Today — the 15 of the month of Sh’vat — is the New Year of trees. There is significance to this in Jewish law, from the Mishnah, regarding how the age of a tree is counted and when its fruits can be eaten. Today it is also celebrated with the planting of trees, and the eating of dried fruits and nuts.
The almond trees — the earliest to bloom — are in full blossom here. There is one directly outside my window; as I type, I lift my eyes and see it. It feels very much like spring, which is strange, as we haven’t really had a winter. But there is so much that is heavy, so much we’re struggling with here, it’s important, I think, to celebrate this thing of beauty. This blessing.
Yesterday UNRWA announced that it would not be bringing any more supplies into Gaza because of Hamas thefts. Today Hamas returned all that it had taken from the UNRWA warehouses, so that suspension of aid has been lifted.
Now, however, UNRWA is speaking of another problem: According to spokesman Christopher Gunness, they have run out of the plastic bags they need for distribution of the supplies in Gaza.
And guess whose fault this is, according to their version of matters. Ours, of course. That’s because they wanted to bring pellets into Gaza for manufacturing the plastic bags, and we wouldn’t permit it because the plastic pellets, if they fell into the hands of Hamas (a very real possibility), could be used for other things.
IDF spokesman Peter Lerner noted that UNRWA would have been permitted to bring in plastic bags. In fact, plastic bags go into Gaza almost every day for other organizations. “If they want to solve the problem and not be part of the problem they could produce plastic bags in the West Bank and bring them in.”
Gunness then protested that pellets are easier to transport in — it would require more trucks to bring in plastic bags and be more costly.
Better, according to UNRWA calculations, to stop distributing food to the people who need it — 900,000 people says UNRWA — than to acknowledge that Israel has a reason for prohibiting the pellets and cooperate by utilizing an alternative solution.
I hope by now everyone who reads my posts has gotten a good sense of what UNRWA is like. Unfortunately, there are still many in the West who perceive this agency to be benign and apolitical.
This blunder, exposed a few days ago, merits mention here:
Three years ago, the United States Consulate in Jerusalem held an auction of some file cabinets they no longer needed. One woman bought some 24 cabinets and only very recently discovered that buried in one of the cabinets were official documents that hadn’t been removed before the sale took place.
The woman decided to let the press in on the story before returning the documents, because she knew otherwise the incident would have just been hushed-up.
Israel National News, which saw documents, reports that “USIA documents reveal hundreds of scholarships, programs and lectures aimed at bolstering the Palestinian Authority, which then was headed by Yasser Arafat.”
One of the stranger things promoted was a meeting between youth leaders from Likud and Fatah, in July 1988. Israel National News notes what it refers to as the casual acceptance of terrorist attacks by the US Information Service, which reported, “A follow-up [Likud-Fatah youth] meeting in Ramallah…had to be cancelled because of the [suicide] bombing in Jerusalem.” Concern seems limited to the cancellation of the meeting.
That was then, from our friend, the US. Imagine what’s coming down the road for us now.
Reports from the Arab side continue to indicate that a cease-fire may be “close.” From Egypt the word is next week… maybe. I will not further belabor details here, but will wait and see what transpires, if anything.
What continues to distress me are reports I’m receiving regarding concessions the “triumvirate” is according Hamas in order to bring the cease-fire before there is transition to a new government. For example, Barak has apparently signed off on letting Hamas leader Mahmoud A-Zahar come out of hiding and may give the nod to others as well. This is before a deal has been struck and while rockets are still being fired at us.
As to the possibility of Shalit being released in a deal, I’m picking up several things. It is being said that with all of the terrorists and members of Hamas (1,200 in total?) Israel would agree to release, the government has balked at a handful: Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine Secretary-General Ahmad Saadat, who was responsible for the assassination of Minister Rehavam Ze’evi, and three other prisoners.
But far more interesting is this: Fatah is very worried about a deal with Hamas to bring home Shalit, as this would seriously weaken Fatah and might bring down Abbas.
Several reasons for this are given. Marwan Barghouti is one of the people being mentioned in the Arab press as on the list for release in the trade. Barghouti is Fatah, but would have a hard time, it is said, standing against Hamas if it succeeded in securing his release.
But that’s just the beginning. Several Hamas members of the Palestinian legislature have been in Israeli prison since Shalit’s abduction. They would now be released, and sitting in parliamentary session as the majority could take legal action to declare Salaam Fayyad’s position as prime minister illegal — and with this, the government of Fayyad also illegal — and Mahmoud Abbas’s term as president terminated.
[Note: since the take-over of Gaza, there are two Palestinian prime ministers — Ismail Haniyeh, who had been holding the position for the PA, and Salaam Fayyad, who Abbas appointed in his stead, illegally, according to Hamas. As to Abbas’s term being terminated, this has been a source of contention between him and Hamas for a month now.]
Hamas, it is said, would then call for elections, including for a new president, and win a large majority in the legislature as well as the presidency. All speculation at this point, but this would bring Hamas into electoral control in Judea and Samaria. Haaretz reports that the latest poll by the pro-Palestinian Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre shows Hamas as more popular than Fatah.
Please, let’s all serve as witnesses here. Defense Minister Barak, doing campaigning today, said, “I cannot, and do not want to be defense minister [in a new government] if the Labor party does not receive close to 20 mandates.”
Netanyahu had made noises — not well received in many quarters — about a unity government with Barak as his defense minister. But Barak’s point is that he would not have the leverage to command such a position in a coalition without a good Labor showing. And the simple fact is that polls do not show Labor getting anything remotely near 20 mandates.
Dr. Aaron Lerner, of IMRA, made this significant comment today about the situation, which should not be discounted:
“When Netanyahu repeated today that he would seek to form a broad national unity government he didn’t drop the condition that he has repeatedly set, namely that those joining the coalition would have to agree to guidelines that reflect the Likud’s position regarding the Golan, Jerusalem, etc.”
This would definitely leave Barak out.
Speculation on who might be defense minister: If Likud is strong enough, Moshe Ya’alon, from inside Likud.
But then there is another rumor that continues to have currency. It is said that after the election, if Likud wins, those members of Kadima who came from the Likud in the first place and lean to the right (and have been thoroughly disenchanted with Kadima) would bolt Kadima and return to Likud. Among those who it is said would definitely participate is Shaul Mofaz, who was defense minister previously under Sharon.
This move, which has been discussed for a long time, would likely leave Livni really high and dry.
We’ll see how
it plays out soon enough…
Please, pray for Israel tonight. Not for specific leaders, nor for specific partisan interests. Pray for the good of our nation and for the wisdom of our voters to bring us where we need to go.
Charles Krauthammer has written a marvelous piece called, “The Age of Obama”:
“‘A failure to act, and act now, will turn crisis into a catastrophe.’ – President Obama, Feb. 4.
“Catastrophe, mind you. So much for the president who in his inaugural address two weeks earlier declared ‘we have chosen hope over fear.’ Until, that is, you need fear to pass a bill.
“And so much for the promise to banish the money changers and influence peddlers from the temple. An ostentatious executive order banning lobbyists was immediately followed by the nomination of at least a dozen current or former lobbyists to high position. Followed by a Treasury secretary who allegedly couldn’t understand the payroll tax provisions in his 1040.
“Followed by Tom Daschle, who had to fall on his sword according to the new Washington rule that no Cabinet can have more than one tax delinquent.
“…AND YET more damaging to Obama’s image than all the hypocrisies in the appointment process is his signature bill: the stimulus package. He inexplicably delegated the writing to Nancy Pelosi and the barons of the House. The product, which inevitably carries Obama’s name, was not just bad, not just flawed, but a legislative abomination.
“It’s not just pages and pages of special-interest tax breaks, giveaways and protections, one of which would set off a ruinous Smoot-Hawley trade war. It’s not just the waste, such as the $88.6 million for new construction for Milwaukee Public Schools, which, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, have shrinking enrollment, 15 vacant schools and, quite logically, no plans for new construction.
“It’s the essential fraud of rushing through a bill in which the normal rules (committee hearings, finding revenue to pay for the programs) are suspended on the grounds that a national emergency requires an immediate job-creating stimulus – and then throwing into it hundreds of billions that have nothing to do with stimulus, that Congress’ own budget office says won’t be spent until 2011 and beyond, and that are little more than the back-scratching, special-interest, lobby-driven parochialism that Obama came to Washington to abolish. He said.
“Not just to abolish but to create something new – a new politics where the moneyed pork-barreling and corrupt logrolling of the past would give way to a bottom-up, grass-roots participatory democracy. That is what made Obama so dazzling and new. Turns out the ‘fierce urgency of now’ includes $150 million for livestock insurance.
“The Age of Obama begins with perhaps the greatest frenzy of old-politics influence peddling ever seen in Washington…
“After Obama’s miraculous 2008 presidential campaign, it was clear that at some point the magical mystery tour would have to end. The nation would rub its eyes and begin to emerge from its reverie. The hallucinatory Obama would give way to the mere mortal. The great ethical transformations promised would be seen as a fairy tale that all presidents tell – and that this president told better than anyone.
“I thought the awakening would take six months. It took two and a half weeks.”