It’s not possible for me to say that the world has gained sanity. Would that I could. But there are shifts I’m observing in response to the insanity that are at least modestly heartening. Most significant is a change in the messages coming from our government.
I wrote the other day that whatever else transpired, what mattered most for us was how Netanyahu responded: a stiff spine was required. Well, I’m seeing encouraging signs of that stronger spine now. It’s difficult to say precisely what brought about this change — the likeliest guess is that he has had it, been pushed just too far — but there is a difference in what we’re hearing from the prime minister and his government.
Consider the following:
At the Cabinet meeting yesterday, Netanyahu made a statement that was released to the public:
“Last week 20 rockets and mortar rounds were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip. I regard this very seriously. The IDF responded immediately…The Government’s policy is clear: Any firing at our territory will be responded to strongly and immediately.
“It is not only missiles and rockets that endanger security and push peace further off. Words can also be dangerous. Sadly, there has been a retreat in this area in recent months, both within the Palestinian Authority and by its leaders. Whoever sponsors and supports naming a square in Ramallah after a terrorist who murdered dozens of Israelis on the coastal road – encourages terrorism. Whoever declares those responsible for the murder of the late Rabbi Meir Avshalom Hai, father to seven children, as holy martyrs – pushes peace further away.
“At the same time, incitement continues in the Palestinian media and education system; in its official media outlets and in the schools under its supervision. These serious actions represent a harsh violation of the Palestinians’ international obligation to prevent incitement. I say to the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority: Stop the incitement. This is not how peace is made. Peace is made by educating towards reconciliation, by encouraging good neighborly relations and by developing mutual respect….”
The PA incitement — whether in school texts or media or the honoring of terrorists — is hardly new. What is new is a prime minister’s readiness to publicly finger this incitement and challenge Palestinian Arab leaders to eradicate it, instead of ignoring it for misguided tactical reasons (that is, the notion that if we charge the PA with incitement it will slow down the “peace process”).
This readiness certainly seems to signal a new acceptance of reality: we do not have a partner for peace. For the first time, instead of babbling about the window of opportunity for peace and our need to get on with negotiations now, Netanyahu has said that the PA is not in the right place for advancing peace.
And there is a shift discernable in another government statement as well. For some time now, Israel has been praising the PA security forces. This has been the case in particular with regard to the US training of some of those forces under General Keith Dayton and the willingness of the IDF to grant them increased responsibility.
All part of “making nice” and going along with the US-promoted myth that PA forces can take over if a state is established and the IDF pulls out of Judea and Samaria. I have found it nauseating, to be blunt, because I know the reluctance of PA forces to act against terrorists, and I am aware that the IDF acts nightly in PA areas to pursue terrorists (with the PA forces operating during the day only).
Well, we have some Senators in town now — John McCain (R-Arizona), Joe Lieberman (Independent-Connecticut), John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) and John Thune (R-South Dakota). And Netanyahu told them that “[the PA forces] are showing timidity about addressing their own renegades.”
He was referring to Al Aksa Brigades, which is part of Fatah. His allusion (mentioned also in his Cabinet statement) is to the drive-by shooting of Rabbi Hai — with Abbas not only refraining from condemning this act but conferring upon the perpetrators the designation of shahids (holy martyrs).
What Netanyahu said merely touches the surface of the issue. The PA forces really aren’t great at going after Hamas forces either — doing so only when they are threatened and never, ever when Hamas is committing terrorist acts against Jews. And it’s not just “renegades” that have to be looked at, it’s the entire willingness of the Fatah to incorporate Al Aksa at all.
But none-the-less, this signifies a shift in the line that has been advanced until now and is a modest — and perhaps significant — step in the right direction.
Lastly, Netanyahu’s statement — “any firing on our territory will be responded to strongly and immediately” — merits note. This could well be nothing more than bluster, and is perhaps most realistically read as such.
It was, however, followed up by a related item in the news today citing defense officials who are saying that in the event of a new operation into Gaza, the IDF may take over the Philadelphi Corridor (a narrow swath of land in the south of Gaza that is adjacent to the border with Egypt). This action was rumored during Cast Lead last year but was vetoed by Olmert.
Are we seeing the possibility of a tougher stance now? Not sure. I don’t believe the allusion to such a possibility — which came yesterday from Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yom-Tov Samia, former head of the Southern Command, in an Army Radio interview — was done without a nod from higher up.
There is concern that since that since Cast Lead Hamas has grown even stronger and has smuggled in longer-range rockets. Occupation of the Philadelphi Corridor would enable us to locate and take out the smuggling tunnels, many of which open up inside of homes in that area.
We left Gaza too soon last time. Now General Samia has said, “We are facing another round in Gaza. I am skeptical that Hamas will suddenly surrender or change its way without first suffering a far more serious blow than it did during Cast Lead.”
At least for now, the Gilad Shalit negotiations seem stalemated, if not dead. This, after rumors had us believing it was pretty much a done deal.
Whatever the particulars, it does seem that Netanyahu and his inner cabinet did not cave in ways we feared they would. On Sunday, Netanyahu told a gathering of Likud MKs that he didn’t intend to release “symbols of terror,” such as Marwan Barghouti. “I don’t intend to release mega terrorists and I am trying to prevent releasing terrorists to Judea and Samaria.”
“Trying to prevent” sounds a tad weak, as this should be a matter of simply saying it won’t be done, period. But none-the-less, Netanyahu seems to have been resolute enough to block the deal. Khaled Abu Toameh has reported that Hamas is blaming the prime minister for the collapse of arrangements.
Elsewhere I have read that Hamas is charging that Netanyahu actually refused to release a larger number of terrorists than what media reported.
And so, right on!
It’s a mistake to merely contact elected officials in times of discontent. We need to also let them know when we are pleased with them. And so, right now, I urge you to contact Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Praise him for his words and policies of strength — his readiness to tell it as it is, particularly with regard to PA incitement, and to protect Israeli interests.
Encourage him to continue to be strong. In Hebrew: Hazak, hazak!
Fax: 02-670-5369 (From the US: 011-972-2-670-5369)
Phone: 03-610-9898 (From the US: 011-972-3-610-9898)
I note this simply in passing: There was quite a flack the other day about an allusion George Mitchell, US envoy, made on the Charlie Rose show, apparently indicating that the US might withdraw loan guarantees if displeased with our cooperation with regard to peace efforts.
The response from here was most appropriate: Minister of Finance Yuval Steinitz simply let it be known that we could manage without those guarantees.
But, as it turns out, the threat was overstated by the media. See Herb Keinon on this:
Where the Obama administration is concerned, I am far less sanguine with regard to genuine policy changes. And yet, here, too I am seeing the suggestion of changes — specifically with regard to policy on Iran.
From the Wall Street Journal :
“The Obama administration is increasingly questioning the long-term stability of Tehran’s government and moving to find ways to support Iran’s opposition ‘Green Movement,’ said senior U.S. officials. The White House is crafting new financial sanctions specifically designed to punish the Iranian entities and individuals most directly involved in the crackdown on Iran’s dissident forces, said the U.S. officials, rather than just those involved in Iran’s nuclear program. In recent weeks, senior Green Movement figures – who have been speaking at major Washington think tanks – have made up a list of Revolutionary Guard-related companies they suggest targeting.
“A number of Iran scholars in the U.S. said they have been contacted by senior administration officials eager to understand if the Iranian unrest suggested a greater threat to Tehran’s government than originally understood. ‘The tone has changed in the conversation,’ said one scholar. ‘There’s realization now that this unrest really matters.’
“‘The Green Movement has demonstrated more staying power than perhaps some have anticipated,’ said a senior U.S. official. ‘The regime is internally losing its legitimacy.'”
This is good news.
Then, from CNN yesterday, a report that cites Gen. David Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, regarding the existence of military contingency plans for Iran.
This, of course, leads us further into speculation, as having contingency plans (which, as the General said, it would be negligent not to have) says nothing about intent to fall back on those plans.
I found this small news item to be of note:
Egyptian scholar Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi said in a sermon in Qatar, where he lives, that if it is true that PA president Mahmoud Abbas instigated Operation Cast Lead, he must be stoned to death. He wasn’t issuing a fatwa yet, he said, because first the situation needed to be investigated, and he called upon the Arab League to pursue the matter.
The PA has demanded a public apology. But the fact of the matter is that, while I certainly wouldn’t say Abbas “instigated” our operation into Gaza, he most certainly did encourage it. It was his hope that we would take out Hamas and that the PA could then reassert itself in Gaza. “Hit them hard,” was his covert message to us in the beginning. That was before he began to condemn us publicly.
This situation most certainly weakens Abbas even further — and while this particular Sheikh is in Qatar, we should not fail to note that he’s Egyptian. There’s a great many Egyptian machinations going on that we’re not privy to.
This simply strengthens my conviction that it would be close to impossible for Abbas to sit at the table with us, if we are engaged in hostilities in Gaza. As things seem to be heating up in Gaza, Abbas will likely find excuses not to negotiate.
I’m amused that the Saudi Sheikh Sulaiman al Dowaish has called upon Saudi authorities to institute a travel ban to the US because of enhanced screening that will be put in place for specific countries that include Saudi Arabia.
Saudi security researcher Sultan Al Anqari said the new US regulation was political blackmail because of Saudi anti-Israel policies: “collective punishment.” The fact that some major terrorists, including those of 9/11, have been Saudis, is, of course, irrelevant.
“The Good News Corner”
A new study done at the Departments of Neonatology and Pediatrics at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center reveals that music by Mozart has a positive effect on babies born before term. Premature babies exposed to 30 minutes of Mozart’s music daily seemed to gain weight faster.