In many of the photos I’m seeing of Olmert of late, he’s chewing on his fingernails. You don’t have to have a degree in psychology to see that this is one worried man. As he’s usually sanguine about his political situation, we can only hope that this is a hint of what’s coming down the road.
Olmert today is telling his fellow members of Kadima that they have to all stick together when the Winograd Report comes out (presumably Wednesday evening).
"We must not create camps within Kadima," he said during a Kadima faction meeting. "It is bad for the government and bad for the party." Well…mostly it is bad for Ehud Olmert.
What’s got him the most worried is Livni’s willingness to meet with the (anti-Olmert) bereaved parents. Whether she has ulterior motives or not (and my guess is that she does), she is absolutely right that this is the least members of the government owe these parents. But it’s making Olmert very uneasy.
For his part, Barak is announcing he is going to sit on everything and see how the situation develops before making a statement regarding Winograd and his commitment to pull out. Never mind that his original commitment was to pull out no matter what.
The situation in the Sinai is a grave one with multiple diplomatic and military implications. While the movement of people coming out of Gaza has slowed, the Egyptians have been unable to get the Palestinians back into Gaza. It strikes me that this is a bit like getting the genie (in this case a very bad genie) back in the bottle.
It has been reported that last night Egyptian forces caught 20 Palestinians in possession of arms and listening devices that enabled them to track Egyptian communication. (It should be remembered that in June, Hamas seized sophisticated intelligence equipment that had been supplied to Fatah by the US and then abandoned.) I tend to suspect that this is no more than the tip of the iceberg.
One of the issues that is of concern is the multinational force that is in the Sinai as a function of the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty — to verify terms of the treaty, operate checkpoints, and ensure freedom of international marine navigation. Some 1,800 personnel from 11 nations (with the most from the US) are stationed at two locations in the Sinai, one in close proximity to the Gaza border. Only lightly armed, they are at risk now and the question is whether they will hold their ground. There have been some reports (not yet verified) that Americans withdrew from the Al Gorah base near Al Arish, which is perhaps 30 miles from Gaza along the coast.
There is much talk — and many pronouncements — regarding who is now going to handle the Rafah corridor between Gaza and Egypt. The PA is saying that Egypt has promised that they can be in charge at Rafah. Hamas is still pumping to be in charge, either jointly with the PA or independently. To review: When Israel pulled out of Gaza in September 2005, the understanding was that the PA would monitor that crossing, which they did with abysmal incompetence (or lack of commitment) — permitting much to cross into Gaza. Once Fatah was driven out of Gaza in June of last year, Hamas controlled the crossing. It eludes me how Egypt, on one side of the border, can now tell the PA that it can manage the other side of the border, when in point of fact Hamas is in control.
Abbas is scheduled to meet with Mubarak in Cairo on Wednesday.
Yet another issue is how Israel will now be responding to Gaza. Barak has declared that the crossings will stay closed. Olmert, however, after meeting with Abbas today to discuss the issue, has agreed to minimize the hardship of the Gaza population and to allow fuel and humanitarian supplies to move into the strip. Actually, the decision to renew supplies of fuel came even before Olmert and Abbas met — after the High Court delivered a ruling in response to a petition from left wing human rights organizations.
With great profundity, Abbas and Olmert agreed that the situation in Gaza/Sinai is serious and that Egypt must be prevailed upon to close the Rafah crossing again.
So where does that leave us? Seems less than nothing has been accomplished. Our leaders still don’t want to get it, do they? That this is not the way to handle Hamas.
MK Effie Eitam (National Union-NRP) had this to say about the situation:
"A situation whereby Israel, which is under attack, is asked to maintain the Hamas regime firing at our citizens is unthinkable. The demands for the prevention of a humanitarian disaster should be directed to international aid organizations. We most certainly need to also call on Egypt, Gaza’s good neighbor, to do something that is called for and natural for a neighbor that is not in war with Gaza like we are – allow humanitarian aid to go through.
"Yet instead of this, we see growing international pressure on Israel to do something completely unreasonable and continue supporting its enemies.
"…The impossible situation whereby the Palestinians continue to fire Kassams, while receiving electricity for their Kassam workshops and fuel used by vehicles that fire Kassams, is deluxe terrorism that fits well with the dictum: ‘The master of the house has gone mad.’
"In this case, we are the master of the house , and the price we are paying is the security of Sderot and Gaza-region residents, and the stability of the entire State of Israel."
Another example of how the Israeli establishment tilts towards the Palestinians.
As I reported last week, one guard from the Border Police was killed and a second wounded outside of Shuafat in Jerusalem. At that time I indicated that this checkpoint was a weak one, which made the police manning it more vulnerable. Now let me share exactly how vulnerable:
This checkpoint is one of two leading into Shuafat . The other one is designed for vehicular traffic and is protected by concrete barriers. The one where the attack took place is for foot traffic only and not well protected. The police wanted to close it after dark, requiring everyone to use the better protected checkpoint. Ah! But the High Court ordered that it be kept open out of concern for the quality of life of the residents of Shuafat.
Not an inhumane person, I find now that I am greatly weary of hearing about our need to concern ourselves with Palestinian quality of life. There is no greater deprivation of quality of life than to be killed. And that’s what happens to people on our side all too often because we are bid to be concerned with relatively minor inconveniences on the other side. There is something unspeakably painful about this.
I think Effie Eitam is correct: "The master of the house has gone mad."