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May 28, 2007: Politics

May 28, 2007

As I post this, there is not yet a clear winner in the Labor party primary. Barak and Ayalon are running so neck-in-neck that the exit poll of one TV channel declared one the winner, and the poll of another TV channel declared the other ahead. In due course we shall hear and the vast likelihood is that there will have to be a run-off after this, in any event.


It has been formally announced that Shimon Peres is running for the presidency; he is the only candidate from Kadima. Olmert has expressed strong support for him, but I figure if Shimon wins that’s a good way for Olmert to get him out of his hair. Not every member of Kadima is supporting him; some have already declared support either for Reuven Rivlin (Likud) or Colette Avital (Labor). There is still time for others to join the campaign, but it’s not clear that anyone will. Election is June 13.


Eleven (count them: 11) Kassams landed in the western Negev today. One man was lightly wounded; two landed in an open wheat field causing a fire. Ironically, while Peretz was casting his vote in the Labor primary today in Sderot, where he lives, three rockets hit.

Olmert is saying that we have to dig in for an extended operation — that this won’t be over soon. But, I’m sorry, that is simply not good enough. Defense officials insist that Hamas is hurting and that we will see results. When precisely that will be, they won’t predict.

All sorts of suggestions are being advanced — from unofficial quarters — on how to stop the barrage without actually doing a ground operation (the thought of which clearly makes Olmert nervous): Turn off their electricity; cut their water for three hours for each rocket; level any location from which rockets are launched, etc.

Meanwhile, it has been announced that Sderot buildings that have been reinforced in the last two years are vulnerable to rockets, because the reinforcement was based on calculations for smaller rockets — the power of them has since been roughly doubled.

Still unclear is the gov’t intention should Kassams stop: Do we let Hamas control our agenda, or do we keep going after Hamas in any event.


Every death of an innocent from violence is a source of great sadness. But sometimes a particular death hits harder in the gut. So was it with Oshri Oz, who was buried today. Stories made the news about how his wife, six-months pregnant, was watching the news on television and saw pictures of a rocket landing near a car — and recognized that it was his car, and collapsed. She collapsed again today at the funeral. Does the world know? Does the world care?


The flip side of this pain, as always, is the enormous humanity of the people of Israel, who rally especially to help each other. In Sderot there is a Hesder yeshiva — the hesder program combines religious study and army service. The students now have launched a yad-b’yad (hand in hand) campaign. They are going out in pairs to various neighborhoods of Sderot, lending help, offering words of encouragement. This is Israel at her finest.


So is this: A Magen David ambulance today transferred an 8-day old Palestinian baby from Gaza to the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer; the child has a congenital heart defect and would not live long without surgery. "We transfer patients from the Gaza Strip under fire on a daily basis," said Moshe Vaknin, of MDA. "Last week, our medics continued to treat a patient while shells were fired at the terminal at Erez. During the Shavuot holiday we evacuated another baby in an incubator, endangering our staff."

Dr. Dudu Mishali, head of the Department of Pediatric & Congenital Cardiothoracic Surgery at the hospital, said that on the average three Palestinian children arrive in his department every week. "We have daily communications by phone and fax with doctors in Gaza. There is no heart surgeon in the Strip, so they transfer all of these children, and there are many, to be operated on here."

The PA pays half the costs, and the other half is paid for by donations raised by the hospital.


Egypt is very worried about what’s going on in Gaza because if the IDF goes in, there may be a flood of Palestinians trying to cross into Egypt. And so Egypt has called the major Palestinian factions to a meeting in Cairo, to discuss ways of bringing quiet to the region — starting with quiet between the factions, which Egypt believes must come first. Yesterday I wrote that Fatah said that they wouldn’t be meeting with Hamas at this meeting; but Hamas people have now changed their minds, and they will be participating.


Rashid Abu Shabak, who was Fatah top security chief in Gaza, has resigned. The word is that he feels he did not get sufficient support from Abbas for his plans to impose law and order on Hamas. This is likely so, but the fact that six of his body guards were killed recently may also have had something to do with it.

His resignation is being seen as a blow to Abbas and Fatah — the "moderate" faction. But I never miss an opportunity to share information about these "moderates." Abu Shabak, who worked as a deputy to Muhammad Dahlan, was the one who personally supervised the preparation of the bomb when Dahlan gave the order for an attack on a school bus in 2000.


Meanwhile, with the approval of the US, donor funds are flowing, via the PLO, to an account controlled by PA Finance Minister Salam Fayyad. The money is expected to be sufficient to pay the PA government workers half their salaries.

However…15 anonymous gunmen have now abducted Hashim Abu Nada, the director general of the PA finance ministry.


The IDF, working with the Shin Bet, has arrested Khaled Shawish, one of the top leaders of Al Aksa Brigades in Ramallah. Wanted by Israel since 2000, he is responsible for the deaths of several Israelis, including Rabbi Binyamin Kahane, son of Rabbi Meir Kahane, and his wife; he has sent out suicide bombers on several occasions. Shawish spent considerable time hiding in the Mukatah, headquarters of the PA president, which Arafat used to shield many wanted terrorists.




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