The Kassams keep coming — last Friday one landed near a "strategic facility" in Ashkelon — and the IDF Southern Command keeps pushing for a major ground operation into Gaza. Yet still there is no government approval of such an action, and, in fact, the Cabinet is split on the issue, with some pushing for attacks from the air.
Following the condemnations in the Winograd Report regarding decisions taking in the Lebanon war this past summer, there is more fear than ever about taking that critical step — fear of not being ready, fear of judging badly. But it may well be that — as Maj. Gen. (res.) Amidror has warned — the decision-makers are applying the wrong lesson. For the build-up of armaments continues and the training continues, while the issues are debated. Galant has indicated that the massive and well-trained Hamas army must be weakened immediately or it will become as strong as Hezbollah.
Unfortunately, painfully, I continue to have the sense that what the political echelon is waiting for is an incident with Israeli deaths, that will presumably justify a ground incursion in the eyes of the international community. For still I read comments about the benefit in terms of international approval we have secured via our "restraint." This is sad indeed.
The Security Cabinet met later today without resolving this issue and will resume discussion soon.
King Abdullah of Jordan was due to meet with Abbas in Ramallah today — the first time he would have entered Judea and Samaria since early 2000 — to promote the Arab League "peace initiative." The trip, however, was postponed, ostensibly because bad weather made it impossible for his helicopter to fly. Not unsurprisingly, other versions of the reason for the cancellation are also floating about — including that Abdullah has not secured sufficient concessions from Israel to make this trip productive.
What I find more interesting than the fact of this postponement (or cancellation, as the case may be) are comments released beforehand: Both PA and Jordanian officials denied that there would be discussion of a Palestinian-Jordanian federation. For their part, the Palestinians declared that what they are seeking is simply an independent Palestinian state. But Marouf Bakit, Jordanian prime minister, said, "It’s premature to talk about a confederation or federation with the Palestinians, because this might harm the interests of both countries." He suggested that ultimately a confederation might be possible.
Now, I believe talk of this is premature, in the sense that the parties are not ready to deal with it. But I am alert for, and pleased to see, allusions to this possibility. For those of us who see the notion of a Palestinian state as absolutely not viable, some confederation of Palestinian autonomous enclaves with Jordan is one possibility that is being considered. Jordan is, after all, not only 70% Palestinian demographically, geographically it was carved from the original Mandate for Palestine, promised to the Jews as a homeland. That is, it IS the Palestinian state and may yet some day come to fill that roll properly.
This week we here in Israel celebrate the 40th anniversary of a reunited Jerusalem. Later this week I will have a great deal more to say about this.
Now, however, I will simply report that the EU president has informed our Foreign Ministry that ambassadors of European countries will not be attending ceremonies commemorating the event (although YNet says some European countries will ignore the EU ban and attend anyway). And apparently US Ambassador Richard Jones won’t be attending either (Americans, take note).
Our response here? Fury, almost universally. Every other nation in the world is permitted to choose its own capital. Only Israel is denied this right. Heaven forbid that Arab sensibilities should be offended.
Jerusalem mayor, Uri Lupolianski, in a strongly worded statement that expresses the sentiments of many, said, "Anyone who doesn’t recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel does not recognize the state of Israel."
At a program last week, I heard this story, which fairly sums up our response now: At the first Camp David, attended by US President Carter, Israeli PM Menachem Begin (whose memory is for a blessing), and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Carter told Begin, "We don’t recognize your right to all of Jerusalem."
To which Begin replied, "We do not recognize your non-recognition."
Amen and amen!
I was very gratified to see that on the matter of our rights in Jerusalem, the Israeli populace is near unanimous.
In a poll done by the Tazpit Research Institute, at the request of the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, 96% of Israeli Jews are against relinquishing the Kotel, the Western Wall, even in exchange for peace. And 89% are unwilling to give up the Temple Mount for peace.
This means that even a good percentage of Israeli Jews who are not themselves religious would not relinquish these holy sites — as is being demanded of us by such "plans" as the one advanced by the Arab League, which requires our return to pre-’67 lines.
The Temple Mount, first, and then the section of the supporting wall of the Mount called the Kotel are Judaism’s most sacred places. They are our eternal heritage. To surrender them would be to surrender the very essence of our reason for being tied to this land. It would be a step towards surrendering who we are.
Additionally, according to the poll, 91.5 % said they believe it is imperative to maintain a large Jewish majority in Jerusalem, while 81.3 % said they believe that a mostly-Jewish Jerusalem strengthens Israel’s moral; 62.4 % said they believe Jewish settlement in Ma’aleh Adumim and Gush Etzion serve to strengthen Jerusalem, and 61.3 % think it important to "prioritize" Jerusalem so as to strengthen its status and standing.
Speaking of strengthening Jerusalem, at the Cabinet meeting today, Olmert announced that 5.75 billion NIS would be spent on strengthening Jerusalem over the next five years.
Hamas and Fatah are at it again. Baha Abu Jarad, a leader of Fatah’s Al Aksa Brigades has been assassinated, along with his body guard/companion, and Fatah is blaming this on a Hamas ambush. A Fatah spokesman called this "a serious violation of the Mecca agreement," while Hamas, naturally, is claiming innocence and condemned the "hasty judgment of Fatah."
At his funeral this morning, 3,000 Fatah supporters called for revenge and began shooting in the air. At the home of a Hamas supporter, a gunfight broke out and three people were wounded.
In subsequent action this afternoon, Fatah gunmen opened fire outside of a Mosque in Gaza City, killing two members of Hamas and wounding 11 others.
Then early this evening, masked gunmen abducted a well-known Hamas religious scholar, Ali Sharif, from this home; Hamas is holding Abbas responsible for his safety.