A balagan in Hebrew is a state of confusion. And, indeed, with the end of the war in Gaza, this is what we are witnessing: a good number of strange and conflicting statements and illogical positions.
It is not possible for me to deal in detail with each, and here I will attempt to provide an overview.
A good place to start is with Ehud Olmert.
My friends, I do not intend to eat my hat because of how he is now behaving. I was careful, you see: I said I would take one day at a time. When he was conducting himself (for whatever reasons) with courage and strength, and reflected his former Zionist positions, I gave him credit for it. But now? He’s back to the Ehud Olmert we’ve know these past few years — playing fast and loose with facts and apparently making decisions for political reasons.
Already Hamas is speaking about how they will come back to strength. At a news conference today in Gaza, Hamas’s military spokesman Abu Ubaida, bragged, “Manufacturing the holy weapons is our mission, and we know how to acquire weapons.”
What were the comments of Olmert spokesman Mark Regev in response to this?
It is to be expected that Hamas would say this, he intoned. This is certainly true. Hamas is known for braggadocio.
However, he explained, the IDF has “substantially destroyed the Hamas military machine” and Hamas will “think twice and three times” before resuming rocket fire. Certainly there is truth here, but how much remains to be seen.
And…said Regev, the “international arms embargo” put into place by European leaders would prevent Hamas from rearming. “Iranian weapons have to reach the Gaza Strip. We have reason to believe that this is going to work.” Olmert is not stupid. He simply cannot believe this. But he wants us to believe it.
I have already provided ample evidence — including the fact that ships go directly from Iran to Egypt — that the plans to block weapons from getting to Egypt aren’t going to work.
Here I want to offer thoughts from Moti Kedar, of the Arabic Department of Bar Ilan, regarding the fact that it is vastly unlikely that smuggling of the weapons that do reach Egypt will be blocked:
The Bedouins (about whom I recently wrote). They make their living in the Sinai by smuggling. As they actually kill and kidnap police, they have yet to be controlled.
Bribes. Low paid Egyptian workers are eager to supplement their income — it’s a way of life for them. “What do you think would be the response of an Egyptian police officer at a Sinai roadblock who earns several dozen dollars a month when a truck packed with “pipes” seeks to go through, and the driver offers him $100?”
The administration. “Mubarak’s decisions on almost any front are completely watered down as they pass through Egypt’s administration. The number of different ranks the decision must go through is immense, and every level removes the parts it doesn’t like.”
Herb Keinon, in today’s Post, examines all that is not clear either to the Israeli press or to the public now with regard to our government positions. The government — either for sound reasons, or possibly, I would suggest, because of fuzzy plans — is playing its cards close to its collective chest.
At the Cabinet meeting yesterday, head of Military Intelligence, Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin, indicated that Hamas would try to carry out terror attacks or rocket attacks to diminish our achievement (something Mark Regev apparently wasn’t aware of when he made his statement, above). But no information was provided for public consumption regarding what we intend to do in such instances.
Writes Keinon, “no clear answers were given as to what Israel would do if it saw Hamas rebuilding factories to manufacture rockets, or continuing to dig arms smuggling tunnels, or whether Israel would hit Hamas leaders when they emerge from their hiding places.”
Keinon reports that when one senior Israeli source was asked who would enforce an operation against smuggling, he said: “Those who need to enforce it, will enforce it.”
This is not a good response. It echoes Aaron Lerner’s concern about Amos Gilad’s foolish response that the public doesn’t need to know if smuggling is going on. Does not inspire confidence.
The one situation in which being reticent may be appropriate is with regard to bringing home Shalit. Olmert is making noises about the fact that this is being advanced. I would like to believe him.
The speed with which we are pulling out of Gaza is unsettling. Originally we were told that our troops would not leave until it was certain that there would be quiet, and that it would hold.
But now there is another, more urgent, reason for adjusting the timetable: Olmert wants all troops out before Obama’s inauguration tomorrow. As a gesture to the new president. Wow! What a good reason. This too represents the old — the appeasing — Olmert. This was announced at a meeting here in Jerusalem yesterday of several European leaders who had come to “assist” with the cease-fire.
Present were French President Nicolas Sarkozy, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Spanish Premier Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Czech PM, Mirek Topolánek.
One news report showed Olmert sitting with Sarkozy, who said, “Israel doesn’t belong in Gaza.” To which Olmert replied the equivalent of words such as, “Don’t worry, we’re going, we’re going.” Not exactly what I would have said.
This, however, is to Olmert’s credit:
Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki told the Post that the ministry was unhappy about Israel’s decision to declare a unilateral cease-fire. “We expected the Israeli side to behave in a different way. We expected Israel to respond positively to [Egypt’s] initiative.”
When Israel opted for a cease-fire, “it didn’t do so in consultation with Egypt, meaning that it did not choose to abide by the terms that we were able to negotiate with the Palestinians.”
Bravo on this! That, of course, was the whole point of going unilaterally: not abiding by Hamas’s terms.
“They do not recognize that there is another party in this conflict… They call it the enemy, and that’s it. They don’t deal with it. [Israel is] “basically saying, it is our decision. We don’t want anyone to interfere… This is not what we expected.”
One major sticking point in negotiations was the matter of opening of crossings, which Hamas was demanding. I think perhaps I finally have the answer I was looking for with regard to this: Israel has made no commitment on this score.
Egypt is very eager to be a major player in what’s happening here now, and the Egyptians do occasionally find their noses out of joint. To advance his leadership role, Mubarak has now invited leaders of Israel and Hamas to meet separately with Egyptian officials in Cairo, on Thursday, to discuss a long term cease-fire and opening of crossings. I have no words regarding any acceptances yet.
Mubarak was given a boost yesterday with a summit to discuss a “durable truce” in Gaza, which he co-chaired with Sarkozy in Sharm El-Sheikh. It was attended by UN Secretary-General Ban and numerous European leaders. This is contradistinction to the recent Arab meeting in Qatar, which the Egyptians boycotted and the Iranians along with Mashaal of Hamas attended.
What’s clear, on the face of it, is that there are enormous fissures and tensions within the Arab/Muslim world.
The foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, Saud al-Feisal, and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Musa (who is Egyptian) held a joint press conference in Kuwait — where an Arab economic summit was held today — at which they warned that the Arab world faces anarchy and an inner split because of the intra-Palestinian struggle, and “Israeli aggression and occupation.”
It is to be expected that Israel would be blamed, when, in fact, Israel’s role is tertiary at most. There are considerable rivalries, control issues, tensions between Shiite and Sunni groups, between radical jihadist and (relatively) more moderate groups. What I think happened with the war in Gaza is that it caused a spotlight to be shined on various Arab fissures, so that the pretense of Arab unity is more difficult to maintain.
This is something that I will want to discuss in more detail over time.
Right now what we’re looking at is the entire issue of whether Hamas or the PA will control Gaza. Egypt, as we’ve seen, is promoting the PA. A fascinating situation, for in previous unity-government negotiations, Egypt — which is perhaps a bit schizoid on the matter, having diverse motivations — pushed the Hamas position.
Ban is also promoting the PA, of course. In Kuwait he urged the Arab League to back Abbas’s attempts to reunite Judea and Samaria with Gaza. “We cannot rebuild Gaza without Palestinian unity,” he declared.
And, naturally, Mahmoud Abbas himself is now reaching out his hand to Hamas, with an olive branch in it, as he invites unity talks. He sees this, I am certain, as his last chance.
My own conclusion, based on the evidence I’ve seen, and the opinions of analysts I respect, is that this will not be possible. The antipathy of Hamas for Fatah, because of their conclusion that Fatah assisted us with intelligence during the war, is enormous. And yet, Egypt imagines that after the PA takes control of crossings inside Gaza, it will be able to negotiate a new unity government. Turkey has also weighed in, and wants to negotiate with Hamas and the PA. We’ll see.
While I certainly want to see Hamas enormously weakened, and unable to smuggle weapons, I am solidly opposed to turning over Gaza to the PA. We would then be subject to a whole new spate of enormous international pressures regarding “peace” negotiations and a Palestinian state. The rationale would be that it was more possible, with one address for all Palestinians.
I will never stop saying it: NO Palestinian state.
Actually, it’s starting already. The EU has announced plans to host meetings to facilitate, first, humanitarian assistance into Gaza, and, then, a “permanent peace arrangement.”
What is projected is a meeting with Foreign Minister Livni on Wednesday, followed by meetings with ministers from Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and the PA. Reports are that Livni might not attend. Has anyone in the EU noticed that we’re having elections in three weeks?
I am amused by concern expressed by PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad that international efforts to support reconstruction in Gaza may “deepen the political rift” if they ignore the PA in the process. What he was referring to was a proposal by EU and UN diplomats to set up an international committee that would fund and organize the Gaza reconstruction.
“I have a political difficulty with this mechanism. It assumes separation between Gaza and the West Bank will continue, and, in not addressing the issue of separation, it may indeed lead to reinforcing it.”
The point he seems to miss is that there IS separation, and the reconstruction work must begin. In any event, the idea that the severely inept and exceedingly corrupt PA should manage funds and oversee Gaza recovery strikes me as nonsensical.
What the EU and the UN, and in a different context, the World Bank, are trying to do is find mechanisms for doing humanitarian work and rebuilding in Gaza that do not allow money to fall into Hamas hands.
Laugh of the day (which we all need): At the Kuwait conference today, Syrian president Assad, a major promoter of terrorism, proposed that Israel be called “the terrorist entity.”
I am mindful of the fact that tomorrow is inauguration day in the US, and in coming days and weeks will have much to say about the new administration.
Today I simply recommend an article on FrontPage that begins:
“Barack Obama isn’t wasting any time making an impression: he has selected the leader of a group that has been named an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas terror funding case to present a prayer during his inauguration festivities. Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), will offer a prayer at the National Cathedral Tuesday.”