Israel is launching a massive PR campaign in the face of the capture of the arms ship yesterday. All ambassadors to Israel from foreign nations were summoned to the Ashdod port to see for themselves, as Foreign Minister Lieberman put it, “lethal weapons meant entirely to be aimed at civilians.”
More than 3,000 missiles were on this ship.
I am waiting — having picked up nothing yet — for a response on this from Obama. There he is, making nice with Iran. How will he deal with the information that has been released regarding the weapons ship? Will it still be business as usual, and will he still be “going that extra mile”?
Various munitions experts have done a first examination of the cache of weapons. The weapons came in boxes that had markings on them in various languages: Chinese, Russian, Spanish and English. In some cases there were other languages on the weapons themselves. The thought is that at least some of these were manufactured elsewhere and then shipped to Iran. The Katyusha rockets, for example, seem to have been manufactured in Russia.
Unquestionably, however, many containers were marked boldly with “IRISL” — the mark of the Iranian shipping lines. The IDF believes the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is behind the shipment.
Other information not yet available when I wrote yesterday has now come to light:
 The ship, the Francop, is owned by the Dohle company in Germany, and was rented to the Cypriot shipping company UFS.
 While the shipment began in Iran, UFS was not involved the entire way. About 10 days ago, an Iranian cargo ship left the Bandar Abbas Port in Iran, and carried its cargo — via the Arabian Sea and the Suez Canal– to the Egyptian port of Damietta, which is near the canal. There it was unloaded, and then the crates were re-loaded onto the Francop. Its scheduled route in the Mediterranean would have brought it to Cyprus, Lebanon, and then Syria.
I have picked up no indication that the Egyptians had any clue as to what was in the containers loaded and unloaded in their port. My assumption is that they did not.
It is hoped that this incident will have the effect of enhancing the effectiveness of economic sanctions against Iran. As I understand this, shipping companies that might have looked the other way in terms of carry commercial cargo from Iran will now be nervous about what they are truly carrying and more reluctant to cooperate. This is the reasoning, at any rate.
In spite of incredible intelligence and a stunning operation, Israel knows it is impossible to stop all of the smuggling of arms into Lebanon for use by Hezbollah. This, quite simply, is because of Syrian participation. It is common knowledge — I’ve reported on this several times over the last couple of years — that at night trucks carrying weapons cross over Syria’s border into Lebanon. UNIFIL more or less stays clear. That is, it is being done under the noses of the international force charged with preventing the re-arming of Hezbollah.
Similarly, it is known that a route exists that brings weapons from Iran to Hamas in Gaza. The weapons are brought by ship to the port in Sudan on the coast of the Red Sea, and then are brought north overground into southern Egypt, and then up to Gaza. Our air force hit such a convoy of trucks last January.
It is an Iranian interest to keep its proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas, well armed. Right now it is thought that Iran is particularly concerned with doing this because Hezbollah and Hamas would be utilized in attacks against Israel, were Israel to hit Iranian military installations.
In this instance, a ship was used rather than trucks because of the enormous amount of weaponry being transported. The IDF has indicated that this is weaponry for an army, not a terrorist operation.
These crates, which have now been transferred to storage in two IDF warehouses in central Israel, required some 32 trucks to transport them. Except for some research, the weapons will not be utilized.
Looks as if the vote in the General Assembly on the Goldstone Report may not take place until tomorrow. It is my understanding that the American delegation has absented itself from debate.
With regard to that report, Jihad Watch has called our attention to a piece in Al Jazeera from October 28 that cites Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the secretary-general of the OIC — the Organization of Islamic Conference. According to him, the Conference was the “initiator” of a war crimes inquiry into our actions in Gaza.
“On January 3, during the attacks on Gaza, we convened the executive committee of the OIC on a ministerial level. It was decided that the OIC group in Geneva should ask the Human Rights Council to convene and consider the possibility of sending a fact-finding mission to Gaza.
“The OIC was instrumental in getting through this resolution…”
In the same interview, Ihsanoglu indicated that OIC was doing everything possible to protect the al-Aksa Mosque from destruction due to excavations by Israel beneath it.
“We hope that the political will of the 57 member states of the OIC will be able to levy international pressure – through various channels – on Israel to stop threatening the al-Aksa Mosque…
“About two weeks ago at UNESCO’s general assembly in Paris, I called on the UN and UNESCO to declare East Jerusalem, the historical city of Jerusalem, as a world historical site – untouchable…”
The latest on the mass confusion that passes for Palestinian politics:
The big news right now is that a PA official has informed the media that Abbas says he won’t be running for president in the next elections. Abbas was said to have made this announcement at a meeting of the executive committee of the PLO. According to Yasser Abed Rabbo, who heads the committee, he could not be dissuaded from this decision and will be making his formal announcement later today.
My first response was, “Yea, sure,” for Abbas has made such threats many times in the past. And guess what???
“Experts (which ‘experts’?) believe that unless enormous international pressure is exerted on Israel to change its settlement policy, Abbas will remain true to his word and refrain from running for re-election.”
So we have more game-playing and one more Abbas ploy. Even if he does “announce” after this goes out, don’t take his word for it, please.
Right now the PLO is lamenting that there is no realistic candidate to replace Abbas. Sounds a bit strange to me: Abbas has no clout on the street, is not respected in his own party. He’s knee-deep in corruption and has a past directly linked to terrorism. There’s been talk for some time with regard to who might succeed.
And, as you consider the above, factor this in, as well:
Just yesterday, according to the Egyptian news service Asharq Al-Awsat, representatives of the Egyptian Intelligence Agency and certain groups within Fatah are saying that Abbas does not really intend to hold elections on January 24, as he had announced he would.
He only made the announcement to pressure Hamas into signing the Egyptian reconciliation agreement. He knows having elections just in the West Bank would not be a good idea.
But then, if he is not going to hold elections for president in 2-1/2 months, and we don’t know when they’re going to be held, does it really matter now if he’s going to run? For the interim, he’s still in office and can declare what he wishes.
According to the Palestinian news agency Ma’an, Hamas official Khalil Al-Haya is saying that from the Hamas perspective the Egyptian-mediated proposal is “still alive, if it is implemented in one package.” They want all the parties to come together and discuss matters.
With all the talk of whether Abbas will come to the negotiating table, we must also consider the ramifications of Fatah signing that reconciliation with Hamas. For Hamas is still adamantly against recognizing Israel, honoring Oslo accords, and renouncing terrorism (aka “resistance against the occupation”).
What happens to Obama’s Middle East policy then?
Yet one more factor must be mentioned. I spoke yesterday about what Fatah may be up to when it declares that the “two-state solution” is dead, and it’s time to say so.
I considered a number of alternatives, but omitted one possibility that would have serious implications, were it to catch on internationally. “No two-states?” they are starting to say. “Then let’s have one bi-national state.” Would be the end of us.
And so… as I remain uneasy about where Netanyahu may be going, and as I search my heart in terms of how to assess him, I come up with this, in addition to everything else: Here’s a valid reason for him to play the game, and display eagerness to begin those negotiations (which, to my discomfort, is what he has been doing).
He has to be able to say: “What one-state? We’re here, we’re ready to start without pre-conditions. It’s the Palestinians who are the stumbling block.”
By the way, I have learned that Minister of Information Yuli Edelstein (Likud) will be accompanying Netanyahu to Washington along with Barak. Edelstein is tough, and he tells it like it is. And this was a reassurance.
“The Good News Corner”
This story is a source of pride, which merits sharing with others, to help them understand Israel.
Captain Gerry Casey, of Ireland, has been serving with the UN Peacekeeping Force here. (I am a bit vague on what force they are referring to — UNIFIL?) When he came, he and his wife were seeking care for their youngest child, Rachel, then 16 months, who has Down Syndrome and a heart defect. They were connected with Shalva, the Association for Mentally & Physically Challenged Children in Israel, which provides services for children with special needs and intensive support for their families. It is a very special institution.
Now that the Caseys are leaving, they wanted to say goodbye, and thank you, to Shalva, which did so much for their daughter, and has taught them techniques for coping as well. A special ceremony was held, to which Gerry invited people who worked with him in the UN Peacekeeping Division — people from various nations, who had to be given speedy visas to enter Israel.
These people, who hail from various places in the world, now understand much better what Israel is about; a great deal of good will has been generated.
Use this link to see a video about this: