As we contend with the details of the terrorist attack of last night, we ask ourselves, “Doesn’t this sound familiar?” And the answer is that it does, because we’ve been here before, far too many times. Always, the human pain that we confront cuts like a knife.
One of the worst details to emerge this time is the story of Momi Even-Haim, who is with Zaka, the volunteer medic/rescue unit that is routinely charged with gathering the bodies in situations like this. He was on the scene yesterday, when his fellow volunteers — bewildered — heard him crying. “That’s my wife!” he moaned. Kochava Even-Haim, 37, was one of the victims of the attack, and so in this horrendous fashion her husband learned that she was dead. I believe Kochava was pregnant — close to term, as it happens. Her ten year old daughter, Hodaya, survives her.
Kochava and Avishai Schindler, 24, were passengers in the car that was attacked. He leaves behind a young widow: they had been married only a very short time.
The car belonged to Yitzhak Aimes, 47, and his wife, Talia Aimes, 45. They had six children, the youngest of whom is only 1-1/2. At the funeral today, their daughter, Rut, told them:
“For 19 years you raised me… G-d, thank you for giving me wonderful parents..
“…I promise to look over our family, to keep doing the things that were important to you, and to keep the family together. I’ll be there for the little ones, who will grow up with no mother or father.”
Everyone in the car was from Beit Hagai. Hamas has taken responsibility for the attack, which took place on route 60, south-east of Hevron, near Kiryat Arba.
From here in Israel, there have been vociferous calls for Prime Minister Netanyahu to walk away from the talks and come home. I seriously doubt that anyone really expected him to do this: It would not be Binyamin Netanyahu’s style, to say the least. His position is that this attack is an attempt to derail the talks, and that this cannot be permitted to happen. Hillary Clinton observed that the talks are intended to help prevent such occurrences in the future.
This, you understand, is garbage, pure and simple.
If Hamas were a small fringe group, and Fatah were genuinely moderate, it might make a great deal of sense to refuse to cave to Hamas. But as it is, Hamas has huge power — both in terms of influence in the street and ability to sabotage anything that is decided. Thus it must be asked how a genuine peace can be forged with a Fatah-led PA, when Hamas is opposed to a deal. It must further be asked what sort of ability (and desire) to control Hamas the PA possesses — this question is at the heart of matters.
What is more, in the months and weeks leading up to the Washington meetings now to take place, we have been making “gestures” to the PA — taking down roadblocks, loosening up on security control and giving PA security forces more authority, etc. All of this doesn’t make things better, it puts innocent Israelis at greater risk.
Back in the time of Oslo, when there were terrorist attacks, Shimon Peres — an originator and major promoter of Oslo — referred to the innocent dead as “sacrifices for peace.” By this he meant that as we were engaged in the process of pushing peace forward, such attacks, instigated by those opposed to the negotiations, were going to happen. I found that obscene. If innocents were dying in greater numbers as “peace” advanced, then it meant something was very very wrong indeed. What I pray is that by now we’ve learned that lesson.
Just days ago Defense Minister Ehud Barak had a very low key (clandestine?) meeting with Abbas in Amman, and there was talk then about “easing security conditions in the West Bank as a confidence building measure.” What has happened now is that it will become more difficult to make such moves: the mood in this country will not allow it easily.
Netanyahu is talking about how it is obvious that security for Israel must be a priority and must be high on the agenda. Perhaps this will at least stiffen his back.
When I write about “deja vu,” there is another element to this: the response of the PA. According to the PLO news agency WAFA, PA prime minister Salam Fayyad condemned the terrorist attack thusly:
“We condemn this incident, that is contrary to Palestinian interests, and the efforts of the Palestinian leadership to mobilize international support…” (emphasis added)
A typical PA statement, totally devoid of any moral condemnation. And, as Aaron Lerner pointed out when posting this condemnation on IMRA, if the day comes when terrorism is not contrary to “Palestinian interests,” the PA will have no compunctions with regard to sanctioning it.
Abbas, it should be noted, condemned the attack without this qualification. But what choice had he, about to meet with Obama as he was?
Shortly before the attack, while he was on the Washington-bound plane, Abbas made another statement, as well. Speaking to the editor of the Ma’an news agency, he delivered a message to the “settlers”:
“The settlers are sitting on lands that are not theirs. I tell them that this is not your land and you know that…the settlements are illegal and will be removed.”
We’ll see about that.
Plans were already in place in Judea and Samaria to begin building — on projects for which approval had been secured prior to the freeze — immediately upon the end of the freeze on September 26. And Netanyahu remains firmly on the record with regard to this, even in the last 24 hours in Washington: He told Clinton that building would resume.
Now, with the terrorist attack, there is a call in some quarters here for construction to begin on September 2 (that’s tomorrow) — the day of the meeting of Netanyahu with Obama and Abbas.
Each group does according to its inclinations, said one Yesha leader: they murder, we build. Such statements fill me with enormous pride. Israeli Jews are strong, and in the face of tragedy rally for good purpose.
Today Rebecca Kowalsky, in her Photography Newsletter, wrote the following:
“The beauty of our people and our land is vast. The beast of terror that resides among us kills in cold blood – the people who want to live in this land. With our shared deep pain and tears, we plant & build. Today, as the funeral procession passed, we lined the roads with our prayers, songs, & unity – never giving up on the dream for the people of Israel in the Land of Israel living by the Torah of Israel. May the mourners be comforted among the mourners of Zion.”
(Thank you, Jack G.)
Oh, the “talks” are going to go so smashingly well.
Abbas is claiming that they must begin where Olmert left off. We signed nothing however, and there is no legal basis for this demand. Netanyahu is quite unlikely to offer as much as Olmert did, when he included part of Jerusalem and more in the deal that was not accepted.
(My big worry here is what Ehud Barak — who once DID offer part of Jerusalem and more when he was prime minister — is saying.)
At the same time, Nabil Sha’th, a member of the Palestinian delegation to Washington, has said that there will be no recognition of territorial exchange and of settlement blocs, which are extremely dangerous due to their proximity to Jerusalem, and that the negotiations will stop if settlement construction is renewed.
While Fatah spokesman Ahmad Asaf said that Netanyahu’s demand for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state will be rejected out of hand, because the demand is counter to international law and Resolution 194, which set out the Palestinian refugees’ rights.
We should pay attention to this, because it was carried by MEMRI, which reports on what is being said in the Arab-language press, in this case, the PA’s Al-Ayyam. It is in such Arabic sources that we are most likely to uncover true intentions.
Of course the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is not illegal: The Mandate for Palestinian gave us this land for a Jewish homeland in 1922, and even the UN General Assembly, when proposing (in a non-binding recommendation) the partition of Palestine, intended a Jewish state and an Arab state. As to Resolution 194, it did NOT set out the refugees’ “rights,” and I would like to return to this.
As to the “settlements” being “dangerous” because they are close to Jerusalem, I would note that this was one reason for building to the east and south of Jerusalem: to serve as a wall of defense.
Yossi Beilin, a far left Israeli politician who helped initiate the Oslo process, be
lieves that the talks being sponsored by Obama will fail:
“If the negotiations fail, it will lead to more frustration and deeper skepticism that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be resolved. The security arrangement between the two sides, which is guaranteeing the current state of calm, will be dealt a blow and there will be a danger of violent outbursts.
“If there were even the slightest chance of the talks succeeding, I would say it was worth making one more attempt. However, in this situation, there is almost no such chance…
“Netanyahu wasn’t voted in by the right wing to divide East Jerusalem or to resolve, even symbolically, the problem of Palestinian refugees…
“Abbas can’t implement a peace agreement with Israel because as long as Hamas retains control of Gaza, Gaza won’t be part of the solution…”
While I am most decidedly no fan of Beilin, and disagree strongly with some parts of his analysis in this article, he is on the mark with regard to what he anticipates now. His concerns should be noted because he speaks as someone who would so much want the talks to succeed.
However, Beilin’s assessment of the dismal chances for success of the talks hasn’t stopped him from giving it the old college try. The Geneva Initiative, co-founded by Beilin in 2003 to promote “peace,” is behind a series of Israeli TV ads representing the PA leaders as true partners for peace, and suggesting that Israelis have to look at their own positions.
And guess who is sponsoring this? US AID. No surprise, really. A cheap gimmick and outrageous meddling.
See Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, on this: