shaped in the eyes of our enemies and allies.”



Tzipi Livni has met with officials in Cairo, and it seems to me that what transpired is pretty much of a joke. Mubarak reportedly demanded that Israel use restraint in responding to Hamas rockets. Demanded?

He demanded that Hamas stop launching those rockets, as well. Hamas has been very angry at Egypt of late. Egypt’s main leverage over Hamas, such as it exists, involves Egyptian readiness to open the Rafah crossing.


My information from a reliable source is that Egypt, which indeed fears Hamas (an off-shoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood), does not want to be rid of Hamas but simply to control it. They do not want a major Israeli operation in Gaza, their preference being for “cooling it.”

I had reported some months ago about the fact that in spite of strong tensions between Sunni Egypt and Shi’ite Iran, Egypt was willing to tolerate Hamas as an Iranian proxy at its border because this was troublesome for Israel. Yesterday, I reported on a possible reduction in those tensions as the Egyptian Amr Mousa speaks of dialogue with Iran. It all comes together when we see Egypt’s attitude towards Hamas.


My source also confirmed what I had suspected: That Abbas’s total turn-around with regard to sanctioning an Israeli operation in Gaza was the result of Egyptian pressure. Mubarak told him simply not to give his approval to this, and that, literally, is what Abbas said. It was after Abbas’s meeting with Mubarak that Abbas also started speaking again about the need for a unity government.


Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Aboul Gheit said at a press conference after the meeting today that “Hamas is not receiving its weapons through Egypt, and Israel had better not blame Egypt for this….I don’t know how these weapons reached the Gaza Strip.”

I am stunned at his audacity here and most vociferously disagree. It is and has been common knowledge for some time that Hamas smuggles weapons from the Sinai into Gaza via tunnels. At this point in time, Hamas controls those tunnels and Egypt in the main has turned a blind eye.

If you doubt this, take a look at a site called Weapon Survey and see the series of reports by the Shin Bet and others regarding the amounts and kinds of equipment that are being smuggled under the Philadelphi Corridor between Egypt and Gaza.

“The openings of smuggling tunnels are often located within private Egyptian houses in close proximity to the border. In addition, smoke from detonated smuggling tunnels (indicating a tunnel opening) has been observed rising from Egyptian army and border guard bases.

“In August 2004, Israel Radio military correspondent Carmela Menashe reported that, ‘Egypt knows exactly what weapons are being smuggled…Egypt uses the weapons smuggling as a measure against Israel.’

“In September 2004, Yuval Steinitz, Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee emphasized it was ‘crystal clear…Egypt supports terrorism against Israel by enabling Hamas and others to transform Sinai into their logistical rear…'”

“Since August 2007, the defense establishment has recorded five major incidents of arms smuggling through Egypt, during which 13 tons of explosives and 150 RPG launchers were imported.

“In October 2007, Yuval Diskin stated that approximately 1,650 RPG rockets and some 6,000 bombs have been smuggled into Gaza since January 2007. In addition, an estimated 73 tons of explosives have been smuggled into Gaza through tunnels since June. Millions of bullets for light weapons and tons of potassium, used to manufacture bombs, have also crossed the Gaza-Sinai border.”



A different take on the tunnels is provided by a report that a VIP tunnel has been constructed that is high enough to allow people to walk in and is equipped with electricity. It is being used by wealthy people in Gaza (gasp! there are wealthy people in Gaza?) who are paying to go out to Egypt. As Hamas controls the tunnels, they collect a “tax” when individuals use them.


Livni told Mubarak that Israel will not turn a blind eye to the rocket launchings.

Egypt, with whom we have a peace treaty, remains an enemy, not to be trusted. And it is Egypt, playing a balancing act, that has been negotiating Shalit’s release for us.


Just how crazy are we? Last week a senior Prison Services official made a call in Maariv for tougher conditions for terrorists in our prisons.

“I could not hold back any longer… I see Gilad Shalit rotting in captivity, crouched in some darkened cellar with no visits, no reasonable living conditions, without seeing the light of day, while in contrast, in our prisons its one big summer camp. Some of [the terrorists] are lowly murderers who express no regret. They eat, drink, study, enjoy excellent conditions. It’s shocking.”

Terrorists can move about for three hours a day, during which time games such as ping pong, basketball and backgammon are available to them. They are fed meat and fish on holidays and permitted to spend up to 1,200 shekels a month on food and cigarettes. Inmates all have TVs in their cells, which include Arabic programming that may be anti-Israel. And they can pursue academic degrees.

Public Security Minister Avi Dichter responded to this, saying that we were adhering to international agreements. The official maintains that we could provide these prisoners with much less and still fall within international regulations.

The ultimate irony, perhaps, is that the world never perceives us as good guys in spite of all of this. And I suspect that the terrorists laugh at us.


I just raised questions about the utility of polls, I know. But I’d like to cite this: According to a Ma’agar Mohot poll, 58% of Israelis don’t believe we should agree to full withdrawal from the Golan, even for comprehensive peace, while 46% believes we shouldn’t relinquish any part of the Golan under any circumstances.


On top of this, there is a Druze for Israel Forum, that supports Israeli retention of the Golan. (There are Druze, who were originally under Syrian control, who live on the Golan now under Israeli control.) Mandi Safdie, leader of the Forum and a candidate on the Hatikvah list, has asked Druze residents of the Golan to vote only for parties that oppose giving the Golan to Syria.


Another poll, done by the Panels Institute after the expulsion of residents of Beit HaShalom in Hevron, shows that 73% of Jewish Israelis feel “an emotional connection” to Hevron. This includes 61% of the secular population. Surprising. And reassuring.


Peace Now (Shalom Achshav) — an organization that has no legal identity but conducts itself as if it did — has been penalized by a Jerusalem Magistrates Court for misrepresentation. Peace Now, along with activists Hagit Ofran and Dror Atkis, was held responsible for publishing a false report about the Samaria town of Revava. Two years ago, Peace Now published a report that claimed that most Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria were built on land stolen from Arabs. In particular the report noted that 71.5% Revava was built on Arab land.

The Fund for Redeeming the Land, which legally owns 100% of the land on which Revava is built, demanded a retraction. When neither Peace Now nor the two report authors agreed, the Fund took them to court. Now Judge Yechezkel Barclay has ruled that they have to publicly apologize to the town of Revava — placing the apology in major Hebrew press — and must pay the Fund 20,000 shekels.

The time has come to end the serial lies issued by various leftist groups,” said the Fund’s attorney, Nir Tzvi. “The public should doubt any report they write.”

Indeed. Lies come from several left-wing anti-Zionist organizations, and, regrettably, are often believed.


Earlier this week, archeologists found 254 gold coins that date back 1,400 years in the parking lot adjacent to Ir David (David’s City, the original Jerusalem, sitting outside the Old City walls). They were found in the remnants of a building from the Byzantine period and bear the likeness of a Byzantine emperor.

Archaeologists found a hoard of gold coins from the 7th century in Jerusalem on Sunday.

This is not the first time there have been stunning archeological finds in this area that had become a place for parking cars. Scratch the earth in this incredible land, and history is exposed.




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