Friday, June 30, 2006

Eyeless in Gaza

The current IDF campaign in Gaza has three separate but interlocking components:
1. There is the main thrust of IDF forces in the south near Rafah in order to seek the release of the IDF captive Cpl. Shalit. This involves land forces and armor, and especially protected bulldozers because of the many mines that the terrorists sow along the roads. Intelligence units are trying to obtain information from locals (some of whom were informants in the past). Although the chances are not good to save him, nevertheless the IDF has taken steps to close off all possible routes whereby he could be taken out of Gaza into Egypt.
2. Actions of the IDF and Israeli Govt. to bring pressure on the PA Govt. of Pres. Abbas and Hamas in order to release the soldier. The attack on the electric power station falls into this category, but it also prevents the use of much equipment, such as bomb and rocket making lathes, land telephone lines and restricts the operations of the terrorists. Similarly the detention of the 20 or so PLC members and 8 Hamas members of the PA Govt. on the West Bank, although they are not being used as hostages, definitely puts pressure on the Hamas Government. Each one of these will go before a judge and will be charged only if there is sufficient evidence of terrorist activity in their individual case.
3. The massing of armor in the north and the firing into the area east of Beit Hanun to prevent the further firing of Kassam rockets into Israel. Yesterday, with the IDF in action, four rockets were still fired into Sderot, one narrowly missed a girl and hit a car. Israel may use this opportunity to enter northern Gaza and finally take some steps to stop or reduce the rockets.
Israel waited three days, from the kidnapping on Sunday to Wednesday, to try the diplomatic route, before actually taking military action. It is miraculous that in all these activities not one Palestinian civilian has been killed and there is no report of even a civilian being injured. The IDF tries to avoid civilian casualties and they are not allowed to fire unless fired upon, and apart from being standard IDF operating procedure the orders come directly from the PM himself.
Meanwhile the body of the 18 year old Yeshiva student Eliahu Asheri was found shot in the head near Ramallah. The Police were led to his body in a shallow grave by a terrorist they arrested, and since then a further accomplice has been taken into custody. Eliahu was last seen hitch-hiking into the West Bank from the French Hill intersection in Jerusalem. His parents immigrated to Israel from Australia and they lived in Itamar. They buried their son today.
It is unfortunate that young people hitch-hike under such dangerous circumstances, when they know that Palestinians dress up as Jews and lure them into cars. Only last week two girls were standing by a bus stop on the West Bank at night when a car drove up and three Palestinian men tried to persuade them to enter. One girl ran away into the bushes, but two men captured the other girl and dragged her into the car. Luckily someone driving by saw the girl half lying out of the car and the men dragging her in and called the police emergency number. The car was stopped only a few miles up the road, and the three men were arrested. Such incidents occur all the time, and it has resulted in loss of precious lives. Now the IDF has agreed to put on a van service to take people around the West Bank, and the Rabbis of Eliahu's Yeshiva have ruled that it is forbidden to take lifts. Such is life in Israel.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Under or over

The model for the Security Barrier being constructed around the West Bank to protect Israelis against terrorists is that around the Gaza strip, that has functioned very well in preventing the incursion of suicide bombers. But, the Palestinians, in their desperation to get at Israelis have found that they can go under or over the security fence surrounding Gaza. They used tunnels to smuggle arms from Egypt into Gaza for years and they have been shelling southern Israel from Gaza for months. The initiation of this week's crisis is the tunnel that they dug under the Kerem Shalom crossing point. Even yesterday 4 rockets hit Israel, one of them hit a local power transformer and put out the lights in the area where Defence Minister Peretz lives in Sderot, and four women were sent to Hospital for shock. One can conclude that the current situation in Gaza is a dry run for the military strategy of Hamas for the future of the West Bank, which would be far more dangerous for the survival of the State of Israel.
The time has run out on the so-called "mediation efforts" of several countries regarding the release of Cpl. Shalit. All except Egypt have given up, and Israel has initiated the first stage of a campaign to isolate southern Gaza to try to make sure that the hostage is not moved either into Egypt or northern Gaza. Of course, any such rescue attempt has only a small chance of success. But, the cutting off of the bridges connecting these areas, and the cutting of electrical power may slow down their efforts. Latest reports are that an IDF force is moving into southern Gaza, but the situation is far more dangerous than it was, since the terrorist organizations have had time to prepare ambushes and traps. This is the "extra" price Israel always pays in blood for listening to the voices of "reason" and showing "restraint." When dealing with terrorists, as the US has found, from 9/11 to Iraq, restraint is a useless guide in dealing with people who behead hostages.
Many years ago I predicted that another war would be necessary between Israel and the Palestinians. Why? Consider the reasons for the peace treaties between Israel and Egypt and Jordan. They were not signed because the Arabs in these States had suddenly become enamoured of Israel, they were signed because Israel defeated them over and over again in war and finally exhausted their ability to fight . Only when the IDF was at km 101 from Cairo did Sadat agree to sign a peace treaty. And it was Israel's insistence on this that resulted in a "final" cessation of war between the two countries.
The lack of a basic change in opinions in the Arab countries is well illustrated by an article in today's J'sam Post entitled "What Muslims think," by Daniel Pipes (I will forward this importatn article). This is based on a series of polls carried out on Muslims in Muslim countries and in the West and it reveals some disturbing, but not surprising results. In general, the results show that most Muslims think that Arabs did not carry out the 9/11 attack, and that most Muslims blame Jews for all the problems in their countries (98% in Jordan!). Also, in the European country where non-Muslims have the most favorable liberal attitudes towards Muslims, Britain, the Muslims have the most negative attitudes towards the West. Muslims don't respond well to moderation, they regard it as weakness.
Today in the paper it is reported that Pres. Katsav of Israel has blasted successive Israeli Governments for not receiving anything in return from the Palestinians for concessions to them, from the Olso Accords to the Gaza Disengagement. He reasonably concludes that they have no need to give concessions on their side if these are not required of them for real gains from the Israeli side. Did you know that when the Olso Accords were negotiated in secret there was no input on the Israeli side from any defence or security expert (this is incredible but true). And of course, PM Sharon avoided all opposition from the right by making an alliance with the left to effectuate the disengagement from Gaza, even giving up the northernmost tier continguous with Israel, that if he had kept it would have spared Sderot much suffering.
There are reports that high security officials in the Israeli Govt. have concluded that the Hamas Government was not behind the attack in Kerem Shalom, but that it was executed by the military wing of Hamas, the Izzadin al-Kassem Brigades, under the control of Kaled Mashall and the expatriate Palestinian Hamas in Syria. This would explain why Hamas in Gaza has taken a rather restrained attitude towards the kidnapping. It is concluded that this is part of a "secret" power struggle going on inside Hamas, just as one is going on within Fatah, between the Hamas Govt. in Gaza, that is trying to be "responsible," and the Hamas leadership outside the PA. This might result in the IDF making an attempt to assassinate Mashaal in Damascus. But, of course this supposed split could be a facade.
All these considerations lead to one conclusion, that this attack at Kerem Shalom and the taking of a hostage is not a limited action, but part of the continuing war of the military wing of Hamas against Israel. Even while this is going on another young Israeli has been abducted on the West Bank. We are once again forced into a war situation, and as such we must fight to defeat the enemy, for only then does it appear from previous experience with the Arabs that an end to hostilities becomes possible.

Empty threats?

Some considerations regarding the current Palestinian escalation of the conflict near Gaza:
1. The armed attack took place on Israeli territory , and was a clear premeditated act of war.
2. Two IDF soldiers were killed and 4 badly wounded, as well as the soldier who was abducted.
3. Current reports are that Cpl. Shalit's wounds may not have been as bad as first thought, but since the source of information is Palestinian one cannot count on this.
4. A communique was issued by the terrorist organizations holding the solider (including the "Islamic Army") that Israel must first release all women and children in its custody before they will give any information about the soldier. PM Olmert dismissed this and reiterated that Israel does not negotiate with terrorists, particularly when the women and children (none less than 14) have all been arrested and tried for security offenses (carrying bomb belts, attacking soldiers at checkpoints, attempting to or actually stabbing Israelis, etc.).
5. Numerous countries and organizations are attempting to mediate in order to effect the release of the soldier. The French are involved because he is also a French citizen, the Egyptians are talking to Hamas and Pres. Abbas, also the US, the Vatican, etc. But, one can predict that none of this will help, because while Abbas is the main contact point, and he has issued threats of his own to the terrorists, he has no control over them. Even the Hamas Government pretends that it has nothing to do with this, even though the tunnel took months to dig, and the attack was planned and headed by Hamas operatives. It is inconceivable that with Hamas discipline that has been demonstrated before that the Hamas leadership did not know of this action in advance.
6. Israel possesses sophisticated technology to detect tunneling. This was used before near the Rafah border crossing, and was supposed to be more generally used. However, most Generals did not like to be "advised" how to carry out their security tasks and so ignored the technology. A Committee has been set up to evaluate the mistakes (and there were mistakes) that were made. Most egregious is that there was noone on duty guarding the tanks, all members of the teams were asleep, and there was noone guarding the rear, assuming that all attacks would come from the direction of Gaza rather than from the Israeli side.
7. PM Olmert and the Israeli Government has so far made empty threats that they will "punish" the perpetrators. The US has asked Israel to wait and let the diplomatic feelers have more time, but that is playing into the hands of the terrorists. Sitting outide Gaza and issuing empty threats, while showing stationary vehicles to the media will accomplish nothing. The Government has been attacked from the right (go in immediately and take Hamas hostages) and the left (do nothing and talk to Hamas). But, the Israeli centrist Government should be supported by all those liberals in the West who always call for restraint. Olmert has shown exemplary restraint , but this cannot continue much longer.
8. Ironically Israel withdrew from Gaza completely in order to reduce tensions and conflict there!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Red Crystal

"Red Crystal" doesn't grab you like "Red Cross," but that is what has been introduced as a compromise in order to get the Magen David Adom (MDA, Red Shield of David) of Israel into the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Organization. Israel had been excluded for 57 years, since it applied for membership first in 1949. There is no secret why it was rejected, the Muslim countries refused to allow an organization with a Star of David to be included, even though everyone from the beginning admitted that MDA was fully qualified medically. Naturally, Israel refused to adopt a cross symbol in order be admitted. But, since the rules had been changed to allow the Muslim nations with their "Red Crescent Organisations" and even a single exception was made for the Red symbol of Iran (which was subsequently dropped after the Khomeini revolution adopted the red crescent), there was every expectation that a change in the rules could be made to admit the MDA.
But, not so, as one of many anti-Israel actions, the Muslim nations refused to accept Israel as an equal. Several years ago the American Red Cross let it be know that it would not cooperate with the International Red Cross organization unless this travesty was overcome and Israel was admitted, and for five years the ARC has not paid its fees to the IRC. Finally after years of negotiations a compromise was reached, that the Arab nations still opposed, a red crystal or diamond-shape was introduced. Thus when acting internationally as part of the IRC, the MDA can put its Red Star of David inside the crystal. A large majority voted for this compromise at the recent IRC meeting and, lo and behold, problem solved!
The MDA and the Israeli Government was glad to be able to accept this compromise to be included in the IRC. But wait a minute, is the MDA equivalent to all other organizations? Yes, except insofar as the symbol goes. The Red Cross and Red Crescent are not to be included inside the Red Crystal like the Red Star of David but remain standing alone. So there is one rule for the majority and one for the minority. It was sold with the idea that as other minority groups/countries might come along with their own red symbols they could easily be incorporated into the red crystal, but those already there, the Christian and Islamic countries, will not have to do this. They are the majority and they will retain their independent symbols. There is no likelihood that the Swiss would consider changing the famous Red Cross symbol, and the Islamic countries will never allow their Red Crescent symbol to be included inside a red crystal. So a form of discrimination is again institutionalized.
Correction: The last sentence of my previous message, that an IDF force had entered Gaza, which I saw reported in CNN, was incorrect. According to reports today, a force is "poised" to enter Gaza, but has not done so for fear of losing the hostage Cpl. Shalit that the terrorists are holding.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Serious escalation

In what is considered to be a serious and dangerous escalation of the war situation between the PA and Israel on Sunday the Palestinians mounted a major attack on an Israeli post, the Kerem Shalom crossing point in southern Gaza. Eight terrorists from three factions (the Popular Resistance Committees, the Hamas Military wing Izzadin al-Kassem and a new group called the Islamic Army) used a deep tunnel that had taken months to dig under the sand, undetected by the IDF, and entered Israeli territory. They then split into three groups and carried out a sophisticated coordinated attack on IDF positions.
Two Israeli soldiers were killed and several wounded. One of the wounded soldiers, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, 19, was kidnapped. Hamas has issued a statement that he was badly wounded in his abdomen and chest, but he is alive and being given medical treatment. They say they will exchange him for Palestinian security prisoners. Four of the gunmen were killed, but the rest escaped back to Gaza.
Defense Minister Peretz said that the terrorists would "pay a painful price" for this attack, but he has made statements like that before without doing anything, hence the terrorists did not fear to attack (this is the well known "crying wolf" syndrome). PM Olmert said that he holds the PA responsible for this attack, and certainly it could not have been carried out without the knowledge of the Hamas Government. Commander of the IDF Dan Halutz said that all Hamas operatives are targets for retaliation, opening the door to targeted killings and or capture of Hamas Government officials. Meanwhile Pres. Abbas of the PA called the attack "intolerable," which does however show how little control he has over the actual situation. Meanwhile his talks with Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas PM, have failed to reach agreement after weeks of talks, that continue fruitlessly on a daily basis.
Abbas called representatives of the terrorist groups involved in the attack to his office to inform them that he had received an ultimatum from PM Olmert, that either they turn over the soldier alive to Israel within hours or the IDF will mount a major attack into Gaza.
This attack brings the intentions of Hamas and the Palestinians out into the open. They have used the rocket attacks on Sderot as an opening gambit in their plan to escalate warfare with Israel. Although terrorism was being carried out almost daily, no organized military attacks have been carried out by combined terrorist groups for years. This attack represents the results of careful training and the introduction into the PA of sophisticated weapons through the Rafah crossing from Egypt. While Abbas shakes hands with Olmert, they both know that Hamas/Izzadin al-Kassem are training a Palestinian Army to confront the IDF.
Now that the terrorists have kidnapped a soldier the situation is delicate, since his life is on the line, and the Government does not want to act unless he is safe or they know his whereabouts. But, the only response to this kind of direct military attack is a counter-attack that is sufficeintly severe that the Palestinian factions will stop and think many times before they mount another such attack. Military correspondents have given their opinions, that first this is the fruit of the IDF's withdrawal from Gaza, and their lack of detailed intelligence on what is happening there, and second that not to counter this attack with a painful counter-attack would be an invitation for more such attacks.
So the election of Hamas as the PA Government and the withdrawal of the IDF from Gaza has resulted in a worse military situation that can be expected to fester until the IDF can reverse the consequences of these events. The latest news is that an IDF force has in fact entered Gaza "in strength."

Sunday, June 25, 2006


In an article entitled "Jews Are Under Siege: A Call For Action" published in the "Jewish Week," Charles Jacobs and Seth A. Klarman argue that Jews are now in a substantially worse situation than they have been previously since WWII. They argue that the following events are symptomatic of this deterioration: "Iran’s nuclear threats and Holocaust denial, Hamas’ electoral victory, the torture and murder of Ilan Halimi in Paris by a Muslim gang, the “discovery” by a Harvard dean that Jews actually do conspire to control Congress and American foreign policy in the service of Israel and to the detriment of U.S. interests, and the British academic boycott."
Behind this deterioration of the Jewish situation is the development of a movement that is important in Western culture and history, that can be called "Palestinianism." Believers in this political/religious movement are mainly of two types:
1. Anti-Semitic Islamists who regard all negative aspects of life as being due to a Jewish conspiracy. Of course, they believe that the Jewish State must be "wiped off the map." While they would not admit it, this view is largely derived from the prior Christian anti-Semitism of Nazism and Fascism that was so fashionable in Europe only 60 years ago. As an example, we can quote the media adviser to Pres. Ahmedinejad of Iran, who attributed the avian bird flu crisis, the AIDS epidemic, and the SARS virus all to Jewish interference. Admittedly this is screwy, but no more so than the beliefs of the Nazis that motivated them to murder millions of Jews.
2. Western liberals and leftists who believe that the Palestinians are the most exploited and suppressed people on earth, that the Israelis/Jews occupy their lands, and attack them without provocation. It is for this reason that they single out Israel for condemnation of all the countries in the world. They ignore North Korea, that is starving its population while developing nuclear weapons, China that has invaded and incorporated Tibet, and Sudan that is committing genocide (according to the UN) in Darfur, and they spend most of their time attacking Israel. Don't they know that Israel is a liberal democracy with a "rainbow" population? But, of course they don't care about this, because their minds are made up by ideology and PR. People who take this position, such as Paul Mackney, general secretary of the former Natfhe Union, I called a "liberal fascist" (his father saved the lives of Jews in WWII while he dimwittedly helped to murder them). According to most of them the Palestinians have the "moral high-ground" and that includes Hamas, which is a virulently anti-Western terrorist party, and the many others groups that have been carrying out suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. But, all of this is justified because of the "occupation," a semi-mystical concept (Israel does not "occupy" Gaza or the PA in the West Bank). And when we build a "wall" to protect ourselves form the terrorists they attack us for it, but there is hardly a mumur about the "wall" the US is building on the Mexican border. And when we kill their terrorist leaders they complain of "targeted assassinations," but hardly a murmur was heard when the US obliterated al-Zarqawi, head of Iraqi al Qaeda, because that was justified.
The strange coalition between these two groups, exemplified by the so-called anti-War demonstrations in the UK and elsewhere, has brought about the birth of a "religion" which has the following attributes, 1. The Palestinian people are morally pure and can do no wrong in the legitimate pursuit of their goals (in other words violence is justified, but only in their case). 2. It is axiomatic that there should be a Palestinain State, and everything in the world must be secondary to that goal. 3. The Palestinian people are suffering and desperate, and this justifies their "armed struggle" against the "apartheid" "colonialist" Jewish State of Israel. 4. Once the Palestinians have their State at the expense of Israel, a period of peace and tranquility will transpire in the world (like the coming of the Messiah) during which all other problems will quickly be solved.
Admittedly these beliefs are equally screwy, but they are fervently believed by a large proportion of the Western liberal elite, and amount to an irrational "religion" that supplements all their other beliefs. Future historians will recognize this as a valid religious movement, without rational foundation, that motivated many well-meaning people in the West to act in opposition to their own interests.
Those who were finally hit by "9/11" in the US, by "7/7" in the UK, by the train bombings in Madrid, by the Bali bombings, etc. etc. have come to recognize a fatal contradiction in their worldview. They support the poor Palestinians, but the Palestinians elected Hamas as its government, which is an Islamist anti-western terrorist organization (see their web site), that supports the aims and methods of al Qaeda, that supports killing innocent civilians in their own country. So what to do? That's your problem, but wake up and smell the aroma - it ain't roses!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Another fashla

"Fashla" is the Hebrew word for what in American English is called a "screw-up." Yesterday, an attempt to target a car carrying two terrorists failed, resulting in a fashla. One of the rockets hit a nearby house, killing a pregnant women and her brother and injuring others, including children. Unfortunately, the two terrorists managed to get away. This incident, coming only a week after the explosion on the beach that killed seven, and a day after the death of three children in a similar targeted attack in Gaza (although then the two terrorists were killed), raised serious concerns in Israel. The Defense Minister ordered an investigation and a complete re-evaluation of the procedures used, since operations are supposed to be called off if there is a significant chance of civilian casualties. In this case it looks as if the missile itself malfunctioned.
Israeli spokesmen scrambled to issue the usual denials, not of responsibility, but of intent. IDF orders are clear, that there is no intentional targeting of civilians, and every civilized country accepts that rule. However, there is another side to this other than the guilt-ridden liberal genuflection.
Isi Liebler, an American Jewish leader, writing in the Jerusalem Post, entitled his article "Stop Apologizing." His thesis is that since the Palestinians are waging a deliberate destructive war against Israel, we must and should counter-attack, and in war there are always unfortunate civilian casualties. He also points out that the initial and immediate reaction of Israeli authorites is to apologize for such casualties, and then find out later that the IDF was not responsible in some cases, such as the beach incident, for those casualties. In fact, the Palestinians are masters at deception and staging, and there is certainly an element of this in the beach incident, as can be seen from examining the videos (as reported in the German newspaper Sueddeutsch Zeitung, very little blood is seen, there is no crater, no medics appear, and the reactions of the little girl seem unnatural, she throws herself on the sand and covers her face twice, as if instructed, further she is fully clothed and dry although she was reported to have been in the bathing in the sea and was saved by this). Certainly the incident in 2000 of the shooting of the boy Mohammed al-Dura was proven to have been faked, as well as the elaborate "Jenin Massacre" hoax of 2002 . So Israel should not be in such a hurry to apologise, since often we have nothing to apologise for.
Alan Dershowitz, visiting Israel, clarified the legal situation. In a stand-off between the police and gangsters who have taken hostages, if there is a gunfight and one or more of the hostages is killed by police gunfire, then the kidnappers are considered guilty of the murder, since they caused it by taking the hostages. Clearly the police are not trying to kill the hostages. A parallel situation exists in relation to terrorism. If Israel retaliates against terrorists, who have carried out are are in the process of carrying out actions against Israeli civilians, then any civlian casualties on the other side are a result of the terrorist's actions. There would be no casualties if the IDF were not forced to act to prevent terrorist actions and rocket launchings.
At a meeting in Petra today organized by the Jordanians, in a discussion between Pres. Abbas of the PA and Elie Wiesel, Pres. Abbas admitted that suicide bombings are "war crimes" and that rocket firing is wrong. It is the comission of these war crimes and the deliberate targeting of civilians by random rocket launchings, which are considered acts of war, that are the actions of the guilty parties inthis conflict!

Thursday, June 22, 2006


Kherson is a city and a region of Ukraine about 150 km east of Odessa on the shores of the Black Sea adjacent to the Crimea at the mouth of the Dnieper River. I happened to be on the Tel Aviv University campus and popped into the Diaspora Museum (Beit Hatfutsot) and found a small but interesting photographic exhibition about the Jewish history of Kherson: "By the Shores of the Black Sea: Jewish Farmers in the USSR, 1922–1941" (
Apparently the Czars started to send Jews from Russia to till the soil there since it was a desolate area. Under the Soviets, starting in 1922, this gathered steam, and Jews established farms and villages and gradually became a majority in the rural areas (the other region they sent Jews to was Birobidzhan, another remote and desolate area). With support from the Joint Distribution Committee, Jewish philanthropy funded tractors and other agricultural improvements. Their numbers swelled to ca. 200,000, and one town with a Hebrew name had up to 20,000 Jewish inhabitants.
But, there was dissension between the Zionists, the Bundists and the Communists. An organization called the Labor Brigades, which was both Communist and Zionist split in 1927, and those who had moved to Palestine but remained true Communists, returned to the USSR. In the late 1930's collectivization was imposed from Moscow, and many of the leadership were arrested and executed. Those who were not purged under Stalin were finally killed off by the invading German Army in 1941, who erased all trace of the Jewish presence in the region.
The only trace of the Jews' former presence are the ruins of villages and the place names, some still with the original Hebrew names that now have only Ukrainian inhibitants. Also saved were the photos and drawings of Meir Axelrod, who documented the life of the Jews in this rural area that lasted only from 1922-1941.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Peres shmeres

Our 82 year old Deputy PM, Shimon Peres, has got himself into hot water again. This time he was quoted as belittling the rain of rockets on Sderot, calling it "Kassam, shmassam," and comparing the "hysterical" reaction of the inhabitants of Sderot to the "long-suffering" of the inhabitants of Kiryat Shmona in the far north, who were subjected to a continual rain of mortars and rockets in the 70's-80's from Hizbollah in Lebanon.
While there is a serious point behind his comments, namely he thinks it does no good to have a hysterical reaction and to cause a strong IDF military response at this time, nevertheless he received no support from Government and opposition spokesmen, who found his comments "irresponsible." Perhaps it is not timely to respond to the rockets with a mini-invasion of Gaza or the targeted killing of Hamas Ministers, who could call off these attacks any time, because while the PA is chronically split and on the verge of civil war, it little behooves us to provide them with a basis for unification.
But, this reaction did not impress Eli Moyal the Mayor of Sderot, who called Peres "Peres Shmeres" and invited him to spend a night in Sderot and see for himself. Meanwhile today the Mayor and citizens of Sderot carried out their plan and made Sderot a closed town, with all major roads into and out of the town blocked. The Government spokesman Ra'anan Gissin called on all Israeli citizens, including those of Tel Aviv, to show solidarity with the people of Sderot by going down there and helping them. But, Moyal rejected this and called it an excuse for the absence of real Government action to solve the problem of the rockets.
Whether or not the Government can act, or whether or not there is in fact a real deterrent to the rockets, neither Peres nor Peretz, the "P twins," did themselves any political good so far in this crisis. Moyal calling for the Government to resign if they can't resolve this problem is the first such challenge for Olmert's Government.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

PA two-step

On Shabbat five Kassam rockets fell on Sderot. After the death of 7 members of a family on the Gaza beach last week, that the Hamas Government blamed on IDF shelling, there was a huge rocket barrage and then there were two days when only one rocket fell each day, supposedly because Hamas decided to continue its ceasefire. The hunger strikers in Sderot, outside the Minister of Defence Amir Peretz's home, thought the lull might be permanent, but the subsequent increase disabused them and they decided to continue their strike, even though Peretz asked them to stop. It is not clear whether or not Hamas is responsible for any of these launchings, but on Saturday night a group of Islamic Jihad terrorists were caught in their car near Beit Haniya and two were killed in an Israeli helicopter missile strike.
The rockets on Sderot have not killed anyone lately, but they have caused significant damage to factories, homes and schools, and have made life in Sderot for 20,000 people almost unbearable. Nevertheless, very few poeple are leaving the town and no-one is apparently selling their homes. Most people think that the IDF will come up with a solution, but so far the the Government prefers to sit back and threaten.
Olmert and Peretz at today's Cabinet meeting stated that they were satisfied by the IDF investigation that the IDF was not responsible for the incident on the beach and they will not support an international investigation. But, the PA is calling for an international investigation in order to blame Israel. There was a piece on the news that a German reporter was manipulated by the PA into trying to get him to write a false report about the event, but he refused. On the other hand, three British newspapers rejected the IDF investigation.
These actions are going on against the background of Hamas-Fatah negotiations in the PA to avert a major crisis between them. Since Hamas strongly opposes any referendum on the so-called Prisoner's Plan, believing that they would lose and be forced to resign, Pres. Abbas has apparently agreed to forgo the referendum if Hamas agrees to sign a document that merges their militia into the official Palestinian security forces under Abbas' control, and accept the implicit recognition of Israel within its pre-June 1967 borders.
No such Plan will be acceptable to Israel as it is, and several commentators have pointed out that this Plan falls far short of the Road Map plan that Abbas himself has signed (it gives the Palestinians the right to continue the 'armed struggle' in the "occupied territories" and the "right of return" for all refugees). Nevertheless, one can see this Plan as a means that Abbas is using to try to bring Hamas under his control.
Some have also pointed out that since this is clearly part of the power struggle between Fatah and Hamas, Abbas is using it to gain Fatah objectives, i.e. more power without in fact reforming his party. So that there has been no attempt on his part to clean house and remove any of the old-time corrupt politicians from Fatah (including many former Arafat cronies) that were partly the reason for the Fatah defeat in the first place. So Fatah is gaining by not being forced to reform and Hamas is gaining by being forced to become legitimate.
But, since they cannot legitimately obtain foreign funds, the Hamas Government has found an illegal way to do so, by smuggling cash through the Rafah Crossing from Egypt. Last week Hamas FM Sadeh was found to have smuggled m$20 (yes $20 million!) in several suitcases. The EU monitors of the crossing, set up in conjunction with Israel and Egypt, say that this contravenes the agreement, but Sadeh disagrees, he says that as a member of the Hamas Government he can bring anything he likes through the crossing, and this presumably includes smuggled arms.
The Olmert Government also started the process of consultations with the settler's council (Yesha) and the Peace Now group to decide how to resolve the issues of the so-called "illegal" settlements (actually they are technically not illegal, but rather "not approved"). This may result in a compromise in which some will be removed and others will be approved. This may be the first preliminary step towards Olmert's realignment plan.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


Following WWII did the Jews rise up and wreak retribution on their anti-Semitic enemies? In general, the answer is "NO." Jews are not known for their vengefulness, even under extreme circumstances. I remember reading a book by a member of the Jewish Brigade that saw action as a part of the British Army during WWII. The British were careful to keep the Brigade away from Germany because they feared Jewish reprisals. But, at the very end of the War the Brigade was moved through Italy into Germany. I remember how disappointed I was when the "hero" of this tale (true or fiction I cannot remember) had a real Nazi in his sights, but because the man was not armed and dangerous, he didn't shoot him. After the war there are numerous examples of Poles and others carrying out massacres against returning Jews, but as far as I am aware there was no example of a massacre carried out by Jews against defenceless German or Polish civilians.
One thing that doesn't change is human nature, it remains more or less constant through thick or thin. Jews in Israel are no more vengeful than their compatriots (sometimes the same people) after WWII. There is a society for the families of Israelis murdered by terrorists, do they form militias, do they go out and kill Palestinian civilians out of revenge? The answer is of course, NO! Why is that, presumably because they are infused with a Jewish view that all life is sacred and that to take revenge against innocents is unacceptable.
There have been a few such exceptions, I recall Baruch Goldstein who massacred Muslims at prayer in the Tomb of the Patriachs in Hebron. Even with massive justification this is not acceptable in Jewish civilization. And this is an exception compared to the murder culture that permeates Palestinian society, where every night thousands of men go out with guns in order to shoot Israelis or each other. Last week a car with Israeli license plates was shot at by a Palestinian gunman on route 443 leaving Jerusalem, and the driver was killed (this was probably not reported in your media). He turned out to be a Jerusalem Arab, and he was buried last week. Today gunmen invaded the PA Parliament in Ramallah and shot it up, destroyed papers and records and threatened to kill legislators unless they are paid. In our society, people dying of cancer carry out a hunger strike outside the house of the PM, people from Sderot being shelled every day from Gaza carry out a hunger strike outside the home of the Defence Minister Amir Peretz in Sderot.
That is why it is so preposterous to blame Israel for "killing" Palestinian civilians. Certainly they are dead, but they died because their gunmen are actively attacking our civilians. Let them stop and everyone knows that the IDF guns will be silent. Once again, the Defence Minister threatened the Hamas Government of the PA through a third party that if the rocket fire on Sderot did not stop, the IDF would mount a major campaign in northern Gaza (is this what we disengaged for?). On Monday instead of 10 rockets there was one. I hope they think that we mean business, no country can allow its cities to be brought to a standstill with its citizens being randomly targeted by a barrage of rockets. On the other hand, Israel's so-called targeting of "militants" is no more than an elementary defensive measure to stop the launchers carrying out their missions. In war, that's how the "game" is played. But, hopefully Hamas got the message and the barrage will stop. If not the IDF will have to respond once again.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Jumping the gun

If an explosion happens in Gaza, a small place full of armed terrorists and the manufacture of explosives, it is automatically blamed on Israel. This is for two reasons, first the Palestinians have a sophisticated and experienced PR organization (that's one of the few things they are good at, blaming Israel) and second the world is primed to believe that Israel is the bad guy, that Israel is using excessive force.
Now since the media do not report the daily barrage of Kassam rockets falling on southern Israel, particularly Sderot a town of ca. 20,000 people, there is little understanding of the reason why the IDF has to attack Gaza. In fact, if you believe the IDF Report given last night by two Generals that the ordnance that exploded on the Gaza beach last Friday, killing 7 members of a family, was not of Israeli origin, as judged from the shrapnel in two victims sent to Israel for medical treatment, then you will know that the initial reports blaming Israel were wrong. But, too late, the damage has been done. From respected western newspapers to obscure local rags in the Middle East, every paper in the world blamed Israel for this killing. Photographs of the event show no crater as would have been seen from a shell, and a review of IDF actions shows that no shells were fired for at least 10 mins before the explosion. But, since the PA refuses to cooperate with Israel, there is no way of knowing for sure. Also, one of the so-called Peace (read pro-Palestinian) Committees held a press conference in Gaza with a former Pentagon expert, definitely attributing the shell to Israel, so there is not much Israel can do. But, after the fake "massacre" in Jenin in 2000, the staged murder of Mohammed Dura, the boy who was supposedly pinned down by IDF fire in 2002, and the explosion of a bus in the Jabalya camp in 2004 that killed 20 and was blamed on Israel but turned out to be due to shells being transported in a bus by Hamas, how many times does it have to happen before the media gets the message and learns not to jump the gun?
Another case in point happened on Tuesday, when a van was struck by a missile in northern Gaza city. It was transporting Grad (long range) Katyusha rockets (not the much shorter range Kassams). Three Islamic Jihad terroists were killed, including their top rocketeer Hamoud Wadiya, but another 8 civilians were also killed including two children. This was of course attributed to Israel. But, as the IDF pointed out, the first missile shot did not destroy the van, so a second one was fired, but in the minutes before this hit, a crowd rushed to the van to see what had happened, and the rockets inside also exploded, hence the civilain casualties were higher. The terrorists do this deliberately, attach a second bomb to kill civilians who come to investigate, but there is no doubt that this was not a deliberate attempt by the IDF to kill civilians, since their strict policy is to avoid civilian casualties, and they know how the media handle that.
In war sometimes there are accidental casualties, and in Sderot 12 people have been killed over a period of 6 months from the constant rain of rockets, now increased to ca. 30 a day (!) because Hamas has cancelled its (nonexistent) ceasefire, in response to the beach killings that they were probably responsible for (by burying ordnance in the sand to catch Israel commandos coming ashore). Such is the cynicism of the terrorist murderers. Now Sderot is a "ghost town," the schools are closed and people are scared to walk in the street. The Mayor, Eli Moyal, has pleaded with the Min. of Defense, Amir Peretz, who lives in Sderot, to retaliate against Beit Hanun in Gaza from where the rockets come, but so far he has preferred restraint, while threatening, as all Israeli leaders do. Maybe they are waiting for PM Olmert to finish his European tour, but I hope that they will retaliate thus: drop pamphlets to warn the inhabitants and then demolish a part of the town. Also, turn off the electricity and the water that Israel is giving the PA while they are bombarding us! Does this make any rational sense? When they are trying to kill you the only sensible thing to do is kill the bastards first.
Meanwhile, Olmert is touring Europe, visiting the UK and France, but he is not emphasizing the rain of terror of rockets on Israeli civilians, he is trying to sell his unilateral realignment plan, but so far noone is buying.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Train crash in Netanya

Every time I think there is nothing to write about today, something happens, often something unfortunate. Today there was a train crash just outside Netanya. Five were killed and about 60 injured. I know the place well, it was a crash waiting to happen. A level crossing is always dangerous, but especially in Israel where cars are always racing to get across just before the gates close and often the wooden gates are broken off. The road to the crossing one way is straight and its easy to see, but coming from Netanya there is a sharp turn in the road just before the crossing, and many cars approach this turn too fast without realising that they may have to come to a sudden stop.
This is apparently how the accident is reported to have happened, a truck stopped at the crossing, but a car behind it did not stop and ploughed into it pushing it onto the tracks. Then the train crashed into the truck and car at top speed. Luckily the train driver and the truck driver both realized what was going to happen and both managed to survive. The driver of the car who caused the accident apparently fled the scene. This will not help his case.
This track is the main Haifa to Tel Aviv route that is the busiest in Israel and runs from as far north as Nahariya and south to Ashdod and Beersheva. Our daughter Miriam was in a similar accident that happened at a level crossing further south exactly one year ago. In that accident 2 were killed, and luckily Miriam was not injured. You would think that something might have been done about level crossing safety, since then, but forget it, the politicians in Israel are busy with more important things like settlements and plans (and lining their own pockets).
In every democracy changes occur in response to public safety, but only very slowly. In the UK they have just proposed changes to the Coroner Court system after a doctor managed to cover up about 45 killings as natural deaths, without any suspicion falling on him for years. The Attorney General has also intervened in a case where a known pedophile was released early and raped a 3 year old child, and was given a minimum 5 year sentence by a judge. You might ask how is this possible? Of course, in the US you have shootings all the time, but little in the way of gun control.
Things do change, and the pace of development in Israel in some areas is incredibly fast. Even the road on the far side of the crossing has been expanded to two lanes and is quite new, but nothing was done to alleviate the problem of the crossing itself. When it comes to safety, in a country that is supposed to value human life, in many ways Israel is an underdeveloped country.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Death on the beach

All military forces make mistakes, especially in the course of a war. Case in point, the British police and secret services have egg on their faces after they released two brothers of Muslim Pakistani origin, without charges, after a highly publicized arrest in the East End of London, during which one of the men was shot in the shoulder. Over 200 policemen, some in special anti-chemical gear, were photogrpahed during the two day event last week, but it all turned out to be a mistake. Contrary to the reports, no chemicals were found, no bombs and no incriminating evidence.
Muslim associations in the UK are using this as an example of how the police over-react and harm innocent Muslims without any real evidence. Coming after the shooting of the Brazilian immigrant in the London subway last year, when he was mistakenly identified as a wanted Muslim killer, and after the police clearly lied about every aspect of the situation (he was not observed leaving his apartment as they stated, he was not stopped at any point along the way, getting on a bus or entering the subway, even though he was supposedly suspected of wearing a bomb-belt and even though he had no over-coat on as they claimed and even though he did not run down the stairs into the station as they said, and did not act suspiciously) it is about time to accept that the British police are incompetent. But, does that mean that their terms of engagement in the war on terrorism are unjustified, such as the shoot to kill order? That is difficult to say.
Or take the situation in the US. Once upon a time the US Government gave extraorinary powers to special anti-drug police forces to enter any premises unannounced to try to stem the tide of drugs in the US. But, in one case when a task force crashed into a house in St. Louis and saw a man enter the corridor ahead of them carrying a gun, they of course shot him down. But, it turned out that he was holding a hair dryer and had just left the bathroom to see what had happened in his home. It turned out that the house was not the right one, the number had been mistakenly mixed up, by the police themselves. As a result of this murder the terms of the drug force's freedom of action were severely curtailed.
In Israel, rockets have been raining down on Southern Israel, from Ashkelon on the coast to Sderot in the Negev, for months. About 10 a day are fired from various points in northern Gaza. Last week one fell near the home of the Defense Minister Amir Peretz, head of the Labor party, who lives in Sderot. Also, a shell penetrated a classroom in a school in Sderot, but fortunately it was empty at the time. Should Israel wait until dozens of children are killed?
Going on the offensive, the IDF has sent patrols into Gaza to head off the teams of launchers, they have carried out targeted killings of known leaders of the launching teams, and they have bombarded parts of Gaza from where rockets are fired using artillery, air planes and boats. Yesterday the beach area in Gaza was bombarded and unfortunately a family picnic was hit, that resulted in the death of 7 members of one family, as well as many injuries. Shades of US attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, but then again they did get Zarqawi!
The Israeli Government has officially apologized to the PA for this incident, and has offered to pay for or give medical treatment in Israel to the injured. One child has been transferred to Soroka Hospital in Beersheva.
As a result of this incident, no doubt publicized around the Arab world, the PA declared a three day mourning period and Hamas stated that they would no longer abide by their ceasefire. Although few in Israel considered that there was any evidence of a ceasefire given the level of rocket attacks. Today there was also an increase in the number of firings of rockets, even though most of them fell in Gaza territory killing one person, and only a few hit Israeli territory.
So what are the British police, the American anti-drug agencies and the IDF to do in the face of the constant and unprecendented level of attacks upon their societies by terrorists, drug runners and rocket launchers. Certainly they can't just sit there and take it, a strong response is required and in that situation innocent people will be victims. Let the instigators of these attacks stop their actions and then noone need get killed!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Home grown

Every Western country is now dealing with the threat of home-grown Muslim terrorists. Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims, at least that what it seems now. In every country there have been examples of locals who are not only immigrants, but have also been born there and have gone through school there, and seem superficially to be well-adjusted, but turn out to be highly ideologically motivated haters and killers.
In France, there was extensive rioting of Muslim and Black youths, many of them French-born, who torched thousands of cars and hundreds of buildings, because they are alienated from French culture. In Britain there were of course the 4 Muslim suicide bombers from Leeds, one a convert, who blew up trains and buses on 7/7 and killed 54 and wounded 200 fellow citizens. And for what? To prove that they hated their country, that it meant nothing to them and that all infidels are worthless and can be killed. And one of the killers was a well-liked teacher who had 4 kids. And then there were the 4 copy-cat killers whose bombs luckily proved to be duds and they were caught. Of course, there were also the bombers of Madrid trains, one of whom was paid for the explosives.
In Canada, 17 adults and youths were arrested last week and are being charged with various crimes, including terrorism and plotting deaths, etc. They planned to take over the Candian Parliament building in Ottawa and kill MPs and behead the PM if they could. If it can happen in Canada, the most permissive and one of the most economically advanced societies in the world, it could happen anywhere, not to mention Germany, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, etc.
What is it that motivates these young men? After all there are millions of poor, desperate Asians and Africans who would give anything to be in their places. Every day hundreds of Black (mostly Muslim) immigrants (from Mauretania, etc.) arrive in leaky over-crowded boats on the Canary islands hoping for a chance to get into Spain and Europe. And the Spanish are criticised when they deport these people back to Africa. Malta is over-run by them, the PM of Malta issued a call for help to the EU because they can't cope with the influx.
Of course, in the US, border security has become a major national issue, with the Medxican border overrun by hundreds of thousands of South and Central Americans and Mexicans. Now the US is building a security fence, much like that built by Israel to keep out the Palestinian suicide bombers. And now the US has to worry more about security on the Canadian border.
The problem is that within a generation, the home-grown Muslims have forgotten how lucky their father's generation felt to be allowed to immigrate into the Western countries. They already think they are owed everything that the "whites" have, they aren't prepared to wait or work hard for it, they want it now, as they have grown to expect in Western culture. And unlike other immigrants, such as the Jews, who considered themselves lucky just to be left alone to do their own thing, these young Muslims want to control the place, they think they have the answer to everything in their ideology, and if the infidels don't like it, too bad, they will be killed and then forced to accept it. So welcome to the era of home-grown terrorists, it will be a long and difficult war.
In another phase of the terrorist war the IAF targeted and killed Jamal Samhadane. the Head of the Popular Resistance Committees, and a well-known terrorist leader. He has been responsible for most of the Kassam rocket attacks on the Negev. A few months ago the Hamas Government also appointed him to Head the militia they set up to oppose that of the Fatah-dominated Security forces. This was considered a direct insult to Pres. Abbas as well as to Israel, where it was known that he was a highly wanted terrorist. His passing might be compared to that of al-Zarqawi in the Iraq context. He was killed during a training exercise for a terrorist attack to accompnay the firing of Kassams, six of which were fired on Thursday and one of which hit a home in Sderot. His death will set back the terrorist organizations in Gaza, and is a loss to Hamas.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A good day in Iraq

Today marked a good day in Iraq and around the world in the war against terrorism. The killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi marks a possible turning point in the insurrection in Iraq. Since he was the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, and organized many of the kidnappings and suicide bombings there, his removal will hopefully reduce the effectiveness of the insurrection.
His strategy was to kill as many Shia as possible in order to induce their sectarian reaction against the Sunnis in order to foment a civil war. But, mainly due to the influence of the Shia Imam al Sistani, who preached against violent response, his strategy has not worked so far, even though there have been some sectarian killings and expulsions on both sides.
Today was also a good day because the three most important positions in the new Iraqi Cabinet were filled, those of Defense, Foreign Policy, and Security. It has taken months of negotiations in order to arrive at this point, and fortuitously it happened on the same day that Zarqawi was eliminated.
One notable aspect of Zarqawi's death was the role played by the Jordanian secret service (Mukhabarat). Jordan is very much a controlled society and has a very effective secret police. The attack on a hotel wedding a few months ago in which many Jordanians were killed was organized by Zarqawi, who is of Jordanian-Palestinian origin. He had a particular obsession with overthrowing the monarchy in Jordan, as part of the process of bringing about an Islamic revolution. This is similar to the focus of Osama bin Laden on Saudi Arabia. The demise of Zarqawi may give Jordan a little breathing space from the fear of direct attacks, although Hamas also tried to set up a murder squad there against the monarchy.
Today also PM Olmert visited Jordan and met with King Abdullah, and assured him that Israel will not implement his realignment plan without consulting him. He is nervous because they fear that if Israel separates itself unilaterally from the West Bank and withdraws behind the security fence, then the Palestinians will then focus their attention on him.
There is a significant difference in focus between al Qaeda and Hamas, although they share the same overall goal of establishing an Islamic Caliphate over the whole world. As far as Hamas is concerned its focus is on Israel, remove Israel and the rest of the West will gradually capitulate, especially since every one knows that the Zionists control American foreign policy and that's why the US supports Israel. By, contrast, al Qaeda sees the opposite relationship, America is the great enemy, that controls everything in the world, including the Israeli Government which does its bidding. In order to realize its proper dominant position Islam must first destroy America, and then Islam can spread all over the earth without real opposition.
The fact that Zarqawi was killed by a US air strike, with the cooperation of Iraqi forces and Jordanian intelligence is a very good thing. Even though noone expects the insurrection in Iraq to immediately show the effects of this loss to the enemy, a severe blow has been dealt to the forces of international Islamist terrorism. Next Osama?!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Terrorist's Plan

The clash between Fatah and Hamas in the PA has come down to a referendum on the so-called "Prisoner's peace plan," that I prefer to call the "Terrorist's Plan."
First of all, who wrote this "plan"? They are:
Marwan Barghouti, Fatah-Tanzim leader, serving five life sentences for attacks which left five people dead;
Sheikh Abdel Khaliq al-Natsche, senior Hamas leader, ran a network of charities that directly funded Hamas' "military wing";
Sheikh Bassam al-Saadi led Palestinian Islamic Jihad's Jenin branch;
Abdel Rahim Malouh, formerly No. 2 in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, helped plan the murder of Israeli tourism minister Rehavam Zeevi;
Mustafa Badarne recruited dozens of Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine members to attack Israeli soldiers and civilians.
They are all serving long prison sentences in Israeli jails for terrorist murders and planning. Would you trust these men to "plan" your future?
Second, does the Plan explicitly call for recognition of Israel? The answer is NO, there is no clause in the Plan calling for the recognition of Israel by the PA, only that they would establish a State in the areas of Gaza and the West Bank to be evacuated by Israel when it withdraws to the borders prior to June 5, 1967. This implies a two-state solution, but does not commit them to it, and does not recognize Israel within those borders (even CNN uses the phrase "implies recognition"). On the contrary, the Plan implies that the rest of Israel is fair game for the Palestinian State once it is established (as the continuation of the "armed struggle").
Also, the "Plan" includes Israeli acceptance of the inalienable right of return of all Palestinian refugees into Israel. This is a complete non-starter, because first, most of the people called refugees by the Palestinians are not in fact refugees (but are their descendents, a very different category) and second Israel will never accept this condition, it would be equivalent to committing suicide.
If that is the case why would Abbas make such a fuss about this Plan and why would Hamas bother to reject it. The reason is that Abbas is trying to exploit his position as elected Pres. of the PA to project his power over the Hamas Government, and this Plan is a convenient way to do it. Hamas rejects it because they totally reject the concept of an Israeli State, and accepting this Plan would have them implying the existence of Israel in the pre-67 borders, something they cannot accept.
So it is not that Abbas and Fatah are so moderate, it is that Hamas is more extreme. But, the Plan being touted by Abbas is little more than a re-hash of previous Arab dictates to Israel to accept their terms, or else! There is no sense of Arab compromise in this Plan or any other. The only positive feature of the Plan and the referendum is that it may establish that a majority of Palestinians prefers a two-state solution to continuing to try for a one state solution.
So while the clash in the PA over the Plan and the referendum is intense and real, for Israel it is all much ado about nothing. The Israeli Government was right to say this is a PA "internal matter." Let them fight it out and whoever comes out on top let them then approach Israel with a viable negotiating position, which is not this "Terrorist's Plan."

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Olmert in Egypt

The visit of PM Olmert to Egypt marks a significant improvement in relations between the two countries. This is not because Olmert and Mubarak like each other, but because the interests of Egypt and Israel coincide in one important respect, they both share a common enemy.
In Egypt, Mubarak's main enemy is the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the force of Islamism that seeks to undermine Egypt and overthrow him. Their means of undermining Egypt is simple, since Egypt depends largely on tourism, every now and then they blow up a hotel or two and kill some tourists. That frightens others off, and they accomplish their goal. The last set of explosions in Sinai was reportedly carried out by local Beduin, but they were supposedly trained by operatives from Gaza. Therein lies the link.
In Israel, the main enemy now is Hamas, that is in charge of the PA and is in the process of building a terrorist mini-state. This mini-state would be a terrible threat to Israel, but also to Egypt. So that is where both countries perforce have a common enemy and a common interest. They must prevent Hamas from achieving its goal, and for Egypt this must be done without seeming to abandon the Palestinian cause. That is why Mubarak made a point of emphasisizing that he wants Olmert to seriously negotiate with Pres Abbas of the PA.
Now both leaders, as well as Pres. Bush, know very well that Abbas has no real power in the PA, and he cannot stop Hamas short of dismissing their duly-elected Government, which he has threatened to do if they don't toe his line of accepting previous PA commitments, recognising Israel and giving up terrorism. This they are never going to accept, so such a move would almost certainly lead to a civil war, which none of them wants.
So the cat and mouse game between Hamas and Fatah will continue and the illusion of negotiations between Olmert and Abbas will be pursued by Israel, in order to satisfy Egyptian and American needs. Since they can lead nowhere, at some point Olmert will be forced to choose, either continue the futile diplomatic dance, or switch to his unilateral realignment program. We are a few years yet from that juncture, but we are currently entering the diplomatic dance period, and if you listen carefully you can hear the music swell as Olmert and Abbas approach each other across the crowded ballroom.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Support for Palestinians "crashing"

One of the most gratifying news items seen in a long time was an exclusive report in the J'sam Post of a poll in Europe that support for the Palestinians is "crashing". The poll was carried out by leading international pollster Stan Greenberg, who was Bill Clinton's pollster, for the Israel Project, a US based non-profit organization, that showed for example that while three years ago 48% of French gave support for the Palestinian cause, that figure has provisionally now gone down to 16%!
There are four reasons one can cite for this precipitous decline:
1. The death of Yasir Arafat, who was a well known figure around which Palestinian support had rallied
2. The corruption in the PA that became evident after his death
3. The turn-around of the Sharon Government and the implementation of the disengagement from Gaza
4. The election of Hamas as the representatives of the Palestinian people
The conclusion is that once Arafat passed from the scene, support for the Palestinian cause as a clear colonial situation became soft. The fact that the Palestinian people remained in dire poverty after billions of dollars, mainly from the EU and the US, had been poured into the PA, tended to show that their poverty could not be ascribed to Israel alone. Also, the decision of PM Sharon to formulate and implement the Gaza disengagement suprised many critics of Israel, since Sharon was doing precisely what they had been agitating for for a long time. Yet, they saw that it made no difference to the Palestinians. While Israel was softening its stance, the Palestinians were hardening theirs. They destroyed former Israeli facilities in Gaza, instead of making use of them, they increased their rocket attacks from Gaza, they continued suicide bombings, and they voted in a hard-line Islamist terrorist organization, Hamas. This raised the question, what in fact could Israel do to satisfy them, and the answer was evidently nothing.
Further, Hamas sounds like and is more of a terrorist organization similar to those that have inflicted casualties on the West, than it appears to be a genuine liberation movement. Seeing the commonality of Hamas dogma and that espoused by al Qaeda and others, gave naieve liberal supporters of the Palestinian cause pause. What indeed had they been supporting all this time? Some also became aware that Muslim organizations, such as those in Britain, had effectively taken over the anti-Iraq war movement, that now consisted of some extremist leftists (the Socialist Worker's Party) and the Muslims (the British Muslim Alliance).
In Holland, for example, the attitude towards the Muslim minority (6%) has hardened after the horrible murder of Theo van Gogh. Throughout Europe the hardening of attitudes towards Muslims has translated into stronger immigration laws and less support for the Palestinian cause. In the US, support for Israel has increased to 58% and for the Palestinians is at an all-time low of 10%.
Nevertheless, "two swallows don't make a summer." Before we start celebrating, it seems that reduction of support for the Palestinian cause has not fully translated into support for Israel. Many leftists and liberals still feel that Israel is not worthy of their support, but nonetheless, Israel's moves have given them pause, and they perceive that the conflict is not so black and white as they previously thought. Now they see shades of gray, that translate into a weakening of support for the Palestinians and a tendency to give Israel more of the benefit of the doubt.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

6.6% GDP

The Israeli gross domestic product (GDP) grew at 6.6% last year (April 2005-6). This was much higher than anticipated and was almost entirely the result of the conservative policies of Benjamin Netanyahu as Finance Minister in Sharon's government. However, the Israeli electorate did not reward him for his performance, on the contrary they punished him. In fact, as Caroline Glick, one of the Jerusalem Post's great columnists pointed our in her column this weekend ("Israel's premeditated market failure"), from the Israeli press you would assume that the Israeli economy is failing abysmally. The cutting of many social programs led the Labor Party under Amir Peretz and the Pensioner's Party to garner seats by promising to increase spending on social programs. And the doom and gloom was enhanced by personal stories relating to the colon cancer patient's demonstration outside the Health Ministry, that is now over since the Government agreed to increase spending by mNIS 350.
Of course, Glick blames the leftist leaning Israeli press for its emphasis on the downside of the economy and for not properly balancing the stories with the increased foreign investment, such as the b$4 deal of Warren Buffet for Iscar. If one compares Israel to the performance of the rest of the world then it is doing very well, the EU generally has a few percent of GDP increase (average 2.5%, except for Ireland that is higher), the US is at 5.5%, surprisingly high given the price of crude oil, although India at 9% and China at 10% are far ahead. But, then again one has to take into account the level from which they start.
Certainly the economy has implications for other areas. Although the Defense budget is likely to be cut (by mNIS 500), nevertheless the general improvement in the economy, as evidenced by the increase in tourism and spending, should allow Israel to continue to grow. By contrast the PA is in dire financial straits, unable to pay Government salaries, and the PA under Hamas is even talking of cutting jobs and salaries. This makes sense, although most of the jobs to be cut are held by Fatah supporters, so it won't go over well. One might enquire why the economies of the Arab States do so poorly, except perhaps for the Gulf States, and the answer might be that they are all controlled economies and there is an enormous amount of corruption.
While Israel continues to face political problems, those who put their faith in economic arguments, including the capitalists and the Marxists, might find solace in Israel's economic performance. In her analysis, Glick as usual is too much of a pessimist, defence problems don't grow just because the liberal press distorts the true picture of the economy.


We've had "disengagement," "convergence," "consolidation" and now "realignment." What difference does a word make? In this case a lot. What is being sought is a translation of the Hebrew term: התכנסות(hitkansut) in English that is neutral enough not to be threatening or negative in any way, a term simply describing a movement, but without its implications. Thus, we don't use the term "concentration" (because of the connection to "camps") or "withdrawal" (sounds like a retreat) or "transfer" (it sounds too much like ethnic cleansing) or even "retrenchment." Since the visit to Washington Olmert's Plan is now called the "realignment plan."
Realignment is the perfect word because it implies no loss, merely a rearrangment of resources. But, after the Gaza disengagement, what happened? There was no reciprocation from the Palestinians, for the most part the Israeli facilities were destroyed. Most notably, the greenhouses that were bought for millions of dollars by a group of (mostly Jewish) Americans (suckers) for the Palestinians to use, have largely been trashed by groups of armed gunmen, probably al Aksa or Islamic Jihad, because they don't want anything left by the Israelis to remain (this is the usual practice of the Palestinians, they totally destroyed the few Jewish settlements they captured in the War of Independence in 1948, such as Kfar Etzion, even uprooting all the trees!), such is their hatred! The hope of the Palestinians to export their produce through the Karni crossing was sunk by the continued attacks and threats by the terrorist groups against it, thus causing Israel to close the crossing most of the time. At present it is only open periodically for the transfer of humanitarian aid into the PA.
And from a political pov the disengagement from Gaza was a failure. It did turn the tide for a while on the European attitude towards Israel, but the basic sympathy for the Palestinians is still very evident. Its true that the election of Hamas caused a cessation of US and EU payments to the PA. But, there has been no admission that the previous payments were completely wasted as far as humanitarian issues were concerned. Billions of dollars were stolen at all levels, and nothing was left in the PA coffers, so they are currently bankrupt and cannot pay their government worker's salaries. At least the EU has given up on the idea of paying their salaries directly since this would clearly be a subsidy to the Hamas Government. Today there were major demonstrations in Gaza and Ramallah against Hamas for non-payment of salaries.
At present, the Office of Pres. Abbas is in the process of trying to organize a referendum of the Palestinian people on the issue of the peace proposal of the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, that was adopted a few weeks ago. This closely follows the so-called Arab or Saudi plan that gives the Arabs everything they want, Israel must withdraw to the pre-June 1967 borders, give up all the land and Jerusalem, and allow the "right of return" to all Arab refugees, and then they might recognize Israel (but there is no commitment to an "end of conflict" clause). This "plan" is unacceptable to Israel, being the complete Arab position, without any consideration of Israeli interests or compromise. Needless to say Hamas opposes this plan and this referendum.
So the disengagement from Gaza did very little for Israel, except reduce casualties and make the job of the IDF somewhat easier. But, even that is debatable given that the IDF has admitted that it has been sending patrols deep into Gaza, as well as using artillery bombardments, to try to stop the Kassam rockets falling on the Negev. They admitted this the other day when a patrol managed to kill four terrorists and wound eight when they were caught on a launching mission. In fact the number of rocket launchings are down, but still continuing.
Now its true that disengagement, as used in Gaza and northern Samaria, is not quite the same as realignment, as being used in relation to the West Bank. In the case of Gaza, Israel left the area completely (until now), but in the West Bank we definitely intend to keep some of it (say 10-20%). So Olmert's plan is to move all the settlers in "isolated settlements" into the zones of the densely populated areas, including Ariel, Etzion and Ma'ale Adumim. But, remember the West Bank is a small area, not as tiny as Gaza, but not much bigger than Montgomery County, Maryland (where we used to live), so such movements are quite small, and yet politically very significant. One can understand why settlers who have lived for up to 30 years in some of these places will oppose moving on religious and practical grounds, to be uprooted to move a short distance, particularly when they see how the Gaza settlers were abandoned by the Government once they had been displaced.
So the question is, "is this journey really necessary." In an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled: "West Bank Terrorist State; The folly of Israeli disengagement," James Woolsey, former Head of the CIA, is one of a growing number of leading American experts who are arguing that the "realignment" from the West Bank is a step too far, not only is it a potential danger for Israel, but by empowering the Islamist terrorist organizations even further, it is a threat to the stability of Jordan, Egypt and to the USA itself.
Israel needs permanent borders, but if they will not be recognized by the international community there is no point in withdrawing to them. And if the other side is controlled by Hamas, an unregenerate terrorist enemy of Israel, why give them any land without negotiations and recognition. And finally, was Fatah under Arafat or Abbas really engaged in peaceful negotiations with Israel? They never even took the first step required of them in the Road Map, to stop all terrorism and disband the terrorist organizations. So we should do what's in our interests, and realigning from areas of the West Bank without a partner is not it!

Thursday, June 01, 2006


This week we went on one of our occasional day trips with our friends Elaine & Eddie, this time to Acco, the city north of Haifa known in English as Acre. The great attraction in Acco is the underground Crusader city, that was conquered by the Egyptian Mamluks in 1291 and destroyed and buried. It was discovered only in the 1950s when the Israelis began to excavate below the remaining Crusader fortress. They found a huge complex of Crusader buildings below ground, many of them intact, only filled in with dirt. Some of the halls and the columns holding them up are huge, and quite intact from the 12th century!
Although we had been there several times before, we went this time to see additional finds that had recently been made. This included more buildings, and in 1994 a huge tunnel was discovered by accident, dating from the 12th century, attributed to the Order of the Templars. They had been the Knights who had guarded the Temple compound in Jerusalem until the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem had been defeated by Saladin in 1187, whereupon they moved to Acco. It is an incredible tunnel that runs under half of the old city, used both for transport and escape. It is wider than a London underground train tunnel and looks just like one. When the Crusaders were defeated and forced out of Acco, they moved their headquarters to Rhodes, where their castle and many other buildings remain, all built in the same gothic style as in Acco.
Acco is a mixed Arab and Jewish city, and this time we found that it is much cleaner than it was, and there are many attempts to make it more tourist-friendly. We also visited the Bahai garden just north of Acco where the founder of the religion, the Bab, is buried, but unfortunately it was closed (these gardens are not as huge and resplendent as the Bahai gardens in Haifa). We had the same experience at the Tunisian synagogue that had been built as a replica of one in Djerba by a group of Tunisian immigrants. We consoled ourselves with a nice lunch at an excellent restaurant that was recommended by locals.
Several other interesting sites in Acco that we did not visit this time are the citadel, in which the British held Jewish prisoners during the Palestine Mandate and where they executed several Jewish fighters. At one point, the Jewish resistance staged a mass breakout from the supposedly impregnable prison through the adjoining Turkish Bath House (depicted in the film "Exodus"). We visited the Bath House and found that it has been made into a very touristic site. There are also some large guns from Napoleon's invasion, when he was defeated at Acre and forced to withdraw, and several Khans (Inns) from the Muslim period, one of which has now been refurbished as a luxury Hotel, and also the largest Mosque in Israel. Acco is certainly worth a visit.