For nine days I have been away from my computer, celebrating my Mom’s 90th with family in MA. I returned today to learn that my computer will be out of commission for half of tomorrow. And so, I begin here with a brief run-down of various events, with more to follow soon.
When last I wrote, I reported on the November 5th mission of Robert Malley to Cairo and Damascus on behalf of president- elect Obama. He delivered a message, according to Middle East Newsline, of Obama’s readiness to be more responsive to Egypt’s and Syria’s concerns.
This alone is unsettling, but must be followed by additional information: Malley had been an advisor to Obama until last May. But when Malley not only recommended that Hamas be dealt with directly but told The Times that he had had regular meeting with Hamas, it caused a furor. Thus it was announced that Obama had distanced himself from Malley, who would no longer serve an advisory function. Ben LaBolt, an Obama spokesman, said then that Malley “has no formal role in the campaign and will not play any role in the future.” (emphasis added)
But here he is now, serving on behalf of Obama. Questions — serious questions — are being raised about Obama’s integrity in this regard. It should be noted that Malley’s father Simon was of Syrian extraction, but lived in Egypt; he was passionately anti-Israel. This makes son Robert an ideal person to deliver conciliatory messages to Syrian and Egypt, and sheds light on the direction in which Obama may be going.
Regardless of Obama’s actual position regarding matters in the Middle East, perceptions also matter. From various sources I am picking up concerns that the Arab world — rightly or wrongly — sees Obama as being in their pocket. This perception can have serious implications, and I will be following this closely.
From one very knowledgeable source, we have this: “…the Muslim world — from Iran to Libya — regards President-elect Obama as its own. Even Al Qaida quietly sees Obama as a tool in Islamic expansionism.”
From an Obama aide we have a statement regarding Obama’s support for the Saudi “peace” plan, which calls for Israeli pull-back to pre-67 lines.
Also to be watched closely is the situation with regard to an escalating number of rocket attacks — with both Kassams and more dangerous Katyushas — on Sderot and neighboring areas from Gaza.
Tzipi Livni says that this situation represents a “fundamental violation” of the “ceasefire.” What she doesn’t acknowledge is that there IS no ceasefire. If the attacks continue, she declared, a response that would be “harsh and painful” would follow.
This is difficult for me to report on, because what is going on is not tolerable, not something any sovereign nation should tolerate. That “harsh and painful” response is long overdue.
Ehud Olmert talks about pressure on Hamas via keeping crossings closed. Hamas fights back here with PR that fallaciously represents the people of Gaza as enduring inhumane conditions. The fact is that humanitarian supplies are always allowed in, but the world buys into the Hamas version of events quite readily.
And Ehud Barak? He has cautioned that we should not get “carried away” because the “ceasefire” is in our best interest. Said he: “…if the Gaza factions want to resume the truce, we will consider it in a positive light.” We’re talking about more than “resumption” actually — we’re looking at the possibility of “renewal,” as the original terms are about to expire.
Here is the heart of the problem: At the Sunday Cabinet meeting, Olmert declared: “The responsibility for breaking the calm and creating a situation of recurrent continuing violence in he South lies entirely with Hamas…Let no party come to the government of Israel and claim otherwise…”
See, world, he is saying, ever so defensively, we have a right to respond, because they’re the bad ones. “They started it,” as it were. The catch is that even if they weren’t “breaking the ceasefire,” we would have a right to pre-emptive action because of the incredible strengthening of weapons and army Hamas is carrying on inside of Gaza.
An Israeli airstrike on a launching area on Sunday killed four gunmen.
An issue to be watched and explored: Who is calling the shots now, Livni or a very lame-duck Olmert? This is in regard, in particular, to the negotiations with the PA. How much weight do Olmert statements have, when Livni is on a different wave length? And to what degree will the world, and most particularly the Quartet, attempt to hold us to injudicious Olmert statements, such as a recent one stating that we really must withdraw to close to the pre-67 lines?
What undercuts Olmert most are the declarations by Abbas (this is not new) that what Olmert proposes is insufficient. Abbas still insists they must have it all.
Moshe Ya’alon — former IDF Chief of Staff fired by Sharon for his outspoken stance against the disengagement, and currently a senior distinguished fellow at the Shalem Center’s Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies — has announced that he will be running for the Knesset with the Likud.
His readiness to become politically active is most welcome, and his addition to the Likud roster continues to strengthen it.
From the inside, just yesterday, I learned that there is enormous discontent with Ehud Barak, head of Labor, from within the Labor party.
Jerusalem mayor-elect, Nir Barkat, a secular businessman, promises to bring Jerusalem a new dynamism. It is to be fervently hoped so.