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January 21, 2008: Tu B’Shvat

January 21, 2008

Tu B’Shvat technically is the New Year for trees , which is of Jewish legal significance when the age of trees is calculated. It begins at sundown tonight.

Most years, along with the partaking of fruits , nuts and wine/grape juice, we celebrate with the planting of trees. But this is a Shmita year, when the land must rest. And so we can celebrate by admiring the beauty of Israel’s trees. That seemed to me a good way to start today’s posting, as such things must also stay within our consciousness and our expressions of gratitude.

See here for a photo essay on trees:



The situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate . Israel has given guarantees that there will be no humanitarian crisis: that sufficient supplies to prevent this will be allowed through crossings.

This doesn’t mean there will be no hardship — no fuel, perhaps for private autos.

What has continued to enrage Israel is the false emergency being manufactured by Hamas. I wrote yesterday about how ostensibly the turbines in the Gaza generator had to be turned off because fuel was lacking, and there are pictures being broadcast of Palestinian families functioning by candlelight.

Well…the simple reality is that some 70% of Gaza’s electricity comes from the Israel Electric Corporation, which has not stopped supplying, and another 5% from Egypt. Not quite as Hamas is representing.

In fact, Israel Electric is furious because workmen in their Ashkelon plant — which supplies to Gaza — are at risk of getting hit by Kassams, and it sends out its repairmen to Sderot, where on occasion someone is injured.

As to the turning off of turbines, that was a politically motivated Hamas decision regarding where to allocate the fuel that was available.


Hamas is fingering Abbas as having some responsibility for the current "humanitarian crisis" in Gaza because he hasn’t been tough enough in criticizing Israel. An interesting state of affairs, considering that Hamas-fired rockets are causing the entire crisis.

And a significant state of affairs. I’ve maintained for some time that Hamas sets the tone of Palestinian political discourse, and this proves the point. Abbas would never turn and point a finger at Hamas for causing problems; rather, he’s quick to show what a loyal Palestinian he is by further criticizing Israel.

It should be clear as clear can be that there is no real possibility of negotiations within such a climate. And, in fact, pressure from Hamas on Fatah to stop negotiations is growing. For Abbas to associate with us runs him the risk of appearing a "traitor" by Hamas lights.


MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud) said today that according to representatives of the defense establishment, who spoke before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, all building projects beyond the Green Line have been frozen.

"There is no building beyond the line, even in what is considered sovereign Israeli territory. The prime minister has assumed authorities without the government’s approval."

That son of a… whoops, I must remain professional. This is absolutely not what Olmert led us to believe he was going to do. Remember the brave statements regarding continued building at Har Homa, which is part of Jerusalem?

Olmert’s office is denying this report , saying that it is unfounded. To this Rivlin has countered that there has to be special permission from the PM’s office for construction to be done in Jerusalem:

"The truth has come to light in all its gravity. There will be no construction outside the Green Line, even in sovereign Israeli territory, including Jerusalem’s neighborhoods.

"The prime minister has taken liberties without awaiting the government’s approval or a Knesset discussion, and in contradiction with the road map, which recognizes Israel’s right to expand the settlement blocs in accordance with natural growth."


I rather like the statement of Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski, who has said the municipality will continue to build everywhere in Jerusalem: "Israel must not become the first country in the world to turn its capital into an illegal outpost.

"This is an illegal decision which stands in contradiction to the government’s own decisions, as stipulated in the Jerusalem Law."


I mentioned recently that the Jewish community of Hevron had hired an expert who concluded that the purchase of Shalom House from the Palestinians was legal. Since then there has been renewed pursuit of this matter within the legal system. Arutz Sheva reported that the Palestinian who sold the house — which purchase he claimed was a Jewish forgery — has now been arrested by the PA for selling to a Jew.


In the midst of all of this turmoil, I did want to touch , at least briefly, on the political situation here. Somehow it keeps getting tabled in these postings because of other things that are happening.

An overview (with the understanding that things might change an hour from now):

— In the final analysis it seems Winograd has been politicized and will not be severely criticizing Olmert and company in its final report in the manner that had been anticipated. There is some nonsense about the failures of the Lebanon War falling to the IDF. But, excuse me, it is my clear understanding that the political echelon made horrendous mistakes. I think there will be enough fault to go around when the report is released in ten days.

— As I indicated yesterday , there is a major grassroots campaign developing — the activity of the Reservists being only part of it — that is aimed at getting both Olmert and Barak to quit. Emphasis is being put on Barak, who would bring down the gov’t if he brought his party out of the coalition; Olmert swears with his every breath that he will not move up the date for elections or resign.

— Barak is being put on the spot because he made a very clear statement about leaving when the final Winograd report came out. But he is reluctant because if there are elections it is highly likely that Netanyahu and Likud will come out ahead and not Barak and Labor — he’s afraid of losing all power.

An alternative scenario he is said to be considering is to try to push Olmert out, which would make the electorate happy, without actually forcing elections; this would allow him to remain part of a governing coalition.

— Should Olmert actually go, it had been assumed for some time that Livni would step up. But she is being challenged from within Kadima, and this is no longer a working assumption. Mofaz is Livni’s chief rival, though there are others.

— Yet another scenario recently advanced by Caroline Glick has 11 members of Kadima breaking off and starting another party, which would destroy the coalition. I have no clue what sort of likelihood there is of such an occurrence. It seems that earlier talk of former Likud members of Kadima returning to Likud has fallen flat — their welcome back being something less than overwhelming. And yet, these people have a desire to cut and run before Kadima falls totally on its face.


Statistics of note: In spite of all the difficulties, 10,000 additional Jews moved to Judea and Samaria this past
year, bringing the number to 270,000, living in 130 settlements, with 80% in major settlement blocs.




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