Well, last night Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin and Ofer Dekel, chief negotiator on the Shalit issue, returned from Cairo amidst rumors that there would be no deal. Today, after a three hour meeting, the Cabinet declared the issue “stuck.”
While Hamas is saying their demands were consistent throughout, PM Olmert has reported that Hamas reneged on earlier understandings, hardened its position, and made extreme demands.
There was talk of red lines that could not be crossed, and after the meeting Justice Minister Daniel Friedman said, “Hamas made demands that no Israeli government would have been able to accept.”
Part of what is said to be causing the problem is the question of deporting some of the more high level prisoners to be released. But it seems that the key issue is still which prisoners would be released. There were 450 hard core terrorists that Hamas wanted let go, all of whom Israel did not agree to (and perhaps another 1,000 prisoners in addition — this is unclear). The Cabinet approved a suggestion by Diskin that the names of all those that Hamas wanted freed be made public.
The final word was that efforts would continue, but I don’t imagine that anyone truly believes much will come of these efforts.
There have been suggestions here that all of the hoopla about bringing Shalit home made the negotiating more difficult. Hamas negotiators saw the eagerness, the pressure on Olmert, and thought they could shoot for the maximum.
Olmert had attempted to use Netanyahu as a negotiating chip — telling Hamas that they’ll get more from him than the new prime minister will give them, so they had best settle now. But Hamas was not convinced and declared itself prepared to deal with Netanyahu.
Netanyahu has refrained from making any comment on the subject until he is at the head of the government.
Gerald Steinberg, head of NGO Monitor, has called upon ostensible human rights organizations — Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem — to end their silence on Shalit:
“Gilad Shalit has been denied even the most basic of human rights for almost 1,000 days. The unwillingness of human rights organizations to campaign on his behalf is immoral. Their shameful silence on Shalit’s fate amounts to a betrayal of universal human rights.”
Exactly when he will begin his term as head of the government is not yet clear, and today there are hints again that Netanyahu may ask the president for a two week extension to put together his coalition.
In the small hours of Monday morning, an agreement was signed between Likud and Yisrael Beitenu. Under this agreement, head of the party, MK Avigdor Lieberman, will be foreign minister and MK Danny Ayalon will be deputy foreign minister. MK Uzi Landau will head the ministry of infrastructure; Stas Meseznikov, ministry of tourism; and MK Sofa Landver, ministry of absorption. MK Yitzhak Aharonovitch will be public security minister; MK Dudu Rotem will head the Knesset Law Committee.
The agreement touches upon issues of aliyah, absorption, citizenship, strategic goals, and conversion.
Beyond this, however, there has not yet been an agreement with other potential members of the coalition — Shas, United Torah Judaism, Habayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home) or Ichud Leumi (National Union).
With regard to this, I call your attention to Caroline Glick’s latest piece, “Israel’s balance of delusion,” which is so very much on the mark.
With regard to the right wing parties, she focuses on National Union:
“THE ONE POLITICIAN who has been outspoken in opposing the mass release of terrorists has been MK Ya’acov (Ketzeleh) Katz, the leader of the National Union party. Together with the families of terror victims who oppose the government’s intention to release their relatives’ murderers, Katz has been the loudest voice in politics stridently opposing the deal. He has made clear that it will endanger the country and guarantee the murder and abduction of still more Israelis.
“Katz and the National Union have it right on this issue. Indeed, they have it right on just about every major strategic issue they have championed. From their opposition to the failed Oslo process to their opposition to the failed Camp David summit, from their opposition to the withdrawal from south Lebanon and Gaza to their opposition to the failed road map peace process and the failed Annapolis peace process, the National Union has been right all along. It has always stayed true to its principles.
“…[However] FOR ALL of its strategic wisdom and clearheadedness, the National Union is a political home for delusional politicians. In all of its various incarnations…the party has never been able to understand what it means to govern. It has never been able to recognize that politics is the art of compromise.”
Glick then traces an historical pattern of National Union insistence on staying pure, adhering absolutely to its principles — thus bringing down the right-center governments it has been part of at various times and paving the way for leftist governments to come in. An absolutism that became counter-productive.
Netanyahu’s renewed courting of Kadima (which has come to nothing once again), Glick says, was motivated by his unease about depending on the right to stand strong with him in a government. This was clear to anyone following the events. So clear that, this time, even though I prayed that Livni would decline, I understood.
Until this very moment National Union has not declared a final intention to be in the coalition. Very sad, when the good people of National Union should have something to contribute to governing the nation.
With regard to politics as the art of compromise, I would add this:
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana has declared that the EU will significantly change its relationship with Israel if we don’t pursue the establishment of a Palestinian state.
The first response from anyone who is adamantly opposed to such a state is to tell Solana where he can go. But in a largely hostile world, with the US no longer a dependable ally, that is not necessarily politic. And I see that Netanyahu has been playing it a different way: Sure we’ll continue to talk to the Palestinians, he says. It’s just that they have to have a sound economic base first, so we’ll be discussing that.
A hedge. A softer approach. He has been adamant about not committing to a “two-state solution.” His refusal to do so is what kept Livni from agreeing to a unity government.
Now if only he won’t slip, under duress, and move to where he shouldn’t go.
Israeli Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, in the US yesterday, met with Dennis Ross, the designated U.S. envoy to the Persian Gulf to discuss the Iranian issue. He told Ross that Israel would not tolerate a nuclear Iran. While a diplomatic approach to Iran with regard to its nuclear program must tried first, he said that Israel must also prepare for other possibilities.
Now, today, Reuters has released news of a very relevant report entitled “Study on a Possible Israeli Strike on Iran’s Nuclear Development Facilities,” put out by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
According to this, ballistic missiles may be Israel’s first choice of weapon if Iran is hit in a pre-emptive strike. The assumption is that Israel has Jericho missiles, which would be capable of hitting within a few meters of Iranian targets.
It is estimated that 42 of the most advanced Jerichos, which carry 1,650 pounds of conventional warheads, would be sufficient to “severely damage or demolish” Iran’s core nuclear sites at Natanz, Esfahan and Arak.
“If the Jericho III is fully developed and its accuracy is quite high then this scenario could look much more feasible than using combat aircraft,” which carries risks of limits on fuel and ordnance, and perils to pilots.
Two police officers, David Rabinovitch, 42, and Yehezkel Remzarker, 50, were killed in a shooting attack near the community of Massua in the Jordan Valley very early Monday. A group calling itself the Imad Mughniyeh Group” (after the Hezbollah terrorist killed by a car bomb in Damascus in early 2008) has claimed credit.
Note, please, the convoluted thinking here:
At the Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Olmert made a statement about his attempts to forge a peace agreement with the PA:
“If we have not reached [this agreement] by now, this is – first and foremost – the result of the Palestinian leaders’ weakness, lack of will and lack of courage in reaching an agreement. Everything else is excuses and attempts to divert attention from the main issue.”
Of course the PA denied this, saying Israeli negotiators didn’t even supply maps. But never mind. Olmert was saying he offered enough — more than ever offered before — to make a deal possible, but the PA wasn’t courageous enough to take it.
But then what does he say? “The State of Israel will need to make unprecedented dramatic and painful concessions in order to reach peace.”
This is the logic: we offered enough for a peace deal and the PA wasn’t up to it, so in the future Israel will have to make painful additional concessions.
How does one read this without screaming? Typical left wing apologist thinking. Destructive thinking.
Olmert would never say, as he should, we did our part, and we see now that the other side isn’t really interested, so it’s time to call a halt. Never. Better give away the country first.