Yesterday the IDF put out an announcement regarding “gestures” to the PA that are about to be instituted: removal of some 60 (no this is not a typo) dirt roadblocks, opening of a checkpoint near Hevron, and unrestricted movement for Palestinian Arabs on the Kedar Road south of Ma’aleh Adumim. As always, these “gestures” present security risks to Israeli civilians.
But hey, the Palestinian Arabs have been so peaceful, so conciliatory in their outreach to us that they deserve this. Right? Those threats of violence, their boycott of our goods, their failure to even pretend to be negotiating in good faith — none of this matters.
I titled this post “Inexplicable,” but actually it might better be called “Disgusting.” In point of fact, what has happened is quite explicable: We are not “negotiating” with the PA at all, and not doing this for them. We are negotiating with the US administration, and moving to keep Obama happy. This is clear.
In fact, on Sunday Netanyahu actually complained that Mitchell is talking about different things to each side — allowing each side to raise the issues it wants. This means there is no give-and-take back and forth between the two sides, which is what “negotiations” are all about. It’s a farce of considerable proportions. But, I am assuming, at some level this makes the man in the White House happy because he has “restarted” negotiations.
In the course of his statement concerning “negotiations,” Netanyahu denied that he discussed a land swap (which is what Abbas had claimed). In truth, we have no way to be certain, but if the two sides are talking about different things, maybe Abbas discussed this with Mitchell, and that’s as far as it went.
One of the so-called “gestures” that was advanced was permission for 50 licensed Israeli tour guides to bring groups into Jericho and Bethlehem, areas under the control of the PA. But the Israeli Tour Guide Association has put out a statement “forcefully” objecting to this and demanding the cancellation of this provision. Tour guides would be exposed to danger, the statement says. Besides which, they would be confronting additional competition, as a commensurate number of Palestinian Arab tour guides would be permitted to lead tours inside of Israel.
Is anyone thinking, when these “gestures” are proposed?
There is increased movement in the international community to make nice with Syria. French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner has just called on Syrian president Bashar Assad. While German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, who visited two days ago, went on record as saying, “Whoever wishes to support the peace process in the Middle East must also seek talks with Syria.”
Considering Syria’s role in smuggling weaponry to Hezbollah, this is a decidedly bad turn of events. And it is the US we have to thank for it. For it was a shift in US policy that took Syria out of diplomatic isolation. Among those visiting Syria in the last few days was Senator John Kerry, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a strong proponent of engagement with Syria; this is his third visit since 2009.
If you doubt that a shift in US policy has radically effected the situation vis-a-vis Syria, please consider Assad’s words:
In an interview with the Italian paper La Republica, yesterday, he said that Americans have lost their influence. Now he blames it on the fact that they “don’t do anything for peace,” but put more broadly, it means that Obama has pulled back, declining to be a strong force in this part of the world.
Said Assad: “Out of this failure, what’s emerging out of necessity is another alternative — a geostrategic map that aligns Syria, Turkey, Iran and Russia linked by politics, common interests and infrastructure.”
Scary stuff, and this is not about “peace” but power. Russia is eager to be a counterweight to US influence, while Syria is more closely allied with Iran than ever, and the Turks also see the handwriting on the wall. No “engagement” with Kerry is going to change this.
Meanwhile we are engaged in our fourth annual nationwide civil defense drill — this simulates the situation we would have to deal with if attacked by Iran, Hezbollah, Syria and Hamas.
Syria responded with unease to this, seeing in it a bit of saber-rattling. Netanyahu was quick to offer reassurance:
“I would like to make it clear that it is not the result of any exceptional security development. On the contrary, Israel wants calm, stability and peace.
“However it is no secret that we live in a region that is under the threat of missiles and rockets. Israel’s best defense against this threat is — first of all — maintaining deterrence and the IDF’s decisive capability, and these we develop without letup.”
But, said our prime minister, it was “important to bolster citizens’ awareness vis-a-vis the protection issue…”
Myself, I’m not adverse to a bit of muscle flexing — this seems to me part of deterrence. What is deplorable for me — and many others — is the sense of our being “sitting ducks,” with Hezbollah acquiring those rockets and missiles in the north. Such acquisitions are not intended for peaceful purposes, we can be sure. Sooner or later…
Material has come out on the Internet, some of which has been shared with me by deeply worried readers, indicating a possibility that we will get hit by Hezbollah — using non-conventional weapons — this summer. I’ve checked several sources, and all confirm my gut feeling on this, which is that such predictions are very “iffy.” One knowledgeable source said that Iran wants things to remain quiet right now and is unlikely to stir up Hezbollah within the next few months.
Bottom line for me here is that whatever intelligence has been acquired by sources predicting such attacks is also in the hands of our IDF — such intelligence and a great deal more. At the end of the day, nothing I can write, or encourage my readers to promote, will make an iota of difference with regard to this. It falls to the IDF and our intelligence services to stay on top of the situation and to respond with appropriate force when the time comes. I trust that they will.
Would I like to see a pre-emptive attack on our part at the appropriate time? Oh yes! But, needless to say, this is not in my hands.
Our leaders, our defense decision-makers, our intelligence brass, all have to do their utmost — with fierce determination to protect our people and our nation. But at the end of the day, it’s in the hands of Heaven.
A “Freedom Flotilla” of ships is in the Mediterranean headed toward the coast of Gaza, with the declared intention of breaking the (non-existent) “blockade” being maintained by Israel. I want to address this is some more detail tomorrow, for the PR being put out misleads severely.
The goal of this project, very clearly, is political and not humanitarian. See this statement by Yigal Palmor, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman:
“Since the ceasefire in January 2009, well over a million tons of humanitarian supplies entered Gaza from Israel – that is almost a ton of aid for each man, woman and child in the Strip.
“The land crossings remain the most efficient system to transfer goods to Gaza, and the flotilla organizers are well aware of this fact. The organizers also know that since December 2008, their ships have been denied permission to land.
“Israel has invited the organizers of the flotilla to use the land crossings, in the same manner as all the reputable international organizations.
“However, they are less interested in bringing in aid than in promoting their radical agenda, playing into the hands of Hamas provocations. While they have wrapped themselves in a humanitarian cloak, they are engaging in political propaganda and not in pro-Palestinian aid.
“If the organizers were truly interested in providing humanitarian aid – as opposed to engaging in publicity stunts – they would use the proper channels to ensure delivery of any supplies.”
See also, with thanks to Jacob G., this link to a Palestinian magazine from December 2009, which shows some of the products in generous quantities, agricultural and otherwise, available to Gazans, who are said to be totally without:
It’s good news, and way past due, that we are likely to see a bill passed by the Knesset that would severely limit the perks provided to security prisoners (largely Hamas) in our prisons. What we offer them now — which is insane — far exceeds what is required by international law. There are different versions being proposed, but support for this is strong and whatever final version emerges is highly likely to pass, with three readings required.
This is, to begin with, simply the right thing to do. There is no reason why Arabs who killed Jews or attempted to do so, or are allied with those who seek to do so, should be able to acquire degrees while in our prisons, or watch television, or have parties in their cells.
Beyond this, the desire to secure the release of Gilad Shalit is motivating this legislation. The hope is that families of those in our prisons will pressure Hamas to let Shalit go, in order to secure more leniency in the conditions for their relatives. Keeping Shalit becomes, at least in theory, a liability.
Astrophysicists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, and some of their associates abroad, have identified a new type of exploding star. Prior to this, two kinds of supernovae had been identified — hot, young giants that collapse under their own weight, and old, dense white dwarves that blow up. The newly discovered supernova fits a different pattern — with high levels of calcium and titanium being thrown out as the star explodes, suggesting a nuclear reaction involving helium. It is believed that this discovery may shed light on some previously unexplained phenomenon in the universe.