Thursday, November 30, 2006
The Israeli papers report that no real progress was made over prisoner exchange negotiations between Israeli officials and Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman in Tel Aviv yesterday. Haaretz notes that French President Jacques Chirac supports the US stance that there is no point in talking with Syria while it openly supports terror activities.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said Israel will show "patience and restraint", al1though the rockets were fired from Gaza after the truce began.
Mr Olmert said he hoped the ceasefire would also be applied to the West Bank.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniya said all Palestinian groups had made clear that they stood behind the ceasefire.
"Contacts were made with the political leaderships of the factions and there is a reaffirmation of the commitment of what has been agreed to," Reuters news agency quoted Mr Haniya as saying.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has ordered his security forces to enforce the truce.
The move was welcomed by the US administration, which called it a "positive step forward".
Speaking on a visit to a school in southern Israel, Mr Olmert said Israel had "the strength to show the patience and restraint to allow the ceasefire to take hold.
"I have personally told our security forces to show restraint," he added
He said he hoped the agreement "can be extended into the West Bank and that it can lead to serious, direct negotiation which could lead to a full settlement".
Earlier, at least three rockets were fired into Israel, one of which landed in the town of Sderot, without causing harm.
Afterwards Mr Abbas ordered the Palestinian security forces to deploy in northern Gaza and enforce the ceasefire, Palestinian security sources said.
The BBC's Alan Johnston in Gaza says it is not clear whether this means that the security men will actually be expected to use force against militants who might be about to launch rockets.
They have been reluctant to do so in the past, he says.
There is a reaffirmation of the commitment of what has been agreed to
Palestinian prime minister
Hamas' armed wing said it launched the attacks because some Israeli troops were still in Gaza, east of the town of Jabaliya, despite the Israelis saying they had pulled out all their troops overnight.
A statement from the smaller Islamic Jihad group, which also claimed responsibility, said it would not agree to a ceasefire while Israeli military activity continued in the occupied West Bank.
Our correspondent says it quickly became clear that leaders of the two groups were working to try to rein in their armed men.
Mr Abbas telephoned Mr Olmert on Saturday night to say he had agreement from all Palestinian factions that they would stop their rocket fire.
Mr Olmert's spokeswoman Miri Eisin told the BBC that the prime minister had agreed that Israeli forces would not initiate any offensive action after the ceasefire began.
Shortly after the truce came into effect, the Israeli army confirmed that all its troops had left Gaza.
Israel evacuated its settlements and military bases in Gaza last year after 38 years in the territory, but the military renewed ground operations after militants captured an Israeli soldier, Cpl Gilad Shalit, in a border raid in June.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/11/26 15:40:28 GMT
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Khaled Meshaal said it would happen unless there was international agreement on a Palestinian state within six months.
Mr Meshaal said Israel would have to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders.
He was speaking in Cairo amid talks with Egyptian mediators on forming a Palestinian national unity government.
Also on the agenda was a possible prisoner exchange with Israel.
Mr Meshaal said Hamas would be prepared to co-operate on a ceasefire - including an end to missile attacks on Israel - if there was an Israeli commitment to withdraw to the borders that existed before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
'Seize this opportunity'
"We give the international community six months for real political horizons... There is a historic opportunity for a Palestinian state within 1967 borders," he told reporters.
"Our national demands... are the end of the occupation, the creation of a Palestinian state within 1967 borders without settlements, big or small...
"Seize this opportunity. We will not be patient for longer than we have been. If our demands are not met, the Palestinian people will close all political files and launch a third intifada.
"The conflict will be open and the victory in this conflict will be ours."
Israel seized the West Bank from Jordan and the Gaza Strip from Egypt in the June 1967 war.
Mr Meshaal, who is based in the Syrian capital, Damascus, said all Palestinian groups and Arab states agreed Israel should withdraw to borders that existed before the war.
The BBC's Heba Saleh in Cairo says Mr Meshaal was referring to the initiative of 2002, which offered Israel normal relations with all Arab states if it withdrew from lands occupied in 1967. Israel has repeatedly rejected the offer.
"As for the missiles, I have spoken about this before. Palestine is willing to co-operate on the issue, stopping missile attacks in exchange for Israel stopping its attacks on Gaza and the West Bank," Mr Meshaal said.
"With regards to a ceasefire, it should be placed in the context of a political negotiation that allows Palestinians to feel that they have a chance to regain their rights."
A Jerusalem Post (Israel) opinion by former Israeli Foreign Ministry director-general and Next Century Foundation member, David Kimche, urges Israel to accept a ceasefire with the Palestinians
For full article click here
Thursday, November 23, 2006
The Shin Bet security service opposes targeted killings of Palestinian politicians, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin told the diplomatic-security cabinet yesterday.
The cabinet, which was discussing Israel’s response to the ongoing Qassam rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, adopted Diskin’s recommendation and decided against targeting politicians. However, it approved another controversial proposal : targeting Hamas institutions in the Gaza Strip. During a discussion of the use of targeted killings to combat Qassam launches, defense officials explained there were three types of targets, and different instructions for dealing with each.
The first category is people directly involved in terrorism, including Qassam launches. The army’s policy is to kill such people any time accurate intelligence produces a reasonable operational opportunity.
The second covers senior officials in the terrorist organizations’ military wings, who can be killed only with the approval of Attorney General Menachem Mazuz.
The third category is Palestinian political leaders, and Diskin told the cabinet that he opposes targeting such people at all. "Has it helped us in the past ?" he demanded.
After some debate, the cabinet agreed that political leaders should have immunity, even if they used to be involved in terror but have since transferred over to their organization’s civilian wing. This means that Israel will not attempt to assassinate figures such as Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, even though his Hamas organization has repeatedly claimed responsibility for Qassam launches.
Instead, the cabinet’s decision read, targeted killings will be used only against "those involved in practice in committing [acts of] terror." However, the cabinet decided, Israel will step up its response to the Qassam fire in other ways, including targeting Hamas institutions in the Gaza Strip
The following is the response of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the announcement by United Nations Relief and Works Agency Commissioner-General Karen Koning Abu Zayd on 21 November 2006 regarding the activities of the Israel Defense Forces in the Gaza Strip, in which she commented on the firing of "homemade rockets" from Gaza at Israel:
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs utterly rejects the use of such unfortunate and misleading terminology, whose purpose is to dwarf the danger and threat faced by Israeli civilians in the daily firing of Kassam rockets and mortar shells from the Gaza Strip.
At the very hour when the UNRWA commissioner-general found it appropriate to employ such an apparently naive concept as "homemade rockets" -- a concept that reflects a forgiving attitude to the firing of Kassams -- an Israeli civilian was killed by such a rocket in Sderot.
The commissioner-general would do well to remember to demand that the Palestinian Authority honor the demands of the international community, which are anchored in a decision of the UN Security Council: to renounce terrorism, to recognize Israel, and to honor agreements signed with Israel.
The commissioner-general's words do not contribute to the cessation of terrorism, which is the key to improving the living conditions of the Palestinian population.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
The UN Human Rights Council should broaden its focus beyond the Palestinian-Israeli issue to avoid accusations it is one-sided, Kofi Annan said Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters in Geneva for the last time before he steps down as secretary-general at the end of the year, Annan said the council's preoccupation with Israel's actions in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories while ignoring the situation in Darfur had caused some to wonder whether it had "a sense of fair play."
"They (the council members) have tended to focus on the Palestinian issue, and of course if you focus on the Palestinian-Israeli issue without even discussing Darfur and other issues, some wonder 'what is this council doing?"' he said.
The 47-member council, which earlier this year replaced the discredited Human Rights Commission, has been severely criticized by some countries, including the United States, for moving four times to condemn Israel but not taking up human rights violations in Myanmar, North Korea or Sudan.
Peace Now Sderot-Gaza convoy meets Anarchists on a tank
To view full article click here
Monday, November 20, 2006
I post this editorial from (NCF award winning) Danny Rubinstein which makes an important point. It came to my attention through ATFP.
Something remarkable happened recently. I got my first 'right-wing derision' comment on this blog. (An anonymous poster chides me below for posting a Haaretz editorial that calls for a ceasefire in Gaza in light of the Beit Hanoun tragedy)
So before anyone else get's upset, let me make it boldly clear. I am of the opinion that Israel and the Jewish people are in grave danger. I am extremely well attuned to this danger and its acuteness and complexity, as most who know me will confirm.
I have often flagged up the incitement against Israel and the Jewish people emanating from Palestine and the Arab world in general. I will continue to do so.
None of which changes the fact that the editorial below is of great importance. I do not agree entirely by any means. Danny overstates the case by constructing a cause and effect scenario that does not reflect the complex realities. But his viewpoint is especially important in the context of my own opinions. I am aware of it and respect it.
By Danny Rubinstein - Haaretz
The frantic activity and occasionally violent struggles among the Palestinian factions concerning the formation of the new government should arouse concern not only among the Palestinians but among us as well. In another year and a half it will be 60 years since the establishment of the state, and after all these years, the greatest controversy among the Palestinians is over recognition of Israel.
The leaders of Hamas are not giving in. On the ideological plane they don't see any possibility of recognizing the legitimacy of the existence of the Jewish state in any part of Palestine. One could have expected that in the West Bank and Gaza there would be a public campaign to pressure Hamas to change its stance. That is not happening. In several public opinion surveys it even seems that the opposite is true: Hamas continues to enjoy serious support among the public, even on the issue of non-recognition of Israel.
At the end of last week, Dr. Mahmoud Zahar, the foreign minister of the Hamas government, announced that the formation of the new government (the national unity government of technocrats) has a clear aim, which is to remove the economic siege on the Palestinian Authority. In other words, this is ostensibly a technical matter. "And if the new government does not operate according to the political program of Hamas, the Palestinian parliament will bring it down," added Zahar.
Although PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is conducting negotiations with Hamas with the support of almost the entire world, he is seen as a politically weak figure. Instead of announcing the dispersal of the Hamas government and only afterward beginning negotiations over a new government, he has put the cart before the horse and is negotiating with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and his people over their resignations. A question being asked even by Abbas' supporters is why Haniyeh and his friends should be cooperative interlocutors in negotiations over their removal.
Nor are the chairman's demands of Hamas always clear. The guidelines of the national unity government are based on the "prisoners' document," and do not meet the three demands of Israel and the Quartet (recognition, an end to violence and abiding by previous agreements).
Even the agreement of Abbas and Fatah to the appointment of Dr. Mohammed Shabir, the former president of the Islamic University in Gaza, as prime minister has not received final confirmation, and the general feeling is that even if the desired national unity government is established, it will not last for more than a few weeks or months.
Perhaps the most important reason for Abu Mazen's weakness is the lack of broad support in the Palestinian street. This is not a personal matter. The important point is that there is no broad support for his moderate views. In spite of the growing distress in the territories, and particularly in Gaza, the atmosphere among the Palestinians is only becoming more inflexible. This can be seen in Palestinian spokesmen's use of expressions from the 1950s and the 1960s. People, not just Hamas activists, never mention the word Israel; they call it "the Zionist entity" or "the Zionist enemy," and sometimes "the occupation government" and the "Tel Aviv government." Expressions such as "war criminals" and "murderers" are heard daily.
We should not be surprised by that. Anyone who watches the Arab satellite stations and reads the headlines in the Palestinian newspapers has for years seen only pictures of the dead and wounded along with demolished houses. Not a day passes without photographs of bereaved mothers and child amputees, accompanied by the cries of bereaved parents and by mass demonstrations at funerals for the fallen. The main stories every day in the Palestinian media are about arrests and abuse, the theft of land and property, preventing the sick and the elderly from crossing checkpoints, harassment at the checkpoints, the expansion of the settlements and the Judaization of Jerusalem.
This is seen, heard and experienced personally every day by residents of the West Bank and Gaza, and their recognition of the legitimacy of a state that does these things is steadily declining.
Press release from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Shalah has publicly admitted that Israel’s security fence is a significant obstacle to the Palestinian terrorist organizations. “If it weren’t there," he told Al-Manar Television, "the situation would be entirely different.”
On November 11, Shalah granted a long interview to Al-Manar TV, Hizbullah’s television channel. During the interview, for the first time he admitted that Israel’s security fence is an important obstacle to the terrorist organizations (which he termed the “Palestinian resistance”).
He asserted that suicide bombing attacks are the Palestinian people’s “strategic choice” and are meant to “create a balance of force and deterrence” in the campaign against a superior enemy. Shalah said the terrorist organizations have every intention of continuing suicide bombing attacks, but that their timing and the possibility of perpetrating them from the West Bank depends on other factors.
“For example,” he said, “there is the separation fence, which is an obstacle to the resistance, and if it were not there the situation would be entirely different.”
The last few years have witnessed a constant decrease in the number of suicide bombing attacks. This is the result of a number of factors, including the ongoing construction of the security fence, which hinders attempts by the terrorist organizations to infiltrate suicide bombers into Israel -- although they continue to search for the fence’s weak spots.
During the past few years Islamic Jihad, supported and encouraged by Syria and Iran, has become the Palestinian terrorist organization which has carried out the greatest number of suicide bombing attacks. In 2005 (during the so-called “lull in the fighting”) the organization carried out five lethal suicide bombing attacks in Israel, and two more in 2006.
Both the security fence and the IDF’s successful counterterrorist activities against Islamic Jihad's main Samaria infrastructure have greatly hindered its suicide bombing attacks. Such attacks, as stated by Shalah, remain the preferred weapon of the Islamic Jihad, whose leaders have recently expressed their intention to continue using them to attack Israelis.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
The Sunday Times November 19, 2006
SYRIA is to demand American help in securing the return of the Golan Heights from Israel as the price of co-operation over Iraq. With the White House under pressure to talk to its adversary, President Bashar al-Assad has resolved that his assistance will not be cheap.
Assad has been considering how to respond to an American overture following reports that the Iraq Study Group will recommend that the United States engage Syria and Iran in talks on Iraq, a position backed by Tony Blair last week.
The Syrian president wants America and Britain to use their influence with Israel to raise the return of the Golan Heights, seized by the Israelis in the 1967 war. “It will be the top demand,” said Ayman Abdel Nour, a leading reformer in the ruling Ba’ath party.
Assad has ruled out co-operating with the Americans in return for the promise of unspecified benefits. “The Syrian leadership is fed up with the Americans and does not trust their word when it comes to future aid for Syria,” Abdel Nour said.
“Syria will not do anything unless it has secured guarantees from Washington and London that every action Damascus takes to help them will be reciprocated. It will be a step by step scenario: these actions for those actions,” he added. Assad also insists that any help must be dependent on a timetable for US troop withdrawals, a move resisted by President George W Bush.
Shaul Bakhash, an expert on the Middle East at George Mason University, Washington, said: “Neither Iran nor Syria will do a favour for the US without wanting something back — and what both countries want are things that the US is not willing to give them.”
The Syrians believe they are in a position of strength. “Already there is talk that Syria is the winner and will set the new rules of the game in the region,” Abdel Nour said.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Palestinian negotiators said Friday a hoped-for deal this week on a unity government could be delayed by difficulties in working out a parallel prisoner swap with Israel.
The Palestinian president and premier, heading the rival Fatah and Hamas factions, have been trying to wrap up the deal in an effort to end the economic sanctions and pave the way for a resumption of long-frozen talks with Israel. The negotiations have been dragging on for months.
President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, a moderate, has been pushing Hamas to enter a coalition with Fatah in hopes of ending the sanctions. He hopes the government to endorse a softer position to Israel that will enable him to resume peace talks.
The concept is to replace the Cabinet of Hamas ministers with independent experts linked to, but not members of, the two movements. Abbas and his Palestine Liberation Organization would be charged with handling peace negotiations, while the Cabinet would deal with the daily affairs of the Palestinian areas.
The negotiator, who took part in Thursday's meeting with Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was not public. The two met again Friday.
Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for the current Hamas-led government, said a deal might take a bit longer to reach, but expressed optimism the sides would resolve their differences. A key sticking point is which party will appoint the interior minister, who oversees powerful security forces.
Palestinian officials say the US, which has led international opposition to Hamas, and the European Union are ready to accept the united government. But in Washington, State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said it was too early to say.
Despite the reported progress, Abbas has said he hopes to tie unity efforts to a broader deal that would see Israel release Palestinian prisoners, including several jailed Hamas Cabinet ministers and lawmakers, in return for the release of a captured Israeli soldier. Slow progress on such a deal could delay the creation of the new government.
Israeli officials say there will be no prisoner release until the soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, comes home.
Israel has been conducting an offensive in the Gaza Strip since Shalit was kidnapped in a cross-border raid June 25.
The UN General Assembly on Friday night overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning the errant shelling of a Beit Hanun house which killed some 20 Palestinians.
Representatives of 156 countries voted in favor of the resolution, seven objected and six abstained.
Voting "no" were the United States, Israel, Australia, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau. Abstaining were Canada, Ivory Coast, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
Europe's envoys cast their votes unanimously in favor of the resolution.
Israel's ambassador to the United Nations Dan Gillerman walked out of the session in protest, saying his words were falling on deaf ears and that he was better off holding a nearby press conference.
Prior to the debate, Gillerman said the session is a "humiliation and cynical exploitation of the UN, and whoever lends a hand to this decision is lending a hand to terror."
The United States ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, warned member states against approving the proposal, saying it would undermine the organization's relevance.
"Such a decision will only strengthen the widespread doubts regarding the UN, and lead many to conclude that the global organization cannot fulfill a role in the region," said Bolton.
Bolton called the resolution "one-sided" and said its adoption would only "increase tension and serve the interests of those hostile to Israel and that do not accept Israel's right to exist.
Bolton also slammed the UN Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, which called Wednesday for an inquiry into the Beit Hanun shelling.
"Since its inception, the new Human Rights Council has focused solely on Israel while completely ignoring human rights abuses in Darfur, Burma, and North Korea," said Bolton.
The Palestinian Authority's representative to the UN, Riad Mansour, called for "Israeli war criminals" to be put on trial for the shelling.
European states lead efforts to soften the proposed condemnation. The original draft, presented by Arab states, called for an "international mechanism" to protect Gaza Strip residents.
The draft also includes a clause urging UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to dispatch a "working investigative team" to Beit Hanun to conduct an inquiry into the shelling. American media reported former United States president Jimmy Carter is set to lead the team.
The clauses were included in a Qatari-proposed Security Council resolution that was vetoed last week by the U.S.
European states succeeded in changing the proposal's language, replacing the condemnation of the shelling with an expression of sorrow over the incident. A call on Palestinians to halt Qassam rocket fire at Israeli communities along the Gaza Strip had also been added..
Friday, November 17, 2006
Los Angeles: Dreams are what Los Angeles is made of. There's no other place in the world that manages to suppress reality to the extent this city does.
There's no other city that rises and goes to bed at night with the film industry and whose state governor is an Austrian muscleman and a macho movie actor who one bright morning decided it was time to play the part of a politician.
Just a week ago California residents once again voted the current actor in for another term in office.
Those listening to Ehud Olmert at his public appearances here get the impression that he has blended into the city's atmosphere. The man is living in a dream world. Everything is just hunky-dory.
The American war in Iraq is a stabilizing factor in the region. The Israeli war in Lebanon ended in victory. Iran is making threats, but the conclusion is already known. Israel will eliminate the threat before it's too late. This is the time to sign up for a trip to Israel.
I know that Olmert doesn't really think this way and that the euphoria is part of his rhetoric style and doe not necessarily reflect his true feelings. The audience, made up of wealthy Jewish Americans and their heavily bejeweled wives, likes this type of self praise, so why not give these Israel-loving Jews an hour of contentment.
The increasing gap between rhetoric and reality is worrisome as it is.
If I understood Olmert's hints correctly, the president assured him that his administration would stop Iran before it manages to complete its nuclear ambitions. The Americans will try to stop Iran by using international pressure. If they don't succeed in doing this (so far they have failed time after time in this arena) they will resort to a military operation with or without Israel.
The president is convinced that he can attain widespread support for such an operation that would also include the Democratic Party.
The Democrats' victory in Congress has almost completely paralyzed the Bush administration and is threatening to force it to implement moves that oppose its policies in Iraq. An operation against the Iranian threat, however, is a completely different matter. Israel supporters will back such a move, but not only.
But there's a price to pay for such an operation, whether in the form of economic pressure on Iran or a military operation. The Iranians are expected to respond and they will do so harshly. Israel shouldn't be preparing for a peak year of incoming tourism, but for a year of fortifying the home front.
The 4,000 good Jews, who applauded Olmert enthusiastically when he spoke of Iran, should realize that they are also likely to be part of this home front.
If Iran is unable to get its revenge on Israel, it will do so in Jewish centers overseas. It did so when it bombed the Jewish center in Buenos Aires in settlement of a much smaller account – it was for one targeted assassination, not historic, carried out by Israel in Lebanon.
While the Qassam rockets are continuing to fall on Sderot and Ashkelon, despite and perhaps because of the IDF's operations in the Gaza Strip, the prime minister has found himself in a frustrating predicament. He speaks to the defense minister because this is protocol, but he has absolutely no respect for his defense minister's judgment.
He can't speak to his chief of staff because they aren't on speaking terms. They are at loggerheads because Olmert erred in his choice of words when responding to Israeli journalists' questions as to whether Halutz should quit or not. His wording was interpreted as not backing him.
When Olmert tried to rectify this, Halutz made sure Olmert understood that he didn't believe the PM's belated statement of support. It doesn't matter any more what he meant, because while people are dying, there is no trust between the prime minister and the chief of staff.
Olmert's visit to the United States bore all the signs of a good dream: Honor and appreciation, love and affection. A lot of people here in Los Angeles like him personally. Others admire him for his title and the country he represents. At dawn he left for his long journey home.
As the plane comes in for landing in Tel Aviv, the cabin attendant should prepare to say: Mr. prime minister, it’s time to wake up.
According to an article in The Guardian "One particular cause of frustration has been the American veto, last Saturday, of a security council resolution condemning Israel in the wake of an artillery attack in Gaza which killed 18 Palestinian civilians. France, a permanent member of the council, voted in favour, describing its text as "balanced", but Britain abstained."
Meanwhile, Israel is also trying to formulate its own peace plan to rival that of the so-called Arab Quartet. Although Olmert has not come up with anything and the US isn't pushing him to talk to the Palestinians even if Hamas manage to be accepted in a unity government, there are some Israelis willing to negotiate.
It is reported in the Jewish Forward that ...."Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is working, according to sources close to her, on a series of new steps to reinvigorate the peace process, provided that the new Palestinian government is acceptable to Jerusalem. Livni, who said more than once that “as a lawyer, I always prefer to write my own drafts than to put corrections into the other side’s draft,” fears that without an Israeli initiative, the Arab League peace plan might gain momentum as the only game in town. In her speech at the General Assembly, Livni signaled her new ideas, conveying the message that the Israeli public is ready for a historic compromise. “Israel has made its choice,” Livni told the Jewish activists in the opening session, stating that there is a conflict between the Jewish right for all of the Land of Israel and the need to preserve Israel as a democratic state. “For both elements to live together, and not in contradiction, and to assure our security, we have to give up part of Eretz Yisrael.”Livni’s message did not resonate well with the 3,000-strong crowd at the L.A. convention center."
The situation on the ground remains hostile. Israeli planes carried out five overnight air raids across the Gaza Strip. Palestinian medics said five people were wounded.
Palestinian fighters fired two rockets into southern Israel, but neither caused any casualties.
In the West Bank, a 25-year-old Palestinian militant was killed by an Israeli Army sniper during a raid into a West Bank refugee camp before Israeli troops also staged an incursion into Ramallah.
Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer, advocated "targeted killing" operations, branded assassinations by the Palestinians, and warned that Haniyya should not be immune.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Wish we could all be more accommodating of "the other". I am reminded of Bernard Shaw's words paraphrased from the play Pygmalion a.k.a. "My Fair Lady". He wrote: "The great secret, Eliza, is not having bad manners or good manners or any other particular sort of manners, but having the same manner for all human souls: In short, behaving as if you were in Heaven, where there are no third-class carriages, and one soul is as good as another."
George Bernard Shaw, 1856-1950, Playwright
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Defense Minister Amir Peretz decided Thursday to reevaluate the policy of directing IDF artillery fire at the Gaza Strip, following the killing of 19 Palestinian civilians by errant Israel Defence Forces shelling in Beit Hanun on Wednesday.
Peretz also decided that from now on all artillery fire must be approved by GOC Southern Command Yoav Galant, or his superior officers.
The IDF has halted the artillery fire until the completion of an inquiry into Wednesday's incident.
Major General Meir Kalifi, who is heading the IDF inquiry, met Thursday evening with Peretz and presented him with the inquiry's findings.
The inquiry found that a malfunctioning electronic card in the artillery battery's guidance system, which was replaced five days ago, was the cause of the errant fire.
The card fed the battery's guidance system with wrong coordinates, as a result of which the battery errantly fired seven shells into Palestinian homes, instead of open areas from which Qassam rockets were being fired at Israeli communities.
The Israeli-developed "Shilem" guidance system has been in use by the IDF for roughly 30 years. It is considered reliable, and IDF inquiries into the matter found that this is the first time this particular malfunction has occured in the system or similar systems used abroad.
The Kalifi inquiry has yet to complete its work, but as yet has found that the replacement card was examined in a professional manner by the proper technicians.
The inquiry is considering recommending two changes to IDF regulations: requiring a live-fire test of artillery batteries following parts replacement, and requiring human tracking of where shells are falling in addition to the radar.
The inquiry will also examine the standard operating regulations in IDF artillery batteries and in the Gaza division, as well as how well they are upheld in practice.
Peretz also ordered an examination of IDF regulations regarding the minimum required distance between where artillery fire can be directed and the nearest populated area.
According to military sources, it would be worthwhile to look into whether the artillery battery team could have nonetheless avoided the incident through more proper performance, and careful monitoring of the equipment.
Olmert calls for immediate meeting with Abbas
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday said the IDF shelling was caused by a "technical failure" and called for an immediate meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
"He will be surprised, when he will sit with me, by how far we are prepared to go. I can offer him a lot," Olmert said, without elaborating.
In his comments, Olmert said he is ready to meet with Abbas "any time, any place, without preconditions." He said Abbas has prevented a meeting from taking place.
Olmert, speaking in English at a business conference, expressed regret for Wednesday's bloodshed. "I'm very uncomfortable with this event. I'm very distressed," he said, adding he had personally looked into the cause of the pre-dawn artillery strike.
"This particular case ... was a mistake," he said. "It was not a planned attack."
"It was a technical failure of the Israeli artillery. I checked it, and I verified it."
He added, however, that Israel will continue its military operations in Gaza as long as Palestinian rocket attacks persist. He said Israel will do everything it can to avoid similar mistakes, but warned that further tragedies are possible. "It may happen," he said.
Olmert said Wednesday's artillery strike was aimed at an orange grove used by rocket squads in northern Gaza to attack Israel.
Though I already wrote a post (see 'Intentions Matter') about the Beit Hanoun deaths, arguing that despite the abhorrent nature of the incident it was not a 'massacre' - a term the Palestinian leadership now uses habitually - since it was an unintentional hit, I wish to supplement that post with this Haaretz editorial which rings true:
By Haaretz Editorial
Yesterday, we wrote here that "Israel should declare a complete cease-fire in the Gaza Strip for a predetermined period, during which it will not engage in any violent actions, neither assassinations nor incursions. Simultaneously, it should call on the Palestinians to hold their fire as well."
What we feared has come to pass - and for the Palestinians, even worse: At least 19 Palestinians were killed yesterday during a sustained Israel Defense Forces artillery attack on the town of Beit Hanun. Of these, 11 were members of a single family, including women and children.
No excuse can justify this atrocity. When artillery batteries aim their shells near a residential neighborhood, such a disaster is inevitable, even if it is unintentional.
Anyone who fired shells in the direction of civilian houses knows very well that he is liable to kill indiscriminately with them.
None of Israel's responses to this catastrophe - expressions of regret by the prime minister and defense minister, offers of humanitarian assistance to the wounded, the establishment of an inquiry committee headed by Major General Meir Kalifi, cessation of the shelling and the opening of the Rafah border crossing for a day - can paper over Israel's sole responsibility for this fearsome and senseless killing. Therefore, it is no longer enough to express regret; it is also necessary to draw conclusions.
It has now become conclusively clear that the campaign against the Qassam rocket launchers in Gaza can no longer be entrusted solely to the IDF. The chief of staff, the chief of command, the divisional commander, and the other officers who bear moral and operational responsibility for yesterday's disaster had failed even before this, during Operation Autumn Clouds, which ostensibly ended on Tuesday. That operation sowed only death and destruction, without bringing an end to the Qassam fire. On the contrary, it only increased it.
Yesterday's shelling therefore seems, above all, like an act of revenge by the IDF for the continued Qassam fire.
The prime minister, as the person who bears overall responsibility, must order the IDF to halt the fire on Gaza - immediately, in all cases and with every type of weapon.
If Israel does not want to find itself embroiled soon in a new bloodbath, including suicide bombings in its cities, it must launch a dramatic, unequivocal move, as only such a move might prevent the outbreak of a new intifada. Such a move must begin with a total cease-fire, even a unilateral one, in the context of which Israel will commit itself to total restraint for a predetermined period, even if Qassams continue to fall here and there.
Instead of more and more pointless military operations, which will not lead to anything except to kindling more hatred, we must try a completely different path. Instead of military operations with attractive names, we must immediately embark on a diplomatic operation.
The cannons must be replaced with calls for dialogue, the economic boycott must be replaced with an opening of the taps, and the cruel siege of Gaza must be replaced with a supervised opening of the border crossings.
Only in this way can we perhaps change the dangerous atmosphere that now prevails, and even more so following the bloodbath in Beit Hanun. The responsibility for this rests entirely on the prime minister's shoulders.
By Yoav Stern and Avi Issacharoff, Haarez Correspondents
MKs Ahmed Tibi and Ibrahim Tzartzur (Ra'am-Ta'al) met Thursday noon with Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza City.
Haniyeh told the MKs that talks between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority on establishing a unity government are at an advanced stage. The basic principles of the new government have already been agreed upon, the Palestinian premier said.
Haniyeh added that he would not continue serving as prime minister in the new government.
In another meeting on Thursday, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Haniyeh spoke with MK Mohammed Barakeh (Chadash) and the Balad party MKs Azmi Bishara, Jamal Zahalka and Wasal Taha.
Abbas said in the meeting that "Israel's government is comfortable with the current situation and is attempting to undermine any advance towards the assembly of a unity government (in the Palestinian Authority)."
Abbas and Haniyeh said they hope to reach a final agreement over the unity government by next week.
The Saudi newspaper Al Watan reported Thursday that Hamas will present three candidates for leading the unity government.
Hamas' runner up is Zaher Kuhail, President of Palestine University International in Gaza, and Abbas has already been informed about his candidacy.
The two other candidates are Khaled al-Hindi, secretary general of the Islamic University and Mohammed Shabir, President of the Islamic University in Gaza.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Despite the regrettable nature of this mornings incident, let me be very frank here.
I tire of the hysterical denounciations of 'massacres' coated in bloodstained language, which seem to have become the stock response of the Palestinians (including the moderates) to any incident involving casualties. This is a linguistic propaganda device - cruder than crude - and it seems to be working slowly on at least one senior Western politician (Italy's FM reportedly used the term today as well).
Of course, this was an abhorrent disaster, but it was no massacre. There are a number of factors to consider here.
First and most importantly, the Palestinians are drawing fire not as a result of the fact that the Israelis are evil and enjoy shooting Palestinians, but as a result of the Israelis' rational desire to stay alive in their homeland. The IDF would be happy to provide proof of the hostile (read 'preparations to kill Israelis') activities in Gaza, with a particular focus on Beit Hanoun in the preceeding week. Unequivocally, there would be no accidents such as this one today if it was not for the Palestinians - some Palestinians - ongoing efforts to kill Israelis. Israel would have left Gaza alone after the disengagement.
Second: Despite years of propaganda efforts to tarnish and slander Israel's record, as well as a number of Israeli violations of its own moral code, it is the simple and clear cut case that she does not - categorically - does not target civilians purposely. Let's be realistic here.
On a rhetorical point: If she did, would there be anyone left alive in Gaza or south Lebanon? On a sober one: Israels' Islamist enemies relish the opportunity to kill Jews. (Hamas today also called on Muslims to attack the US, in my opinion an extremely significant and ill-judged statement: "America is offering political, financial and logistic cover for the Zionist occupation crimes, and it is responsible for the Beit Hanoun massacre. Therefore, the people and the nation all over the globe are required to teach the American enemy tough lessons," Hamas said in a statement sent to The Associated Press.)
Her enemies use civilians in a way that shows their utter disregard for civilian life even on their own side, and yet the commentators are almost quiet. Shamefully so.
So let us keep a little perspective.
And last, most importantly: William has already indicated in his comments to a post below that this morning's incident will end any chance of a national unity government. Why? What value does this attack have as an excuse? What does it change, other than give Hamas a good decoy for rejectionism and show everybody else that a unity government - or some form of administration not as intransigent as the current one - is long overdue, so we can get down to finding arrangements that are workable, rather than feel good in terms of breast-beating.
This was not a massacre. Israel has apologised for the accident and halted operations in order to investigate. That does not help the Athamna family, but we are not here to be engrossed in personal tragedy, but rather to effect diplomacy that can curtail personal tragedy. As I have said before, spades are spades. Let's not forget that. Hamas is firing rockets into Israel literally as I type this and has called for a renewal of terrorist attacks inside Israel. Of course all this will be in 'retaliation' to today's 'massacre'.
At least Mahmoud Abbas has already come out and called the bluff - he has stated that negotiations on a new government must continue.
None of this detracts from the fact that I am deeply disturbed by the deaths today and want answers as to what went wrong.
Excerpt from Haaretz (Full Story)
Israel Defense Forces artillery shells struck a residential area in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanun early Wednesday, killing at least 19 Palestinians and wounding dozens of others.
Ten children and seven women were among the dead, the Palestinain Health Ministry said, adding that 18 of the victims were members of the Athamna family.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni expressed regret for the deaths, saying that Israel did not set out to harm innocent civilians.
The IDF confirmed that an artillery battery containing 12 shells had aimed at a site from where Qassam rockets were fired at the southern city Ashkelon on Tuesday. The artillery fire had been intended for a location about half a kilometer from the Beit Hanun houses.
At this stage it is unclear whether the incident was caused by a technical or human error. The initial assumption is, however, that the wrong coordinates were fed to the artillery unit.
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz appointed Major General Meir Kalifi to head an investigation into the shelling.
Soon after the Wednesday attack, Peretz ordered the army to stop shelling in Gaza, and called for a speedy investigation into the incident.
The army has reduced the amount of artillery fire into Gaza in recent months, saying it was ineffective against the Qassam cells and inaccurate.
Nevertheless, the army decided to continue firing artillery shells sporadically, in specific instances.
Eight Qassams were fired at southern Israel from Gaza following the shelling. One person sustained light wounds.
Official circulation from the IDF
Jerusalem, Nov 8, 2006
IDF Spokesman: Initial reaction to Palestinian claims of civilian casualties in Beit Hanoun
In an effort to disrupt and prevent the firing of rockets at Israeli population centers, the IDF this morning (Nov 8) carried out preventative artillery fire at the launching sites of the Kassam rockets. The fire was directed at the area from which Kassam rockets were fired yesterday at Ashkelon, in order to disrupt attempts to resume fire.
Following reports of Palestinian civilian casualties, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz ordered a halt to artillery fire in the Gaza Strip pending investigation.
Preliminary findings indicates that the site in question is far removed from the area towards which the artillery fire was directed. Representatives of the IDF Southern Command and the Chief Artillery Officer are in the field investigating the incident.
The IDF activity targets terrorist organizations and infrastructure only, and not Palestinian civilian targets, while the terror organizations deliberately target Israeli civilians.
The IDF expresses regret at any harm to uninvolved civilians, but stresses that the responsibility for this rests with the terror organizations, which use the Palestinian civilian population as a "human shield", carrying out terror attacks and firing Kassam rockets at Israeli population centers, under cover of the Palestinian population.
Again, the above information is preliminary, and the incident is being investigated.
Things in Israel are a mess. This morning they bombed and killed many women and children in Gaza (Beit Hanoun refugee camp) in response to qassam missile attacks that came further into Israel than ever before (they hit Ashkelon). Braverman the challenger for the leadership of the Israeli Labour Party says that the Palestinian situation is now hopeless - and that failing Premier Olmert is now "finished". He says that both Israel and worldwide there is a total lack of leadership.
Ari Rath (former Jerusalem Post editor) says that the over-reaction in Gaza is a consequence of the summer war and a desire on Peretz's part (failing defence minister) to prove his military prowess. All the time there is this tit-for-tat. According to Ari there will be terrible repercussions to the Beit Hanoun attacks - both politically (internally to Israel that is) and internationally.
All I know is this may scotch our chances of getting to Gaza which were slim at the best of times.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas are expected to meet Wednesday in a fresh bid to iron out differences over the formation of a unity government.
Abbas and Haniyeh failed to reach an agreement during a Monday meeting in the Gaza Strip described as a "decisive" discussion on the creation of a Palestinian government of national unity and the identity of the man who will lead it.
A spokesman for Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeina, said Abbas and Haniyeh will continue their meetings Wednesday and Thursday in order to complete the negotiations.
At the start of the meeting, Abbas informed Haniyeh that Israel would begin the withdrawal of its forces from the town of Beit Hanun in the Gaza Strip. During the six days the Israel Defense Forces operated in the town, 53 Palestinians and one soldier were killed.
Palestinian sources reported Monday night that the IDF had already begun withdrawing some of its forces. However, senior officers said that smaller scale operations would continue in other parts of the Strip. They added that the operation in Beit Hanun achieved its objectives and struck a heavy blow to militant groups there.
During their meeting Monday night, Haniyeh presented the current health minister in his government, Basim Naeem, as a candidate for the post of prime minister. However, Palestinian sources said Abbas refused and expressed his disappointment at Haniyeh's proposal.
A spokesman for Abbas' Fatah in the Gaza Strip, Maher Makdad, told Haaretz Monday night that Abbas' opposition to Naeem's candidacy had been expected. There is an agreement in principle between Fatah and Hamas on the establishment of a government of experts, Makdad said.
Palestinian sources said that the radical wing of Hamas is opposed to another candidate, Jamal al-Khudary, currently the minister of communication in the Haniyeh government.
Al-Khudary is considered to be an independent candidate, with leanings toward Hamas, but also with ties to Abbas' son.
The meetings between the two sides in recent days resulted in agreement on the creation of a government of technocrats, with no political figures. Each party, depending on its strength in the Palestinian Legislative Council, will appoint professionals and academics to the cabinet.
A special committee comprised of representatives of all the factions will determine the specific ministries these individuals are most appropriate to manage.
Palestinian sources reported Monday that during the negotiations Hamas demanded guarantees from Abbas that the economic boycott of the Palestinian Authority would be lifted if the organization would agree to a national unity government of technocrats and a prime minister not affiliated to Hamas.
However, in a recent meeting between U.S. envoys Elliott Abrams and David Welch, and Abbas, it was made clear to the Palestinian leader that the Bush administration is unwilling to budge from its demands that the Palestinian government should meet the three prerequisites posed by the Quartet (recognition of Israel, relinquishing violence, and acceptance of previous Israel-PLO accords).
So far, Fatah and Hamas agreed that the political platform of the new government will be based on the prisoners' manifesto, a document authored by leading Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, which hints at recognition of Israel and a two-state solution.
AT THE PRICE OF BLOODSHED By Danny Rubinste in Haaretz, Opinion (Israel) November 6, 2006
Click here to read this piece by an NCF award winning journalist
Monday, November 06, 2006
Sunday, November 05, 2006
According to the report, all outstanding issues between Hamas and Fatah have been resolved, with the exception of who will be the next Palestinian prime minister.
The prime minister will not be a member of Hamas, although Hamas is demanding that the candidate be affiliated with the group, as first reported in Haaretz. Abbas wants the prime minister to be entirely independent.
Hamas and Fatah have agreed that all government ministers will be technocrats chosen by the various parties, and that the PA diplomatic platform will be based on the 'Prisoner's Document.'
The document calls for a Palestinian state, alongside Israel, on all of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Israeli officials have objected to the plan because it also endorses the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees to come back to lost properties in Israel, and endorses attacks in areas captured in the 1967 Six Day War, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
"....We Palestinians are prepared to enter into a hudna to bring about an immediate end to the occupation and to initiate a period of peaceful coexistence during which both sides would refrain from any form of military aggression or provocation.
During this period of calm and negotiation we can address the important issues like the right of return and the release of prisoners. If the negotiations fail to achieve a durable settlement, the next generation of Palestinians and Israelis will have to decide whether or not to renew the hudna and the search for a negotiated peace.
There can be no comprehensive solution of the conflict today, this week, this month, or even this year. A conflict that has festered for so long may, however, be resolved through a decade of peaceful coexistence and negotiations. This is the only sensible alternative to the current situation. A hudna will lead to an end to the occupation and create the space and the calm necessary to resolve all outstanding issues."
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
She asks: "If the US president and secretary of state are committed to a Palestinian state, why is there no movement in that direction? Why have Middle East leaders and specialists alike seen only indecision and inertia for peace in the Middle East during the last two years of the Bush presidency?"
For her full report click here