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June 23, 2010: A Tight Place

September 17, 2010

I asked the question in my last post as to whether there will be gain with regard to the Security Cabinet’s decision to allow all goods but those weapon-related into Gaza via the land crossings from Israel.
 
This remains a dubious proposition.  Whatever the rationale for what was decided, there is the clear danger that Israel will be seen as weak, and having caved to Hamas and terrorist forces.  On the one hand, Blair has made positive statements about our rights, without question, to keep weapons out of Gaza — a nod to the sea blockade.  On the other hand, already we’re hearing — not just from the UN but also from Obama — about how this isn’t enough for the people of Gaza.  It’s the old story, with which we are well familiar:  Give them a finger, and they want our hand.  It’s never enough.
 
 
When statements are made about the need for the situation to improve for the people of Gaza, always implicit is that it’s on Israel to do something about this.  Never is there a clear and forthright statement that Hamas, which controls Gaza, is responsible for this situation.  In fact, neither is there any direct statement about responsibility on the part of Egypt — which is to Gaza’s south and controls the Rafah crossing — to do more for the Gazans.
 
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We clearly see how ludicrous — and maliced — this whole situation is when we read the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs briefing, “The Myth of the Siege of Gaza,” by Lt. Col. (ret.) Yonatan Halevi, a senior researcher on radical Islam:
 
“[In addition to all of the goods brought in from Israel via the crossings] there is also an established economic system of Palestinian imports from Egypt via hundreds of tunnels operating under the control of a Hamas government that grants approval for operating them and collects taxes from their owners. The tunnel network has increased imports from Egypt to Gaza from $30 million annually during the years 1994-2006 to more than $650 million annually. Given the abundance of supply, the price of diesel fuel and gasoline, delivered to Gaza through pipes from Egypt, is half that of the price in Israel.
 
“Farid Zakout, director of the Gaza Construction Association, told the Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam that the price of a ton of cement now stands at NIS 800 as opposed to NIS 1,200 two months ago, and over NIS 3,000 more than a year ago. Cement prices fell after some 80 percent of tunnel owners began to import cement. The renewed surge in construction activity has fostered a rise of 25 percent in the number of those employed in the industry.”
 
Mind-boggling, is it not?  UNRWA would maintain that it will not deal with the cement black market of Hamas tunnels and thus needs cement brought in via the Israeli crossings to build schools.  But to say there can be no reconstruction of Gaza without unfettered access to building material via the crossings is nonsense.
 
Halevi further says:
 
“Gaza is not cut off from the outside world. In the last year, the markets of Gaza have been flooded with produce and merchandise. In fact, in 2009, a total of 30,576 truckloads of humanitarian commodities passed from Israel into Gaza. From June 2007 (the date of the Hamas military takeover of Gaza), overall monetary transfers to Gaza have totaled over $5 billion from governmental and extragovernmental sources. The governor of the Central Bank of the Palestinian Authority, Jihad al-Wazir, confirmed that 56 percent of the PA budget is designated for Gaza. Gaza receives additional aid funds directly from Iran, and the Arab countries.”
 
http://www.jcpa.org/JCPA/Templates/ShowPage.asp?DRIT=2&DBID=1&LNGID=1&TMID=111&FID=443&PID=0&IID=4123&TTL=The_Myth_of_the_Siege_of_Gaza
 
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The reality of what is happening in Gaza simply bears no resemblance to “the myth” — as Halevi refers to it.  That myth is designed to damage Israel, as well as to court international sympathy and support.  Unfortunately (once more) our government has not been forceful enough in promoting the truth and countering that myth.
 
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I call your attention, as well, to the fact that over 50% of the PA budget is allocated for Gaza.  This explodes another myth of major proportions: that the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are completely separate.
 
If you are in the US, you might want to contact your representatives in Congress and ask them why your government is supporting Hamas.  Money is fungible: If money allocated by the US to the PA is not designated by budget line item to go to Hamas, it still frees up other money that can be sent.  Besides which, there is legitimate reason to ask why the US should support the PA at all, if it is so closely allied with Hamas.
 
Include the URL above for the article by Lt. Col. Halevi.  The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, headed by Dore Gold, is a highly credible institute, and Halevi is a superbly reliable source.
 
For your Congresspersons:

 

http://www.house.gov/house/MemberWWW_by_State.shtml

 

For your Senators:

 

http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

 

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Among those strongly of the opinion that loosening the restrictions on materials permitted into Gaza was a bad idea is Caroline Glick.  One point that she makes is worthy of particular note:

 

“The economic sanctions the government is now cancelling were not simply legal, they were required by international law. Binding UN Security Council resolution 1373 requires states and non-state actors to deny support of any kind to terrorist organizations. And here, in a bid to win international “legitimacy” for its lawful blockade of Gaza, Israel has bowed to US pressure to unlawfully facilitate the economic prosperity of an area controlled by an illegal terrorist organization.”
 
http://www.carolineglick.com/e/2010/06/the-high-price-of-coalition-st.php
 
Glick also fingers Defense Minister Ehud Barak in regard to this:
 
“According to sources close to the cabinet, the main advocate for the latest capitulation was Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Barak is the serial bungler.”
 
She’s right on mark here, and its worth reading her full comments on this subject (which I will return to it in due course).  What I ponder now is exactly who is running the show.  Does Netanyahu cave to Barak as well as to Obama? Or is Barak convincing him to cave to Obama?
 
Perhaps most damning at present is her charge that Barak allegedly convinced Netanyahu to send the naval commandos onto the Marmara equipped only with paintball guns, as this would garner greater support from Obama.
 
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Commentator Moshe Dann, writing in YNet, addresses the same concerns. 
 
Dann writes of, “Barak’s failure to anticipate the danger to IDF soldiers sent to stop the Gaza flotilla, his stubborn refusal to consult military and intelligence experts…”
 
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3906261,00.html
 
The fault for what happened, then, would lie not with poor intelligence, but with the arrogance of a minister who thought he didn’t need to rely on that intelligence.
 
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So, it seems to me that it’s time to write to Prime Minister Netanyahu as well.
 
Be forceful but courteous. Using your own words, tell him that he wears the mantle as prime minister of the nation of Israel and he must be relied upon to make decisions with courage and backbone.  Say that relying upon the advice of Ehud Barak serves the nation ill. It’s time for him to make decisions more consonant with the will of the people, who voted for the right wing.
 
Fax: 02-670-5369 (From the US: 011-972-2-670-5369)

 

E-mail: Memshala@pmo.gov.il and also pm_eng2@it.pmo.gov.il (underscore after pm) use both addresses

 

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The next round of confrontation with foreign ships seeking to break the blockade of Gaza indeed does seem to be around the corner.

 

The ship I wrote about last, the Julia, has not left port, but a second ship was given permission to go by the Lebanese government and is on its way, first to Cyprus and then — if it receives clearance in Cyprus — towards Gaza. Last week Defense Minister Barak warned the Lebanese government that it is responsible for these ships.  But in a turn-about maneuver, the Lebanese have sent a letter to the UN holding Israel responsible for anything that happens to the ships.

 

Israel is preparing vigorously for this next confrontation, both from a military and a PR perspective.

 

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Is this true?  It’s huge if it is. According to the Islam Times website — which is being cited in various quarters — Israeli jets landed in Saudi Arabia last week and unloaded military equipment at an airport in the northwest. This is said to be in advance of a strike on Iran.

 

IMRA is carrying a report from the Arabic FARS news agency, in poor translation, that says the same thing. This report further says that, “the Zionist entity has created for himself a military base in Tabuk North West Saudi Arabia.” 

 

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About three months ago, Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat announced a development project for the city that involved the demolition of illegally constructed Arab homes in Silwan, in eastern Jerusalem.  At that time, Netanyahu put a stop to it. 

 

But now the municipality’s Local Planning and Construction Committee has given the go-ahead. In all, there were 88 structures that were built illegally on land that was “green”: zoned for a park and extensive recreational area.  But the owners of 66 of these homes will be given the opportunity to apply for retroactive legalization.  Twenty-two structures within the area known as Gan Hamelech (King’s Garden), all built without permits in an area for which housing was not zoned, will come down.  In a gesture of enormous magnanimity, the municipality will provide those whose homes will be demolished with new, legal homes elsewhere in the area.

 

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Needless to say, there are objections in many quarters: from the left wing here, from the PA, from the US government.  This is being represented as an “anti-Arab” move that is destructive to the “sense of trust” that needs to be developed between Israel and the PA.  The old, familiar line.  This project is even being called “ethnic cleansing,” although it is not remotely that.

 

PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat announced yesterday that, “I sent a notice this morning from the Palestinian president to the US, in which he asked the American administration to intervene directly so that the Israeli project is cancelled.

“We vehemently denounce the decision, which will result in the demolition of 22 houses in Silwan.”

Give me a break!

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Residents claim to be against the demolition of their homes (never mind that they’ll get new ones).  But most enlightening was what one person involved with this municipal planning told the JPost:  “What the residents say to the press and what they say to us are two different things.”

The betting is that these residents are coached from the outside, by persons eager for an opportunity to stir things up and make Israel look bad for the international media. 

In point of fact, the Jerusalem administration has negotiated with individual residents, to reach a place of understanding with as many of them as possible.  They addressed issues of concern such as roads, parking, and fire fighting equipment.

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Among those who registered distress over this plan was Ehud Barak, leveling his criticism from the US, and ever eager to please the US.  Showing his true colors once again, he said the plan “lacked common sense” and a “sense of timing.”  He indicated that he would take this up with the prime minister on his return. And there we are.  It will be shameful indeed if Netanyahu caves on this.

While at first there was no word from the prime minister’s office, there was then a statement that the prime minister “hopes to solve” the dispute.

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Mayor Barkat, however, has had his say in response to Barak: 

“Rather than support the municipality’s effort to strengthen the city and tackle the serious neglect the eastern part of the city has inherited over the years, the defense minister acts without checking the facts.

“The new plan for Silwan allows for thousands of additional housing units for the Arab sector and the resolution for hundreds of construction violations.  Barak should be the first to support the plan.”
 
Jerusalem City Councilman Hilik Bar, a member of Barak’s own Labor party, then released a statement as well:
 
“The King’s Garden plan is an important project that could have an impact on both the value of the land and the houses in Silwan, and improve the quality of life for its residents.
 
“…Understand that instead of just destroying the houses — as the courts would have it — the plan proposes to regulate the building in an orderly fashion, and for all, and in a proper and responsible manner. 
 
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This bears close watching. Either we are a sovereign state that follow the rule of law, or we are not. 
 
If you are contacting Netanyahu, as I suggested above, it would be prudent to mention this as well:  Do not cave to Barak’s demands that the Gan Hamelech project be put on hold again!
 
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In a related issue, Arab squatters — some 40 people comprising three families — are living in an old synagogue building in Silwan.  This is not “merely” a Jewish building, it is a hundred-year old building that has historical, religious and cultural significance.  Known as the Hechel Shlomo Synagogue, at one time it served the Yemenite community of the area, which was forced to leave after violence in 1938.  It is 500 feet from the contested Beit Yehonatan.  The non-profit organization Ateret Cohanim claims ownership of the synagogue building as well as Beit Yehonatan.
 
According to a court ruling, additions made to the building by the Arab family holding it must be destroyed, and the  building must be returned to its original owners.  But the police have not acted on this.
 
Jewish residents of the area, who maintain that Arab residents are favored, say they will evacuate the building themselves on July 4, if the police fail to act.  Ten members of the Knesset, from National Union, Habayit Hayehudi, Shas, Likud, and UTJ, have said they will assist the Jewish residents with the evacuation if the police fail to act. They have sent a letter to this effect to the prime minister.
 
In an entirely different context, Netanyahu has just made the statement, “No one is above the law.”  Let’s see if he means it.  Will he see to it that the court ruling is carried out, or will be he — fearful of manipulated world opinion and accusations of being “anti-Arab” — back off?
 
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http://arlenefromisrael.squarespace.com/current-postings/2010/9/17/june-23-2010-a-tight-place.html

 

 

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