Yuval Diskin, head of Shin Bet, provided a report for the Cabinet yesterday.
Some Jerusalem neighborhoods, he told them, were becoming hotbeds of Hamas activity and a serious security problem. The neighborhoods of Abu Dis and Azariya were mentioned in particular, as was Shuafat.
Now, if I live to be 120 I will not understand everything that is taking place. All I can do is report on it. Seems the neighborhoods that are considered most problematic are on the “other side” of the security fence. That is, the fence, designed to keep out terrorists from Israel proper, is not contiguous at every single point with the municipal border — while in some places the fence extends beyond the municipal border, here and there the municipal boundary extends beyond the fence. The IDF apparently does not operate in these areas, which are not part of Judea and Samaria, but rather — as part of the municipality — part of Israel proper. But the Jerusalem police don’t go often to the other side of the fence. And so there is less law enforcement or deterrence activity in these areas than is the case in Judea and Samaria — a security vacuum.
(I hasten to mention, however, that the Arab neighborhoods from which the two tractor terrorists hailed — Umm Tuba and Sur Bahir, as well as the neighborhood of the Rav Kook yeshiva terrorist — Jebl Mukabir — are all inside the fence, as is Shuafat, so I am further confused.)
Diskin reported, as well, that Arabs from Judea and Samaria were increasingly filtering into these neighborhoods illegally, and in some cases were making their way into Jerusalem on this side of the fence.
In the first seven months of 2008, there have been 30 terror related deaths in Israel, as opposed to 13 for all of 2007; half of these killings were carried out by Arabs resident in east Jerusalem.
Diskin conceded that current methods of deterrence are not working sufficiently. The question now is what will be done.
Public Security Minister Avi Dichter is calling for housing demolitions and deportations of people associated with terror. And he makes the additional point — which must be attended to without delay — that there are Arabs working in construction in the city using equipment that is heavier and more dangerous than the tractors that have been used twice so far now.
Diskin reported on a significant increase in what he called “popular terrorism,” by which he meant relatively spontaneous acts by individuals not affiliated with any terror group. This is certainly how the two tractor terrorists are being represented.
But my perspective is slightly different. Khaled Abu Toameh ran a piece the other day in which he said that in both cases it is believed that the tractor terrorists, who had criminal records and had been associated with drugs, were trying to redeem themselves with family and community. Well…for me this is a no-brainer: If redemption of reputation is achieved via a terrorist act, then what we’re talking about is a situation in which the community values terrorism. The individual may not have been recruited for the terrorist act, but he was certainly inspired by the values of the community. This is not a “lone” act.
On yet another somber note, Diskin told the Cabinet yesterday that since the “ceasefire” has been in effect, “four tons of explosives have been transferred into Gaza for Hamas, as well as 50 anti-tank missiles, light arms, and materials for Kassam rocket manufacture – metal rods and gunpowder.”
And still we sit here, with a prime minister and a defense minister grateful for the apparent quiet and the future be damned.
Hamas and Fatah are at each other’s throats.
A blast in Gaza on Friday that killed five members of Hamas and a young girl is being blamed on Fatah, which is denying it. Hamas arrested some 160 Fatah men on Saturday, and seized material from the offices of the PA news agency WAFA and other Fatah offices.
In response, Fatah has rounded up dozens of Hamas members in Judea and Samaria.
An editorial from The Daily Star, in Lebanon, on this subject is well worth citing (emphasis added):
“…the fighting has…served to greatly undermine the Palestinian cause. It has become increasingly difficult for the international community to feel sympathy for the Palestinian people…The image of lawlessness and internecine warfare conveys the image of a people who are simply not ready for self-governance or an independent state.
“International mediators will soon grow tired of helping those who show no interest whatsoever in helping themselves.”
Meanwhile, Egypt yesterday announced an effort to relaunch the “Palestinian dialogue,” in an attempt to bring the two sides together. Abbas, who now says he has no preconditions for such talks, appears more eager than Hamas, which has not yet responded to plans to invite the two sides to Cairo.
Condoleezza Rice is pressuring Israel and the PA to come up with a “document of understanding” before the opening session of the UN General Assembly, to show what has been accomplished. An unnamed Israeli official, cited by Haaretz, said that gaps remain on most issues and that “neither we nor the Palestinians want a deadline that can’t be met…”
Foreign Minister and head of the negotiating team, Tzipi Livni, yesterday spoke out strongly against such pressure:
“I purposely am not setting deadlines because I think that’s very bad. I very much don’t want to be in the same situation that Ehud Barak was in at Camp David at the end of an American administration finishing its term and trying to put pressure on everyone to bridge gaps that cannot be bridged.”
While today Olmert told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that:
“I don’t believe we can reach an understanding this year that includes the Jerusalem issue. There is no practical chance of reaching an overall understanding on Jerusalem.”
Without Jerusalem, there is no deal.
I close here with a most perceptive piece on Obama by Jeff Jacoby, “Missing from the Berlin speech.” Jacoby looked at Obama’s speech in Berlin not by parsing each word and focusing on what he said, but, rather, but observing what he missed in the larger sense:
“‘People of the world,’ Obama declaimed, ‘look at Berlin, where a wall came down, a continent came together, and history proved that there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one.’ But the world didn’t stand as one during the Cold War; it was riven by an Iron Curtain. For more than four decades, America and the West confronted an implacable enemy on the other side of that divide. What finally defeated that enemy and ended the Cold War was not harmony and goodwill, but American strength and resolve.
“Obama’s speech was a paean to international cooperation. ‘Now is the time to join together,’ he said. ‘It was this spirit that led airlift planes to appear in the sky above our heads.’ No – it was a Democratic president named Truman, who had the audacity to order an airlift when others counseled retreat, and the grit to see it through when others were ready to withdraw.”
The message of unity that Obama delivers appeals mightily to many Americans. But what must be asked is if he has the staying power to confront the implacable enemies that the world now faces. Many of us here, looking into the eyes of that enemy, fear that he does not. His Berlin speech does not reassure us.