The Festival of Sukkot begins Wednesday night and extends for a week, culminating in Simchat Torah next Thursday. This is known as the Season of our Rejoicing, and, indeed, a happy time it is. My spirits were lifted last night when I walked to nearby Emek Refaim street, to find that restaurants were already constructing on the sidewalk in front of their establishments their Sukkahs (in which religious Jews take all of their meals during the holiday). How special to be here in Israel at such a time.
This, it seems to me, is not a distraction from our work and focus on world matters — it is the ikar, the essence of what life here is about. It provides inner strength, a ballast, and perspective.
During this time I will do few, if any, postings.
But, until the Sukkot holiday begins , I will continue to focus on the perversity of world events.
What strikes me as particularly perverse — particularly out of line with what ought to be — is the arrival in the US of Ahmadinejad. There are cries for his arrest, in accordance with Security Council and International Criminal Court calls for all states (including the US) to "bring to justice the perpetrators organizers and sponsors of terrorist attacks," with those responsible for "aiding, supporting or harboring the perpetrators and sponsors" of these acts to be held accountable.
It is blatantly obvious that Iran is a major supporter of terrorism in the world today. But of course he will move within the US without fear of arrest, more’s the pity. Terrible lack of courage there.
Even more reprehensible is the willingness of Columbia University to have him speak. Dean John Coatsworth of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, has defended the school’s decision to include Ahmadinejad in its Forum on World Leaders: "We’re going to have to deal with people like this in the real world…we need to know more about this guy…" Columbia, he said, would have invited Hitler, provided he had been willing to be challenged by questions from the audience. And Columbia’s president, Lee Bollinger refers to the invitation to Ahmadinejad as "an impressive demonstration of the university’s respect for free speech and open debate."
It’s hard to read this and not think that perhaps the world is going to hell in a handbasket.
The Post editorial today, which laments , with sadness, the spectacle of "one of America’s great universities succumbing to the utter distortion of the hallowed value of free speech," takes a closer look at what’s going on. The issue, says this editorial, is not really free speech, but "the degree of legitimacy that Columbia is willing to grant…" Would Columbia, asks the editorial, invite an Egyptian leader who is promoting female circumcision, or a leader of the Janjaweed militia that is committing genocide in Sudan? These are rhetorical questions as the answer is most assuredly not. "Columbia is not standing up for free speech, but for realpolitik in its crassest form: might makes right.
"Once a leader reaches a certain level of power, perhaps through terrorism and potential nuclear blackmail, then moral considerations must be set aside."
And the esteemed President Bush? He said (I am not making this up) that Amadinejad’s speaking appearance at a US university "speaks volumes about really the greatness of America."
Oh, George, couldn’t you do better than this?
Even with this, few matters are more obscenely out of whack than the continuing sense that Olmert is working to give away our country, our heritage.
According to the PA paper Al Hayat, when Rice was here last week, Abbas told her that Olmert had said he would divide Jerusalem. This third hand report is not necessary accurate. For if Olmert had decided this, he would have told Rice himself. Again, there is the suspicion that the Arab version is exaggerated. But by how much?
That Olmert WOULD give away half of Jerusalem , including the Temple Mount, if he could, is entirely believable. The mere possibility sends shivers down the spines of those of us for whom the notion of doing this is sacrilege.
And so the question remains one of what he has the political clout to pull off. It would seem that he may very well not be strong enough to do as he wishes. There is considerable rebellion within his own Kadima party, with MK Shaul Mofaz pulling the strongest to the right and standing opposed to the division of Jerusalem. In fact, for the first time yesterday I read that Olmert’s opponents within Kadima would like to see Mofaz lead a split in the party. This is not expected to happen because Mofaz is not eager to take the lead here, but the mere suggestion is encouraging.
In addition, four MKs from Kadima — Otniel Schneller, Eli Aflalo, Ze’ev Elkin and Marina Solodkin — met today at the home of Jerusalem city council member Nir Barkat to establish a forum in support of a unified Jerusalem.
It was Barkat, a member of Kadima , who had written to MK Haim Ramon to ask him about Kadima plans to divide Jerusalem; he had responded with horror to the answer he received, saying he would quit Kadima. Now Barkat said the forum would work toward "removing the issue of Jerusalem from the political agenda and emboldening the government’s official position on the capital’s unification."
Today Olmert, addressing the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said that Israel would be withdrawing from a good part of the West Bank.
MK Silvan Shalom (Likud, formerly Foreign Minister) responded, "You don’t have a mandate from the Jewish people to make these concessions."
If Israel won’t talk with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad, it won’t find any other partner, Olmert countered. And here we have one of several fallacies in the thinking of people eager to strike a "deal" at all cost: the notion that we MUST deal with someone, even if that someone is less than reliable, because otherwise there will be a "continuous cycle of violence." What is not perceived is that we’ll be subject to violence in any event, and we’ll be weaker once we’ve made concessions.
Observed MK and opposition head Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud), ""You’re the only one who genuinely thinks that [Abbas] is a partner who can keep Israel secure." Any agreement struck by Olmert with Abbas, he said, would lead to Hamas taking over the West Bank and "missiles on Gush Dan."
Olmert did say, once again, that there was no draft agreement struck with the Palestinians, that if there were such an agreement he would have brought it to the Cabinet.
What potentially makes Olmert weaker is the fact that a criminal investigation has been ordered by Attorney General Mazuz into his purchase of a home on Cremieux Street in Jerusalem in 2004 at less than market value.
I have limited confidence in these investigations to bring him down. He’s been Teflon until now, able to survive in spite of the multiple charges leveled at him, the multiple investigations initiated. He is currently also under investigation for his alleged intervention in the tender for the privatization of Bank Le
umi in 2005.
MK Zevulun (NU/NRP)), head of the State Control Committee, called on Olmert to suspend himself immediately. "In no civilized country does the prime minister serve while under a bundle of criminal investigations." Don’t hold your breath. They’ll have to drag Olmert out kicking and screaming.
It is not good news that Olmert brought to the Cabinet yesterday a proposal to release 90 more prisoners (these "in honor of Ramadan") and received the go-ahead to do so, by a vote of 16-6. They are all supposed to be prisoners with "no blood on their hands," which means they may have tried but have not yet directly killed any Jews, and with no affiliation with Hamas or Islamic Jihad. The Justice Ministry drew up the list of names, which was then approved by the Ministerial Committee on the Release of Prisoners. They are scheduled to be released next week, 48 hours after their names are made public (allowing time for objections).
I rather like the comment of Zev Hendel (NU/NRP), who is on the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. He would support the decision to release these prisoners, he said, if Olmert agreed to resign the minute one of those freed attacked a Jew.
And speaking of those Palestinians who don’t keep their pledges to stay clean: According to the IDF spokesperson’s office, one Fares Natzer Hassin Abu Na’eem was picked up near Nablus. He was found hiding in a building where eight pipe bombs, a rifle and a handgun were hidden.
Abu Na’eem, you see, was one of those given "amnesty" in August — taken off a list of terrorists to be pursued, in exchange for his pledging to give up his "militant" activity. When it was discovered that he was not good for his word, he was picked up.
Khaled Abu Toameh reports in the Post that some members of the Fatah Central Committee — including Nabil Shaath — who had fled Gaza with the Hamas takeover are now returning, having been assured by Hamas that it is safe to do so. Muhammad Dahlan, however, much hated by Hamas, is not welcome to return.
The Fatah men are denying that this has anything to do with an approaching reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. But Abu Toameh says two different Hamas spokespersons are claiming talks are under way.
This is one of the things I watch closely , because of the implications for the "peace" process.
Meanwhile, Condoleezza Rice is moving right along with her plans for the conference. Today she said that while invitations have not gone out yet, it is to be expected that "key" Arab nations, including Syria, would be included. In fact, she really hopes Syria attends. Those to be invited are Saudi Arabia, of course, and 10 other members of the Arab League — Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen.
She indicated that participation would signal the acceptance by these nations of a two-state solution. Since most of these countries don’t recognize Israel’s existence, she’s rather grasping at straws. Her initial overtures are meeting a most tepid response, even from a country such as Egypt, which already has a peace treaty (of sorts) with us.
Also to be included would be the Quartet and possibly a handful of other nations such as Japan.
It’s worth taking a look at an article in The NY Sun by Youssef Ibrahim, "The Saudi Reign of Terror."
"Well over 3,000 Saudi citizens roaming the world are managing terrorist networks and planning and executing suicide bombings and jihadist attacks that span the globe…Between 20 and 30 Saudis intending to be suicide bombers cross into Iraq every single day."
This complements JINSA Report # 705 (not yet up on their website), "No More Arms to Saudi Arabia":
"…the truth is that no President has ever been denied a major arms sale to an Arab country. Ships, planes, electronics, tanks, missiles, munitions, communications, radars – you name it, they get it. At war with Israel, at peace with Israel, having under-the-table relations with Israel, the Arabs get the arms they are willing to pay for – and some Arab countries get arms paid for by the American taxpayer. No Congress controlled by Democrats or controlled by Republicans has said no to a Democratic or a Republican President. And when Saudi Arabia violated the solemn promise to the Senate by an American Defense Secretary that Saudi F-15s would be based in the south, away from Israel, the Senate didn’t blink an eye and neither, by the way, did the sitting Defense Secretary.
"Could we try again?"
Security forces raided an apartment in Tel Aviv at 4 AM on Saturday, which was Yom Kippur, because of intelligence they had acquired after arresting a Hamas operative outside of Nablus on Friday who turned out to be the head of a cell planning an attack.
What they found in the apartment was a suicide belt packed with explosives that was most likely going to be used to generate an attack on a packed synagogue.
Altogether too close for comfort , that the belt was already in Tel Aviv! That any Israeli official could propose a slow down of our security operations in Judea and Samaria boggles the mind. What more proof is needed of the efficacy and the importance of these operations?
According to yesterday’s Sunday Times of London, commandos from the renowned General Staff’s Reconnaissance Unit, Sayeret Matkal, seized nuclear material from the Syrian installation before it was bombed. The report says that the material, when tested, proved to be of N. Korean origin. (Please, do not ask me how one determines this.)
See the important article by Moshe Ya’alon — former Chief of Staff and now with the Shalem Center — regarding the nature of the Islamist threat and how to defeat it. If there is sufficient resolve, he says, the West can do it.