That’s the state of the world, actually. And I’ll get to that. But what I have in mind right now is the political situation here. All is hardly sweetness and light.
Barak, it is being said, is going to have trouble maintaining discipline in his party. Apparently there are some who don’t really want to consider themselves part of the coalition (and they are being courted right now by Meretz, although I don’t know if this will go any where).
There are two issues involved. One is the future of the Labor party. The other, far more important for the nation, is the stability of the new gov’t coalition. If all 13 Labor MKs don’t vote with the gov’t then it becomes shaky.
This is one of those situations to be watched closely.
Along with this comes great tension in the Likud party because so much has been given away by Netanyahu in the course of coalition negotiations that there’s little left for Likud party regulars. Needless to say, they are less than happy with the situation and with Netanyahu. Moshe Ya’alom, who was slated to be defense minister (and in my opinion would have been an excellent one) was gracious, saying that for the good of the country, etc. etc… But everyone is not responding this way. Silvan Shalom — a Netanyahu rival — is enormously disgruntled, as are others.
This doesn’t promise good things for party unity, cooperation on the issues, etc. either, although I’ve sure Likud party discipline will be maintained.
Apparently Likud will be negotiating with Habayit Hayehudi and UTJ. What they can be offered is not clear. But it makes sense as back-up. If Labor doesn’t cooperate in total, or ultimately pulls out, it would be helpful if Netanyahu still had a majority (albeit a slim one) without Labor.
The party least likely to be in the coalition is National Union. From everything I know about him (and I know people who know him personally, although I don’t myself), Ya’akov — Ketzeleh — Katz is a very fine human being. But the word is that he’s an abysmal politician. Better put, maybe, he’s no politician. That’s not an insult, except that he has a political position right now. According to Gil Hoffman, political analyst for the Post, Netanyahu’s associates call him “delusional.” Hoffman says that after the Likud-Labor deal, Katz commented that, “Netanyahu has given everyone what they wanted, so he will give us what we want, too.”
I would hope (but don’t expect necessarily) that something can be worked out. As I’ve said before, the National Union has some good people, and I think in particular of MK Aryeh Eldad, and some solid positions. They should be participating in the government and wielding what influence they can.
The good news I can offer politically is this: Netanyahu spoke at an economic conference in Jerusalem yesterday, and once again he emphasized negotiating with the Palestinians on economic matters.
As the Palestinians are very restive about this, he explained that, “It’s a compliment to them,” because a strong economy is a “strong foundation for peace.” Thus he will negotiate with the Palestinians for peace, he says, by which he means on economic matters.
He never utters the word “Palestinian state.” May Heaven keep his spine strong.
Now as to the state of the world. As most of you undoubtedly know, President Obama gave a talk last night, which was primarily focused on economic matters. But in response to questions he did address issues in the Middle East. Making peace between Israel and the Palestinians was not going to be easier now, with Netanyahu at the helm, he conceded, but it was still necessary.
As to Iran, he volunteered this: People criticized him with regard to his recent conciliatory message to Iran because there was no visible change in its leaders in response. But, said the president, “…we didn’t expect that. We expect that we’re going to make steady progress on this front.” You see, he explained, “That whole philosophy of persistence…is one that I’m going to be emphasizing again and again in the months and years to come as long as I’m in this office. I’m a big believer in persistence.”
And me? What I’m going to be emphasizing over and over is what a dimwit philosophy this is. Yes! in some contexts persistence is appropriate and productive. But not here! There is not the time, which is what Israeli leaders have been trying to convey to him. While he’s working away on progress, and being persistent, and not expecting any response yet because there are months and years to come, Iran will be developing nuclear weaponry.
There are some who write to me to say Obama is not stupid, he knows exactly what he’s doing. In some contexts I agree. But here I have my doubts. He wants to be everyone’s friend. He wants the Muslim world to embrace him. But can he really want Iran to have nuclear weapons that threaten US troops in the area (he’s doubly deluded if he thinks they wouldn’t be threatened) and upsets the whole balance of the area??
The hope I have for the US now resides with the information I am receiving about massive grassroots unrest and anger — tea parties and the like. Only the people can turn things around.
The entire libel that has been publicized regarding our “war crimes” in Gaza is a source of both huge anger and much pain here. No other nation has its actions dissected the way ours are, and no other nation has such charges leveled at it wholesale without foundation. The fact that we truly do have the most moral of armies makes the charges obscene.
That members of our own left wing are party to this is exceedingly distressing. What we have is this: Dani Zamir, a left wing instructor with an agenda solicited observations from former students who were in Gaza. They repeated stories that were unverified and in the main were hearsay, but those stories were picked up by media (beginning with Amos Harel in Haaretz), and in one instance were broadcast on the radio. Broadcaster Ofer Shelach of Channel 10 used actors to read the soldiers’ statements but many listening thought they were hearing the voices of the actual soldiers.
That these “reports” — in particular Shelach’s — have transcended journalistic ethics is a given. To me this approaches (though it is not quite) treason, for it undermines our position.
With that said, I turn to the UN, which demonstrates an unequivocal, unmistakable anti-Israeli bias that is vicious.
Now we have UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk, who charged yesterday that our military incursion into Gaza “was not legally justified given the circumstances and diplomatic alternatives available, and was potentially a crime against peace.”
What the hell is a “crime against peace”? He just made this up. Why doesn’t this man condemn Hamas for crimes against peace committed via the launching of rockets against our civilians? Actually, those rockets, deliberately aimed at civilians, constitute a war crime.
But speaking of war crimes… Falk made this comment in the course of a report to that august body, the Human Rights Council, in Geneva. There he explained that our military operation appeared to be “a war crime of the greatest magnitude.” Of the greatest magnitude yet. We’re not only very bad, we’re the very worst.
He then alluded to the rockets launched at us as “retaliatory,” referring in his report to the “Palestinian right of re
Falk and his ilk are serious enemies of the State of Israel.
For the record, what we did in Gaza indeed was legally justified.
Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Roni Leshno-Yaar responded to Falk, saying that his report was a “poorly veiled” support for terrorism against Israeli citizens.
He further said that when Israel acted in self-defense, “wild accusations are made,” but “when Palestinians use the terrorists’ tactic — the coward tactic — of using civilians as shields while leaders make pathetic demonstrations of bravado from bunkers in Gaza and luxury hotels in Damascus, this council condemns Israel.”
Charged Leshno-Yaar, the council “finds fault only in Israel’s most basic right — the right to defend its citizens. It is a double standard that offers a searing view of the dangers of abusing this forum for narrow, politicized objectives.”
Falk’s response to this sounded incredibly like a litany of Hamas claims, and ignored the years during which Israel has endured Hamas attacks. He was factually off base when he claimed that Israel had the alternative of renewing the cease-fire with Hamas, as it was Hamas that refused to renew it. What is more, his data on the number of civilians who were killed, not surprisingly, differed significantly from what Israeli investigation has revealed. (His claim: Only 235 of the 1,434 of the Palestinians fatalities were combatants, another 239 were policemen. Of the 960 civilians who lost their lives, 288 were children and 121 women. More on this below.)
The fight against these people and these charges must be fought; the fallacious arguments and data, the bias, must be exposed. But it’s a long, hard haul.
Make no mistake about it: This is as much a part of a war against us as the rockets. There is an attempt to delegitimize us internationally, and international forum are participating.
Southern Command chief Major-General Yoav Gallant spoke out about charges against the operation in Gaza for the first time yesterday, declaring:
“I’m proud that we have such a moral army, which respects international law.
“The Palestinian gunman held his arms cache in his home, came out to fight and went back to the house believing that we will not target him there.
“All in all, 800 terrorists and 300 civilians we did not want to hurt had been killed in the operation. This ratio, of almost a quarter uninvolved [victims] is an unprecedented accomplishment in the history of campaigns of this nature.”
(Note here: I have reported previously on the ways in which the IDF scrupulous investigated the numbers killed and the percentage that was terrorists — many of whom were not in any uniform.)
“The soldiers were faced with tough moral dilemmas, and at the same time the command was required to exercise moral balance, when every mistake could lead either to the failure of the mission or to the killing of civilians.”
The general said he was in the process of doing an inquiry of all units that participated in Gaza, “and the results give the sense of a moral, disciplined army.”
A correction: I cited recently, from a source, 200,000 houses as being the number given by Ashkenazi that were called by phone in Gaza to warn people to leave before an attack, and I expressed the comment that this was incredible. Well, this must have been a typo, more likely the number of flyers released or something. General Galant indicated that about 300 houses were called, which makes more sense — houses that were going to be directly bombed because of caches of weapons or the presence of terrorists. Only once did a family refuse to leave, he said. This is the case I had referred to, the case of Nizar Rayan.
But, in any event, how many nations in how many war situations, call houses first to warn civilians to get out before the houses are bombed? Does anyone know of a parallel to what Israel — that most maligned of nations — does to protect civilians?
Lastly today then, I have this:
According to a report in Ma’ariv, an IDF officer who fought in Gaza did a personal investigation of the charges I have referred to above.
Zamir’s charges focused on one brigade and the brigade commander took it upon himself to investigate. His findings will now be presented to Brigadier General Eyal Eisenberg, commander of the Gaza division, and after approval, to the head of the Southern Command, Major General Yoav Gallant.
“Regarding the incident in which it was claimed that a sniper fired at a Palestinian woman and her two daughters, the brigade commander’s investigation cites the sniper: ‘I saw the woman and her daughters and I shot warning shots. The section commander came up to the roof and shouted at me, “Why did you shoot at them?” I explained that I did not shoot at them, but I fired warning shots.’
“Officers from the brigade suspect that fighters who remained in the lower story of the Palestinian house thought that he hit the women, and from there the rumor that a sniper killed a mother and her two daughters spread.”
“Regarding the second incident, in which it was claimed that soldiers went up to the roof to entertain themselves with firing and killed an elderly Palestinian woman, the brigade commander investigation found that there was no such incident.”
An officer of an elite unit told Ma’ariv: “…non-combatant civilians were killed without doubt. But there was no deliberate harm done to innocent civilians. I am fully convinced that there was no soldier who shot for no reason out of a desire for revenge. I don’t know of any such cases.”