US Envoy George Mitchell was back in Washington yesterday, but will be coming our way again by the end of this month. He has now indicated that he wants an office with a small staff in Jerusalem, so that he can monitor events here closely.
Forgive my sarcasm, but I feel that, were we to breathe the wrong way, it would be his inclination to report this to his bosses in Washington, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton.
“I plan to establish a regular and sustained presence in the region,” he told reporters.
But I have a suggestion: I think his office should be in Ramallah. The prospect of Mitchell insinuating himself into our internal affairs does not sit well with me at all.
Sec. Clinton, at the event welcoming Mitchell back, explained:
“We are looking to work with all of the parties to try to help them make progress toward a negotiated agreement that would end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, create an independent and viable Palestinian state in both the West Bank and Gaza, and provide Israel with the peace and security that it has sought.”
Just that, huh?
What is it about these people — these high level government officials with grandiose schemes — that they have no perception of the impossibility of the task and imagine that they can pull off what numerous processors could not.
UNRWA, which has consistently worked against us in recent weeks, via charges and actions, had the Israeli office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories really irked earlier this week.
“Regretful provocation,” is what UNRWA’s behavior was called, and with good reason: The UN agency asked for permission to bring paper and plastic bags into Gaza and was told by Israeli officials that the request would be considered. The next day the Kerem Shalom crossing was opened for the delivery of humanitarian supplies, which included 50 trucks belonging to UNRWA.
Along with the humanitarian supplies, however, were a few trucks carrying paper and plastic bags. UNRWA officials had coordinated the arrival of the trucks with several media outlets, which filmed the trucks being turned away.
Spokesman Maj. Peter Lerner said that while the request may ultimately be granted, at present the focus is on humanitarian supplies. “UNRWA receives preferential treatment at the crossings…” he said. “What was done was wrong and not in accordance with the working relationship that Israel has with UNRWA.”
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness protested that the paper was needed for their schools, and “therefore it is really strange that anybody should be surprised that we raised this issue.”
His statement doesn’t explain the need for plastic bags, but let’s leave this aside for a moment. I have a distinct recollection of a discussion with Lerner’s predecessor, Shlomo Dror, in a similar situation. He explained to me Israeli reluctance to grant UNRWA’s requests to bring in large quantities of paper, because there was strong suspicion that some of that paper would end up in Hamas hands, thus facilitating their operations.
Hamas is attempting to rebuild and recoup now. Surely, they, as well as UNRWA school children, have a need for paper.
On the subject of UNRWA, I recommend this JINSA Report, “Israel did NOT hit an UNRWA school in Gaza.”
But on the flip side, we are seeing, perhaps for the first time, overt criticism of Hamas by UNRWA:
The same spokesman mentioned above, Chris Gunness, has revealed that when UNRWA refused to voluntarily hand over humanitarian relief to the Hamas-run Ministry of Social Affairs, Hamas policemen forced their way into an UNRWA warehouse in Gaza City last night and confiscated 3,500 blankets and over 400 food parcels.
Indicating that the situation was “absolutely unacceptable,” he said, “they were armed, they seized this, they took it by force.”
Since we’re working from a theme of irksome happenings, I turn next to our election campaign. Nothing uplifting about such campaigns in general, but this one really leaves a good deal to be desired.
Likud head Binyamin Netanyahu has been saying that he will negotiate with the PA if he is prime minister, but on economic issues, because a state cannot be founded unless it has a solid infrastructure and economic base. While he happens to be absolutely correct, I have assumed this was his way of sliding out of the issue sideway. Instead of refusing to negotiate and facing off against the international community, he would do this.
Kadima head Tzipi Livni, making the very same assumption, I would guess, asked, regarding Netanyahu’s statement: “What is this drivel?”
The solution, she declared, is not to make the PA economically stronger, but to create a Palestinian state.
A very very good reason not to vote for her.
But according to Ari Shavit, writing a startling and explosive piece in Haaretz, there are a host of other reasons not to consider Livni as prime minister.
Shavit took “statements from about a dozen people who know Tzipi Livni quite well. None of them is close to either Benjamin Netanyahu or Ehud Barak. Most support Kadima or parties on the left. Nevertheless, all are concerned. The portrait they paint of Livni is a disturbing one.”
What Shavit heard is that Livni is short-tempered, and has an attention deficit so that she cannot delve into the details of an issue. “She finds it very hard to make decisions.” “She neither understands nor likes people…she is thought of as lacking leadership.”
“All these issues, however, are dwarfed by the question of all questions that Livni evokes: Who is she and what is her inner core? A few of the people I spoke to this week had a disturbing response to this question: Tzipi Livni is hollow. They argued that Livni lacks the cultural baggage, historic vision, emotional tools and personal abilities of a leader. She has never shown civil courage, has no achievements to her name and has never gone against the tide.”
Why did Shavit do this? “We went to the last elections not dealing with Ehud Olmert’s corrupt nature even though we [the media] knew it and Amir Peretz’s lack of strength in military-diplomatic affairs even though we knew it and we suffered the consequences. We cannot allow this to happen again.”
He wanted the public to know, and decide.
OK, then it becomes all the more apparent that Livni must be defeated. And there is only one alternative: Netanyahu. He has pledged to keep Jerusalem united, defeat Hamas, and (his very first priority) prevent Iran from going nuclear. He is hinting at an autonomy for the Palestinians that is short of a state: “The Palestinians should have all the powers to govern themselves, but none to threaten the security and existence of the State of Israel.”
But wait! He is now apparently suggesting that he would keep Ehud Barak as his defense minister. It is being reported that in closed conversation he said he wanted Barak. In public he has said, “In the face of all the security challenges Israel is facing…we need the best, most experienced and most responsible people possible.”
Uh oh. Barak as the best to face security challenges? Barak who pulled out of Lebanon precipitously in 2000 and who stalled the longest on going into Gaza now?
Is there something wrong with selecting as defense minister Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya’alon — who’s on the Likud ticket? Ya’alon who was Chief of Staff from 2002 to 2005, and headed the successful military action against the Palestinian terror war in Judea and Samaria.
Is there a deal Netanyahu may be cooking up with Barak? Or is the rumor wrong?
Netanyahu’s charge, at the major security conference currently taking place in Herzliya, that we didn’t stay in Gaza long enough is implicitly a criticism of Barak. However, he also said that he wanted to “express my appreciation to the chief of staff and defense minister for their preparation work, and to the IDF soldiers.”
Not a good sign:
The general secretary of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union has said that in support of the “historic and heroic struggle of the Palestinian people for self-determination,” they will refuse to unload any Israeli goods coming into the port at Durban.
“If it’s an Israeli product, we’re going to boycott it, plain and simple.”
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit has told reporters that a firm cease-fire may not be achieved in the next few days, although efforts to this end will continue until it is achieved.
You might want to see a report on the work towards the cease-fire and Palestinian unity from the perspective of the Arab news agency Maan.
Among the things Hamas leader Salah Bardawil, speaking from Cairo, is reported to have said is that, “Hamas won’t agree on stopping smuggling weapons into Gaza because that would mean the end of resistance.”
Israel is reported to have offered to allow in 75% of the goods currently banned (the other 25% being material that could be used in making weapons) in return for Shalit’s release. While Hamas essentially wants everything let into Gaza, and will agree to negotiations on Shalit in tandem with these arrangements. Hamas, you see, would be ready for a prisoner exchange tomorrow.
Hamas would, in the context of a cease-fire, stop firing projectiles, but would need “Egypt’s help in convincing other factions to restrain themselves.”
If this is accurate, it’s going to be a long day indeed before there is agreement that makes a cease-fire possible.