In case there was even the slightest doubt in anyone’s mind — in case anyone might have wondered if maybe, just maybe, Fatah was moderating — allow me to provide this information:
In commemoration of its 43rd anniversary , which Fatah is about to celebrate, it has commissioned a new poster design. It represents all of Israel draped with a Palestine kafiyeh scarf, and includes a drawing of a rifle alongside to represent the "armed struggle." Is it necessary to say more?
Returning to the issue of continued Israeli building outside the Green Line…
According to Army Radio, the 2008 budget has allocations for over 1,000 new apartments — 500 in Har Homa in addition to the 340 already publicized, and 240 in Ma’aleh Adumim.
Ma’aleh Adumim, which is right outside of Jerusalem to the east, is a municipality that has grown considerably in recent years. There were plans to make it contiguous with Jerusalem via construction in an area that was dubbed E1, but political considerations have put that on hold, unfortunately.
The radio cited someone from the Ministry of Housing as saying that work would be done at a time that was less likely to cause international protest. (Olmert has already halted a tender for another 100 apartments to go up now in Har Homa.)
All of this followed an about-face by Construction and Housing Minister Ze’ev Boim, who said last Wednesday that — because of a housing shortage in Jerusalem — a preliminary investigation was underway regarding the possibility of building a new neighborhood in Atarot, a neighborhood at the northern edge of eastern Jerusalem, near Arab villages. But after a protest from Olmert’s office, Boim said we had no plans to build a Jewish neighborhood there.
However, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Yehoshua Pollack – who chairs the city’s Local Planning and Construction Committee – said there were long-term plans under deliberation that included building 10,000 apartments on the northern outskirts of the city, as well as additional apartments in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, Ramot, Gilo, and Givat Hamatos neighborhoods.
The housing shortage in Jerusalem has been exacerbated in part by the purchase of apartments by those who are not resident in Israel and come just part of the time. A plan to build westward was vetoed because of forest and park land that would have been destroyed.
Secretary Rice called the decision not to build at Atarot (which I’m not clear is a final decision) a "good step." Generally speaking, anything she approves of doesn’t sit well with me.
Peace Now is under investigation for masking the sources of its funding for "reconnaissance" work against Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria. Allegedly, the group used a front organization to receive funds for its work, so that money was able to come in, undetected, from the British government, which donated more that 500,000 shekels, Norway, which gave 800,000 shekels, and the European Union, which donated 451,000 shekels earmarked for Peace Now’s ongoing "settlement hunting" activity.
Dearly would I love to see this group put out of business. They play fast and loose with the facts when they make claims about Jews having built on Arab-owned land. More than once those claims have been quite vigorously refuted with documentation.
In the past there has been unease that the group may have been involved with "photography of sensitive areas" on behalf of foreign governments, in the pursuit of this work, which, if it were proven to be so, would constitute espionage.
Along with all of the rumors about a Hamas hudna, comes talk now of renewed negotiations regarding Shalit’s release that Hamas is said to be launching with Israel via the Egyptians. I’m not holding my breath. Especially as Hamas says a condition for Shalit’s release is the release of 1,400 Hamas prisoners held in Israel.
Al-Quds paper says that Hamas’s Mashaal will be in Cairo today to work on release of Shalit as part of a larger deal that would involve release of prisoners and a hudna. I shudder at this prospect. I have no confirmation on this end and we can only wait and see. The paper said negotiations made considerable progress when an Israeli envoy visited Cairo three days ago.
Just days ago, former head of Shin Bet , MK Ami Ayalon, said that we cannot rescue Shalit because of an "intelligence failure." It is my assumption that this is the result of not having a presence inside of Gaza.
Defense Minister Barak , irked by this, suggested that it’s best to keep such comments to a minimum. I concur.
Bruce Reidel, a former CIA official and advisor to presidents, has given an interview to Newsweek magazine in which he says he is convinced Israel will attack Iran. He visited here in November and spoke with Mossad and Israeli defense officials; he came away convinced then that Israel would act. Since then the NIE report has been released, which makes this an even greater possibility. Says Newsweek: "a rising tide of opinion in Israel’s intelligence and national-security circles believes that the NIE does signal American retreat-and, more profoundly, renewed Israeli isolation over what is deemed an existential threat out of Tehran."
David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, who was also cited, believes Israel was encouraged by the lack of international reaction to their strike on what is presumed to have been a reactor in Syria. He suggests that Israel’s pre-emptive action might not be a traditional strike, but rather "sabotage of equipment."
The article suggests that the Arab states are sufficiently terrified of a nuclear Iran so that they might look the other way at an Israeli action.
I find it interesting that the Newsweek piece also says that the issue of Iran and the NIE report is one reason for Bush’s scheduled trip here in January. He apparently wants to provide reassurance, as he’s concerned that this report may have the effect of stalling the "peace process."
It is strictly my own thought — I cite no one else on this — but I have wondered whether such things as Olmert’s refusal to back down on building in Har Homa, the stiffening of his back in certain regards, is tied to his disillusionment with Bush with regard to Iran, the feeling that the US has let us down.
An improved Kassam rocket launched by Islamic Jihad has landed near the industrial park in Ashkelon. Three other rockets fell in the Negev today.
There have been announcements about the development of the "Iron Dome" — a defense system that would protect us against Kassams, Katyushas and Grad missiles — which would be fully operational in 2-1/2 years.
I still feel strongly that while this defense may be necessary it should not be viewed as a substitute for taking out the terrorists who would launch the rockets and their capacity to do so.
One must ask, as well, what happens in the next 2-1/2 years, as the rocket range improves?
And then there is the question of cost effectiveness: Kassams are cheap to manufacture and the system that would take them out much more expensive. If stockpiled Kassams (stockpiled without interference, say, if there is a hudna) are launched in great numbers all at once, what would be required of that system to protect Israelis?