Nothing critical to report today on the political horizon. Wish there were. Olmert and Livni have met and agreed to work together, cooperating in order to promote the "diplomatic process," i.e., the giveaway of Jewish land. Is this not beyond contemptible?
Olmert has also met with Ehud Barak, who is vying for the position of leader of the Labor party. Seems there was talk of some agreement by which Barak, as party head, would not take Labor out of the coalition in return for Olmert agreeing to early elections — how "early" was not stipulated. In exchange, Labor would keep all its current portfolios, which means Barak would get to be Defense Minister.
Arutz Sheva, however, is reporting that Barak aides are saying he will not sit in an Olmert government, and that this was merely an idea that was floated from the other side in an attempt to save the coalition.
Barak had been running more or less neck and neck with Ami Ayalon, but slipped a bit after the Winograd Report said that his decision to pull out of Lebanon precipitously in 2000 contributed to our current problems. And there is plenty of impetus within Labor for pulling out of the coalition. Ayalon has called for Olmert to resign; MK Ofir Pines-Paz is setting up a protest tent outside of Olmert’s home.
Before I turn to other matters, I want to call your attention to a scathing critique of the government by Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz on Friday. Says Horovitz:
"For page after relentless page it continues, exposing, layer after horrifying layer, a picture of Israel’s military and political capabilities so dismal, so complacent and amateurish, as to defy belief. "It can’t really be this bad, can it?" you find yourself saying as you turn the pages. And then comes yet another clause, highlighting yet another untenable reality, to confirm that, yes, it really can be.
"…The ineptitude catalogued by the Winograd panel beggars belief. Non-ideological in its critique, the report exposes staggering incompetence and lack of basic professionalism at the highest levels of the military and political establishments. Israel will only survive in this regions, it makes plain, if it undergoes a fundamental overhaul of the way it governs and defends itself.
"…That any of those indicted here – and that’s what Winograd is, a searing indictment of fundamental incompetence at the top – have dared to try to cling on to office in the wake of its publication is beyond unworthy."
Called "A searing indictment," Horovitz’s piece is very difficult to read, yet must be read.
Five Kassam rockets have been shot from Gaza today into the western Negev area; one woman was moderately injured. Islamic Jihad has taken responsibility.
A security guard riding on a truck was severely wounded today in a drive-by shooting that took place in a village outside of Ramallah. An offshoot of Al Aksa Brigades has claimed responsibility.
I reported recently about violence unleashed by Palestinian gunmen in Gaza against international staff of UNRWA. Today John Ging, head of UNRWA in Gaza, and Palestinian officials were attending a ceremony for a sports day in an UNRWA elementary school near Rafah. As they left the school, a group of some 70 people surrounded them, chanting. Some hurled grenades and opened fire with automatic rifles. A guard was killed and six others, some students, were wounded.
PA officials say that these gunmen are Islamic fanatics — of an al-Qaida affiliated group that adheres to Wahhabism — who went on a rampage because boys and girls were participating together in sports activities, which is against Islam. They had gathered outside the school the day before, issuing warnings, and claiming that UNRWA pulls people away from Islam. UNRWA staff is currently holding meetings to determine how to handle this.
If I were a member of international staff of UNRWA in Gaza now, I’d be out of there lickety-split. And that is exactly what most UNRWA staff has already done. But please understand: The bad guys, the very worst of the bad guys, are calling the shots.
Israel is concerned about the biggest military buildup along the Syrian border since 1973. This is an exceedingly schizoid situation, as just weeks ago Syria was making a pretense of seeking peace negotiations.
The US has been promoting something they are calling "benchmarks": Specifically defined criteria to which Israel and the PA are being asked to conform along a timeline, in the interests of easing the situation.
Israel is being requested to do such things as improve procedures at crossings, remove some roadblocks, facilitate the movement of materials and people between Gaza and Judea & Samaria, and permit weapons and equipment to reach "security forces loyal to Abbas." Olmert reportedly intends to consider these requests this week in consultation with security forces and the IDF. Israel is already saying that some of these requests can be considered but the security situation makes it impossible to consider implementing others. The issue of allowing movement between Gaza and Judea & Samaria was raised with the Rafah agreement in late 2005, but was never implemented because it is a security horror. As well, removal of roadblocks, just as things are heating up and violence on the road is increasing, is a recipe for violence. Not to mention permitting Abbas’s forces to have additional arms.
The PA, for its part, is being asked to stop smuggling of weapons and shooting of Kassams. To this, some members of Fatah, notably Saeb Erekat, responded positively. But Hamas has rejected it out of hand. Said Mashaal: "I swear it’s a farce … the equation has now become: dismantling the checkpoints, in exchange for (giving up) resistance…"We in Hamas are also preparing ourselves for battle, and we expect hot months." A Hamas spokesman said: "We forcefully reject this abject and terrorist plan because it calls for killing the Palestinian people and legalizing the occupation of Palestinian territory in exchange for security,"
Khaled Abu Toameh in the Post is reporting exceedingly high tensions between Hamas and Fatah; violence may erupt at any time. Abbas is exceedingly discouraged by his inability to convince the international community to support the unity government. Said his aide: "The Palestinian cause is no longer receiving the same attention it used to receive by the world." Haniyeh is threatening to disband the PA in protest against the sanctions.
Both Abbas and Olmert, it should be noted, have been too distracted by internal political happenings to continue with their regular meetings. Rice is reportedly due here next week; no clue as to what she thinks she can promote.
There have been several incidents today in the Jenin area in which Palestinians shot at, or threw an explosive device at, IDF forces.
Additionally, a man at a checkpoint near Ramallah was found to be carried a concealed knife, and was turned over to police.
And Palestinians hurled Molotov cocktails at an Israeli car driving near Kalkilya in Samaria.
Seems that Time Magazine has named Tzipi Livni as one of the world’s 100 influential people. Actually, bewilderingly, she is in the category of "leaders and revolutionaries," which includes bin-Laden and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Condoleezza Rice wrote a tribute to Livni for the magazine:
“Tzipi’s strength to endure, indeed to excel, in what were difficult, often heartbreaking, conditions was a testament to her character. Tzipi and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have the foresight to know that a Palestinian state is in Israel’s greatest interest, and that they must pursue the cause of peace with their Arab neighbors."
I think this makes me sick to my stomach. If only Rice would wrap her mind around the fact that what is "in Israel’s greatest interest" is strong deterrence power against Palestinian Arabs who are out to destroy us.
Let me end today with good news. That news involves the people of Israel — the greatest asset we have, the greatest reason to remain proud of Israel in spite of the shame of our government.
— The Israel Center for Third Sector Research at Ben Gurion University has just released a report on "Israel Society during the Second Lebanon War." It reports that while the government was absent in the north, non-profit organizations made every effort to fill the vacuum. The report is 80 pages long. Ten pages are devoted to the city of Beit Shemesh, the only city singled out for special notice, as its non-profit agencies assumed responsibility for hosting 1,000 people who fled from rockets in the north. A sterling organization called Lemaan Achai assumed financial and logistical responsibility for these people, seeing that they were housed and fed three meals a day for a month; they even arranged activities for the kids.
— Evelyn Gordon has written a wonderful column, "I have set before you life and death." This is what G-d told the Jewish people: "I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore, choose life."
Gordon describes "one of the most awe-inspiring developments of the past six years of fighting: the surprising number of Israelis who have responded to one of life’s worst tragedies – the death of a child in a terror attack or military action – with an impulse to make the world a better place." She enumerates several such instances:
The Koby Mandell Foundation, established after Koby was brutally murdered by terrorists, which provides assistance to youngsters traumatized by terrorism. http://www.kobymandell.org/
The Malki Foundation, established after Malki Roth’s life was taken in a suicide bombing, which helps families care for special needs children at home. http://www.kerenmalki.org/
A home for lone soldiers (without family in the country) that the family of Benji Hillman decided to establish after he was killed in Lebanon. They are still seeking funds to realize this. For more information, contact Evelyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The public garden of Israeli native plants to be built by the family of Jonathan Einhorn, who also fell in Lebanon, using the compensation money provided by the government.
Stand tall, Israel!
And more good news as Sarkozy wins the presidential election in France. We are going to see a shift in policy there that promises good things for Israel and the US.
This posting can be found at: https://arlenefromisrael.info/current-postings/2007/5/6/may-6-frozen-in-place.html