Some day — please G-d, before too long — I’ll be able to share with all of you wise and thoughtful decisions being made by the government of Israel. Needless to say, that day has not yet arrived.
A couple of days ago, Ashraf al-Ajami, the PA Minister for Prisoner Affairs, lamented that “On the Palestinian street there is now an understanding that without kidnapping soldiers, we can’t get prisoners released. Through negotiation, we haven’t managed to get prisoners released.”
Putting aside the fact that we have released hundreds of their prisoners in so-called “good-will” gestures, we must understand that this comment is in response to our negotiated trade with Hezbollah. I believe some Palestinian prisoners were included in the deal; and if this is the case it would make the PA feel doubly foolish: Hezbollah even gets our guys released better than we do in negotiations.
Well…this might have been anticipated as part of the fall-out from the deal struck with Hezbollah, but it seems it wasn’t.
And so, what do we see next? Why even ask? More concessions, of course.
Olmert went to Paris Saturday night for the launching of the Union of the Mediterranean (see below). Abbas also went. And sure enough, in Paris yesterday, Olmert promised Abbas that we would release more Palestinian prisoners as a “good-will” gesture.
No information is forthcoming on the identity or number to be released, or when this might happen. Clearly, this has yet to be worked out.
Oh, and there’s more: Reportedly Abbas also asked Olmert to reopen Nablus institutions shut down by the IDF in its action against Hamas. These institutions — charities and commercial enterprises — were all linked by the IDF to fund-raising for Hamas.
This is how ludicrous the situation is. We’re not supposed to come down too strongly on Hamas — identified clearly as a terrorist organization sworn to Israel’s destruction — because it rebounds badly in the street on our purported “peace partner.”
Shall I ask, for the millionth time, what sort of peace partner this is that cannot take a strong stand against overtly terrorist organizations (as compared to the relatively covert support of terrorism of Fatah itself), and what the implications are for a PA-led state if this is their position?
It cannot be emphasized enough: Hamas sets the agenda, not Fatah. The first loyalty of the leaders of Fatah — never mind their ostensible readiness to negotiate with us — is to their brothers in Hamas, and not us. And Hamas is, in any event, much stronger than Fatah.
I have no information on how Olmert responded to Abbas on this request.
Following the announcement about Olmert’s readiness to release more Palestinian prisoners, Menachem Landau, former Shin Bet (secret service) section chief, spoke out against it on Israel Radio.
It has often been the case, he said, as we look at previous releases, that the standing of PA leaders was not boosted significantly, but that, rather, forces acting against us were strengthened. Additionally, this affects the morale of Israeli security forces when they expend enormous efforts to capture terrorists and then see them released.
As to the negotiations with Hezbollah there is this:
Part of the deal required Hezbollah to supply information on what happened to Ron Arad. As I reported the other day, final exchanges were being delayed until information on Arad provided to Israel was studied.
Arad was shot down over Lebanon in 1986 and was captured by a Lebanese Shi’ite movement called Amal. In May 1988, Israel conducted an operation in the area where Arad was held. From that point on, there is no information on him. Apparently the Shi’ites who were guarding him left him to go fight with their comrades.
Speculation is that he was either killed by the guards before they left, or that he escaped. (There is also speculation — largely considered unlikely at present — that he was traded to Iran.) If he did escape, he would have run into mountainous terrain and might have died in his effort. But no one knows for certain, in spite of extensive efforts by Israel to discover the facts.
The material supplied by Hezbollah in its 80-page report in Arabic — which includes old photos of Arad that have purely sentimental value for the family — provides no new information; it describes Hezbollah’s search for him and is essentially no more than an updated version of a report that Hezbollah had provided to Israel in 2004. It was reviewed by members of the Mossad, the Shin Bet, and Military Intelligence.
In spite of this paucity of information , Barak says we are continuing with the deal — the official Cabinet vote to proceed is expected to come tomorrow. The Arad family is decidedly not happy about the current state of affairs; they are convinced that Hezbollah is holding back.
What is perhaps most startling about the decision to move forward on the Hezbollah deal is an expressed concern by the IDF that Hezbollah might be planning to carry out an attack along the northern border after the exchange is complete.
There is also some concern in Israel that Hezbollah, which has veto power in a reformulated Lebanese government, might block renewal of the mandate for UNIFIL, which comes due in August. According to the Post, however, senior IDF officials believe that while Hezbollah might delay the renewal they would be hesitant to totally block it.
My favorite line in the Post article: “Still, the feeling in the IDF is that UNIFIL is not completely implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which…calls for the disarming of Hezbollah.”
The Union of the Mediterranean , initiated by French president Nicolas Sarkozy, is intended as a forum to bring together nations in the region of the Mediterranean from Europe, the Middle East and N. Africa. Over 40 nations participated in the summit, presided over jointly by Sarkozy and Egypt’s president, Mubarak, yesterday.
Much was made of the fact that Syria’s Assad came in from the cold and attended the summit — thereby attracting much media attention. He apparently sat at a table with Olmert (first time they were ever in a room together), but got up and left before Olmert spoke. He also snubbed Olmert, refusing to shake his hand — such a handshake, he said, was for the end of successful negotiations, not now.
On Friday night, a Palestinian with a gun snuck up on two Israeli border policeman at the Lions Gate in the Old City, shooting one in the head and one in the stomach, and then fleeing. The policeman shot in the head at close range, David Chriqui, 19, is fighting for his life.
A rocket was fired from Gaza into Israel on Saturday.
Yesterday two mortar shells were fired.
A bill, promoted by MK Gideon Sa’ar (Likud), allowing the State to confiscate the property of anyone convicted of committing an act of terror passed its preliminary Knesset reading five days ago. (I am assuming that this would apply equally to anyone who blows himself up in the course of terrorism and thus is never convicted.)
The goal is deterrence: terrorists might think twice if their families would be deprived of their property.
Two other similar bills have passed through their respective committees and will now go to the Knesset:
One, also proposed by Gideon Sa’ar, would give the minister of welfare the authority to cancel funds from the State for burial for terrorists. Currently, Israeli residents, even if they die in the course of committing terrorist acts, are eligible for funeral expenses from the National Insurance Institute. (Yes, I know, this is nuts. But hopefully is about to be changed.)
The second, proposed by Yoel Hasson (Kadima), would give the minister of the interior the authority to cancel the citizenship or permanent residency status of anyone taking part in a terror activity or holding membership in a terror organization.
Finally, a bit of sanity in an atmosphere that has been politically correct to the point of the ludicrous.
It tells us a great deal that chairman of the United Arab List faction, Taleb a-Sana’a, calls this “illegal legislation that…is endangering democracy.” Sana’a apparently thinks that terrorists also have rights in a democracy, but I would beg to differ.
Jim Hoagland, writing in the Washington Post, shared this significant perspective from the Israeli ambassador to the US, Salai Meridor (emphasis added):
“‘Sanctions on insurance and maritime and air transportation would raise the cost of Iran’s doing business. But effective sanctions on the import of refined petroleum products could be a game-changer,’ since Iran produces crude oil but lacks refining capacity. The world’s oil companies ‘should not sell gasoline that is used by Iran’s nuclear scientists and its terror chiefs to drive to work.'”
What I am observing is that while unease is expressed regarding the chaos that might result from an Israeli military attack on Iran, and lip service is given to sanctions, the international community is not serious. Russia has just signed an agreement with Iran for the development of oil and gas fields and the construction of refineries.
Similarly, there is an unrealistic take on what the Iranian regime is truly all about. I have just read a statement by a French official about how perhaps Iranian leaders will “come to their senses.” But there is a radical religious elite in Iran that is apocalyptic in its vision, not rational at all.
Irwin Cotler, former justice minister of Canada , taking an activist position on Iran, is initiating an international effort to bring Ahmadinejad to justice for incitement to genocide. Cotler is hoping that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be able to work with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to promote this initiative.