Before I turn to latest happenings , I would like to update previous information given regarding the appropriate contact information for Condoleezza Rice. Apparently there were some problems with the phone numbers I had provided.
The main switchboard to the State Department is 202-647-4000. But better still, I have discovered that there is a Public Communication Division that accepts opinions from the public. This may be the best way to go:
Phone 202-647-6575 Fax 202-647-2283
It is important to protest before she flies here. This is with regard to Abbas’s pro-terrorist statements of last week — the question being how she can expect Israel to negotiate with him. And now, of course, there is the demand that she not try to prevent Israel from exercising legitimate self-defense.
So, precisely what IS happening here? Good question, to which there is no definitive answer. There is a certain amount of treading water, and a good number of predictable statements from various quarters.
At the request of the Palestinians and Arabs states , the Security Council has met to discuss the situation in Gaza, and is calling for an immediate cessation of violence in the area. (Do they remotely imagine that Hamas pays attention to such demands?) The statement also emphasized that this violence must not interfere with peace negotiations.
Tomorrow the Council meets to draft a resolution; if the Arabs had their way it would be a one-sided condemnation of Israel, but the US is sure to block this.
Hamas is making the most of this, accusing Abbas of collusion with Israel. It issued a statement, addressed to Abbas, saying, "If you think that you will return to the Gaza Strip aboard an Israeli tank you are living in an illusion…"
Khaled Abu Toameh reports that Al Jazeera as well as most of the influential Arab TV stations have provided Hamas with a free platform for leveling its allegations against Fatah. (This tells us a great deal about those Arab nations.)
Many are buying this: There have been violent protests by Arabs across Judea and Samaria because of the IDF operations. In Ramallah there was even a joint rally with protesters displaying flags of both groups.
Israeli Arabs are also on board protesting for Hamas. The Israeli Arab Higher Monitoring Committee — which consists of Israeli citizens who work against the State of Israel — has decided to draft a proposal for national unity between Fatah and Hamas and is planning a rally against Israeli operations on Tuesday. And the Arab MKs — who in my opinion have absolutely no place in the Knesset because they are not loyal to the State — have made their own declarations. MK Jamal Zahalka (United Arab List – Ta’al), for example, claimed that "an offensive on Gaza is an offensive on the entire Palestinian Authority, with everything that this entails."
It is imperative, then, for Abbas to come out strongly against Israel ("worse than the Holocaust") and to voice sympathy for Hamas.
And it becomes clear how foolish are notions , bandied about here in Israel, that see us taking out Hamas so that Fatah can take over.
Abbas did a bit of clarification today, explaining that the halt in talks represented a temporary hiatus. He is, perhaps, hopeful that the US will put a damper on our operations. But this remains to be seen.
Rocket attacks continued today with some 30 launched into Israel, including some Grad-Katyushas into Ashkelon. There have been some injuries.
Early this morning we leveled Ismail Haniyeh’s headquarters, and carried out other operations.
Pressure on Olmert to take major action in Gaza is coming from many quarters, including within his own coalition.
A key advisor to Defense Minister Barak (Labor) put it directly: "Unless Olmert finds a way to decisively address this situation, he will find his coalition unable to support him any longer."
While Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima), chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, announced that he intended to convene a special meeting on the issue. "The State of Israel must make a strategic decision to order the IDF to prepare quickly to topple the Hamas terrorist regime and take over all the areas from which rockets are fired on Israel," he said, adding that the IDF should prepare to remain in those areas for years. Bravo for him!
And so, at this morning’s Cabinet meeting, Olmert’s words — delivered, no doubt, in good part to mollify these critics — were strong and appropriate:
"It must be clear. Israel has no intention of halting counter-terror operations for one moment. Anyone who thinks that by extending the rockets’ range he will deter us from our operations is gravely mistaken. We will act in accordance with the government’s decisions, at the time we decide, with the strength we decide on, without respite in order to strike at the terror organizations – Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others, including their leaders, those who dispatch them and those who supply them weapons.
"Nobody has the right to preach morals to Israel for taking basic measures to defend itself …"
Olmert further asked the rhetorical question as to where all those concerned about humanitarian suffering in Gaza have been with regard to humanitarian suffering in Sderot.
But these are, in the end, just words and not a decision to do that ground operation.
To my astonishment, that great appeaser, Haim Ramon, at the cabinet meeting this morning is reported to have demanded: "Why don’t we shoot at the sources of the fire? According to international law, we are allowed to do it. The issue was legally examined during the Second Lebanon War and the conclusion was that if they fire from a village, we are allowed to fire back even if this is a populated area."
Ramon, you must remember, is Olmert’s good buddy and sometime mouthpiece. He would not say this without sanction. And what he is suggesting is a way of getting tougher that is still not that ground operation.
Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann will now be looking into the legality of shooting back immediately at the site from which a rocket is launched, even if the launching was done from a civilian area.
No decision regarding what comes next — which ultimately may simply be continuation of the operation as it is currently going on and not approval for the full incursion — was made at the Cabinet meeting today. That is being tabled until the Security Cabinet meets on Wednesday.
Now, Wednesday just happens to be when Condoleezza Rice will be here. There is no way, as Aaron Lerner has pointed out, to be certain if this timing is designed to provide an excuse not to escalate, or to enable us to wait until she leaves before beginning the incursion.
It should be noted that we permitted 62 trucks carrying humanitarian supplies to enter Gaza today.
And our government is preparing our representatives abroad for the public onslaught that is ensuing.