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March 21, 2009: Small Signs of Strength

June 11, 2009

Motzei Shabbat (After Shabbat)

We need a whole lot more, but I’m grateful for what I’m seeing:

It begins with our new Jerusalem mayor, Nir Barkat, who is standing strong on the issue of demolition of illegal Arab housing in eastern Jerusalem.

The issue at hand right now is housing put up illegally by Arabs in Silwan, which is next to Ir David (the City of David); an archeological park is planned for the land on which these houses sit.

This is one of the most strategic sites in the city, on an international level, which must be an open public area,” Barkat told The Jerusalem Post. “It is certainly much more important than Central Park in New York.”

The city is making efforts to find new housing sites for the residents who will be dislocated. But, says Barkat, “It is inconceivable that we will not follow the rule of law in the city….We are talking about a small group who built homes on a park in an open area, where it is very fair to assume that [in the end] there will not be residential housing.”


And it extends at the moment to Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter, as well.

Seems that for the Palestinian Authority today was “Jerusalem, Capital of Arab Culture for 2009′ day.” Certainly Palestinian leaders used the event to make the most of the issue of the planned housing demolitions. At one gathering in Bethlehem, Abbas declared that our policy of “racism, oppression, land-grabbing and demolitions” had to stop before there could be further peace negotiations.

The PA had planned a whole series of events in Jerusalem to celebrate the day. However, according to existing agreements signed with Israel, the PA is prohibited from organizing events within Israel. And so, Dichter signed injunctions ordering police to “suppress any attempts by the PA to hold events in Jerusalem and throughout the rest of the country.”

Arabs students were prevented from rallying on the Temple Mount with PLO flags; marches in the city were blocked; women distributing paraphernalia for the event were arrested; a conference organized by the PA was shut down; and much more.

I’m sure we’ll hear about how this was not a constructive move for peace. But this feels to me like a welcome and unapologetic movement towards taking back what is ours. May the trend grow.


What will be happening at a national level politically in the next couple of weeks is still up in the air. In addition to anger within the Labor party because of Barak’s push to join the Likud-led coalition, there is now anger within Likud because Netanyahu promised Barak too much as enticement, leaving too little for the MKs of Likud itself.


The other day, I had cited information about Egyptian feelers to US and European leaders to find out if they might find it acceptable if a Palestinian unity government were formed that simply “respected” past PLO agreements instead of accepting or honoring them. My comment was that the Egyptians apparently did not receive a positive response to this, or the Palestinian factions wouldn’t have walked away so fast.

Seems I was premature. The Egyptians are still working on it. Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s intelligence chief, went to Washington this past week to try to convince the Obama administration to abandon the conditions set by the US in 2006, after Hamas won PA elections. Suleiman’s feeling is that there has to be accommodation of Hamas on this matter because it’s so important to have unity, with the Palestinians speaking with one voice.


The perversity — no, the stupidity — of this position is considerable, however. What Suleiman is saying is that it doesn’t matter what the unity government stands for or commits to, as long as there IS a unity government, and that it should receive world recognition.

(Egypt, of course, has its own motivations for promoting that unity government. Success in promoting this would enhance Egypt’s standing in the Arab world, and would reduce pressure for Egypt to open the Rafah crossing or otherwise be responsible for Gaza.)

What the unity government might stand for would be of little consequence, if it were not for a couple of matters that directly impinge on us here:

That government would be the authority overseeing reconstruction of Gaza, which would mean millions flowing to an unrepentant Hamas that would turn the assistance to its own ends. Pressure would grow for us to open the crossings into Gaza.

And the Western world, in its infinite wisdom, would then turn to us and tell us that now that there is one voice for the Palestinians, we must negotiate with them.

This might well happen yet. We may see a (very unstable) unity government formed that has not committed to renouncing violence, or recognizing Israel’s right to exist, or to honoring previous PLO agreements, and we’ll be told to negotiate “peace” with it. Obama, friend to the Muslims and the ultimate promoter of “outreach,” might well embrace this.

Makes a strong Israeli right-wing government capable of saying no all the more important.


What we must hope for, as well, is that Fatah and Hamas will not be able to get their act together on other issues, even if the West caves on this one.

The PA is said to be happy that negotiations on Shalit failed, because the release of hundreds of Hamas terrorists would strengthen Hamas and weaken Fatah. It would increase Hamas popularity in the street. And, according to Khaled Abu Toameh, “The top 10 Hamas prisoners whom Israel has refused to release in return for Gilad Shalit are regarded by the PA as the ‘commanders of Hamas’s army staff’ in the West Bank.”

Doesn’t sound like Fatah-Hamas unity is around the corner.


Friday was Nowruz, the Persian New Year, and Obama took the opportunity to send a video message to Iran, which carried Persian subtitles.

Referring to Nowruz as both “an ancient ritual and a moment of renewal,” he called upon Iran’s leaders to consider engagement with the US that is “honest and grounded in mutual respect.”

“…The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right — but it comes with real responsibilities, and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization.

“…let us remember the words that were written by the poet Saadi, so many years ago: “The children of Adam are limbs to each other, having been created of one essence.'”

The naiveté of such a message is breathtaking.


The response of Iran’s leaders today was pretty much what might have been expected.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the Iranian government does not see any change in American policy, as the US continues to say the country supports terrorism and is seeking nuclear weapons.

An adviser to Ahmadinejad observed that “minor changes will not end the differences” between Teheran and Washington.

“Obama has talked of change but has taken no practical measures to address America’s past mistakes in Iran. If Mr. Obama takes concrete actions and makes fundamental changes in US foreign policy toward other nations including Iran, the Iranian government and people will not turn their back on him.”

Iranian Energy Minister Pervez Fatah said his government welcomes Obama’s greetings but would continue with its nuclear program, none-the-less.


A terrorist attack on a mall in Haifa was adverted this evening when a car holding several kilograms of explosives was discovered parked (as I understand it) in the lot of the mall.

The discovery was made when one of the smaller of several bombs malfunctioned and exploded prematurely, causing an employee in the mall who heard the explosion to call the police.




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