I am here and functioning. Intense summer heat, grandchildren sleeping over… other writing to be done… With it all, I took a look each day at what there was to write about and thought, this can wait another day. 🙂
But today I felt it was time.
Those churning wheels are moving (if at all) very slowly. Abbas is playing the same game, in spite of pressure from Obama. He is refusing to come to the table for direct negotiations unless we agree upfront to the ’67 lines as borders, freeze additional construction in Jewish communities past the Green Line, etc. etc. We all know the litany.
He has now received the backing of both Fatah and the PLO for this position.
But never mind! Obama is apparently pleased with Abbas and sees the U.S.-PA relationship as “improving.” At least this is what we’re hearing from the State Department:
Just days ago, the State Department announced that the status of the Palestinian Authority/Palestinian Liberation Organization Mission in the United States will be changed from “bureau” to “general delegation.” This will allow the mission to fly the PLO/PA flag outside of its office. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the change represented an improvement in the U.S. relationship with the Palestinian Authority.
In light of that refusal by Abbas to go to direct talks — even as this is being strongly urged by Obama — it is difficult to understand on what basis the “improvement” is being assessed. There has been no mention by the U.S. of “tough decisions” the PA is being expected to make (in parallel with the tough decisions we are expected to make), and there has not even been a stipulation that the PA terminate its blatant and pervasive anti-Israel incitement.
Here we can learn a great deal about U.S. intentions: For anyone hoping that Obama’s love offensive with Israel might be serious, this provides food for thought.
Abbas made a statement the other day that caught my eye: He said that Israel was creating stumbling blocks to peace; in fact, he claimed, the IDF had entered the West Bank (i.e., Palestinian Arab areas of Judea and Samaria) 900 times in the last three months.
Now, I know that the IDF does nightly incursions into these areas to catch terrorists and uncover weapons caches. But according to Abbas’s figure, the IDF is averaging 10 operations per night. This struck me as a bit high, and I currently am awaiting an official answer from the IDF on this. It is a stunning figure if it is true. But in any event the point I want to make here stands:
The very fact that the IDF has to do many operations nightly (be it 10 or 6) into PA areas is one more reason why we cannot pull out. The PA security forces are not, by themselves, equipped (or motivated) to stop terrorism as we do. There would be a serious increase in terrorism, were the IDF to withdraw. This, obviously, is not the case Abbas intended to make. But it stares us in the face.
Recently, Foreign Minister Lieberman made a suggestion: Let’s wash our hands of Gaza entirely. Build a fence at the border with Gaza so nothing goes in, stop the naval blockade, and permit the EU and whoever else to build electric generators and desalination plants in Gaza. Then tell the people there they’re on their own. They’d generate their own electricity (we now supply 70%!), produce their own water (we help in that respect now too), bring in their humanitarian and commercial goods via the sea (instead of our supervising and monitoring by land), and we’d have no more responsibility for anything, and — in theory — no headaches.
While I understand the desire to be rid of this situation, I consider this a terrible solution. For the most important goal in monitoring what goes into Gaza is to stop the transfer of weapons. That’s what the sea blockade is all about. Were we to take down that blockade, Iran would have a field day, freely transferring sophisticated weaponry to the terrorists of Gaza. The rockets and missiles would sail easily over that fence and we’d have headaches aplenty.
I mention this because of a piece written by Yonaton Halevi, a senior researcher on the Middle East and radical Islam for the JCPA, on this very subject. Halevi is looking at an entirely different, and very important, aspect of this situation. For it seems that the PA and Hamas– who, says Halevi, have an identical goal — are opposed to setting Gaza free in the fashion described by Lieberman. The Palestinian Arabs, suggests Halevi, want to “keep the lava of the refugee problem at full boil, as this constitutes the key to the ultimate objective of the historic Palestinian odyssey– the liquidation of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. This is the real reason behind the Palestinian love affair with the “Israeli occupation.” (Note: the Palestinian Arabs claim that Gaza is still “occupied.”)
This merits a careful read.
A two ship flotilla may be leaving soon from Lebanon, to try, once again, to break the Gaza blockade. In response to a letter addressing this matter sent to the UN by Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev, UN Spokesperson Martin Narisky said:
“There are established paths for the transfer of goods into the Gaza Strip by land. This is the proper way to transfer aid to the residents of Gaza. We prefer that any additional aid will be sent via land, especially during this sensitive time following the recent proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians.”
With regard to the blockade, you might want to see this:
“The Legal Basis of the Blockade of Gaza,” by Ruth Lapidoth, Professor Emeritus in International Law at Hebrew University:
I have never found arguments for our retention of the land in Judea and Samaria that are based exclusively on security issues to be satisfactory. For they totally overlook the legal right we have to the land, our history in the land, and all the rest. If doing so doesn’t put us at risk from a security perspective, it’s OK to give away our heritage?
That said, I concede that there is a certain power (forgive the pun) to this bottom-line argument. It is valid as one reason for not surrendering the land — one very serious and solid reason. And it has impact in places where arguments about our heritage might not carry the day.
The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and Director Dore Gold in particular, have actively promoted the argument for secure borders.
Recently, the JCPA put out “Israel’s Critical Security Needs for a Viable Peace.” This is a study of the issues that brought together a group of senior IDF generals. The link below brings you to a page that includes a video, a summary of the study, the assessment of each of the generals independently, and an opportunity to download the full study.