The traditional wish when there is news regarding someone having a baby is "b’sha’a tova." Literally, "at a good hour," it is a wish that all should be well in its time. The "sha’a tova" for my newest grandchild-to-be will — with G-d’s help — surely come soon; but in spite of the signs of a day ago, it has not yet arrived. False alarm. I have returned to my computer until whenever.
And while I am back , I get to monitor all of the goings-on concerning the return of Rice to our area and the big push towards Annapolis.
I was encouraged by a statement Rice made to journalists on the plane with her as she flew from Turkey to Israel Saturday night:
"I absolutely don’t expect there will be agreement on a document."
Additionally reassuring was an invitation — little noted in the news except by Arutz Sheva — that the White House extended to Chief Rabbis Yonah Metzger and Shlomo Amar, and Chief Rabbi of Haifa and Chairman of the Chief Rabbinate Communications Committee Rabbi She’ar-Yashuv Cohen to discuss the Temple Mount.
According to the article , Bush is trying to assess Israel’s red lines and the possibility of Israel’s relinquishing the Temple Mount to the Arabs. If he is serous in hearing what these rabbis, in particular Rabbi Cohen, have to say, he’s going to get a dose of reality and a stronger sense of the impossibility of what his secretary of state is trying to pull off.
As of yesterday, according to reports , Rice agreed in her meeting with Olmert that the US would not advance its own formula for the Annapolis declaration. Could it be that she is actually going to leave it to the parties?
YNet quoted a "senior Palestinian source" as saying that it was likely that Abbas would call off the conference if Rice doesn’t come up with a "reasonable formula" for the conference, something that has not yet been achieved.
But does this mean all is sweetness and light? Most assuredly no. There is the usual portion of infuriating statements and demands, including Rice’s admonition that we must "think boldly."
Along with the statement by the PA source that it would be better to call off the conference than go without good chance of achievement, comes this:
"However, if we do have to participate, we expect the US and the Quartet to pressure Israel heavily, so as not to allow the summit to hurt Abbas’s image or become a weapon in the Palestinian opposition’s hands."
That’s what it’s about? Not hurting Abbas’s image? This is a piece of the myth, still promulgated by Rice, that Abbas is moderate and strengthening him helps keep the radicals at bay.
In line with that myth is this statement made by Rice at a press conference here in Jerusalem yesterday: "But I think everybody understands who is responsible for the violence now and it’s coming out of Gaza and it’s not controlled by the Palestinian Authority."
I most vociferously disagree. The violence is coming out of Gaza because we’re not in there (which we should be). There would be violence aplenty coming out of Judea and Samaria if the IDF weren’t on top of the situation. Not only is the PA incapable of controlling the violence (read terrorism) on its own, some of the terrorists are directly linked to Fatah.
Meeting with Rice in Ramallah, Abbas made the infuriating and ludicrous statement that the PA has already fulfilled 90% of its obligations under the Road Map, and that now it was Israel’s turn to "do its part."
The very beginning of the Road Map stipulates that:
"Palestinian leadership issues unequivocal statement reiterating Israel’s right to exist in peace and security and calling for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire to end armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere. All official Palestinian institutions end incitement against Israel."
Which 90% did Abbas have in mind?
Then there is a statement Rice made here in Jerusalem at a press conference yesterday, that it represents a "breakthrough" that we’re now willing to discuss the third stage of the Road Map — the establishment of a Palestinian state — before stage one, which requires the PA to dismantle terrorism. Previously, she explained, matters got stalemated at stage one. Oh, she says, of course eventually we’ll have to deal with the terrorism, but how constructive that we’ve been able to move beyond that stalemate.
A nod to Aaron Lerner of IMRA for calling attention to this. I, of course, agree with Aaron when he writes that we shouldn’t count on Rice eventually dealing with terrorism once the establishment of a Palestinian state is in process:
"When the time comes for a photo-op creation of a sovereign Palestinian state but the Palestinians haven’t complied she can either look into the cameras and say how pleased she is to have received a report that the PA has fulfilled its Road Map obligations or proclaim once again what a swell guy Mahmoud Abbas is and explain that he will only really have the power to comply when he actually has a sovereign state."
This is a very dangerous turn of events that I’ve been reporting on for some months. All part of the international failure to hold the Palestinians’ feet to the fire.
While we’re on the subject of Rice in Jerusalem, I must mention the thousands who turned out yesterday evening to rally against Annapolis. The demonstration began outside the US Consulate in western Jerusalem, with demonstrators marching to the King David Hotel, where Rice, Olmert and Blair were meeting.
This was organized on short notice but reflects some of the fury of people here.
A word about Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni , who has not been one of my favorite people. Until recently my impression has been that her agenda in giving away our country was not so different from that of Olmert, and that she was far more dangerous because more popular. Now my sense of what she’s about has shifted. As I’ve indicated before, Olmert has no red lines, but it seems that she does. I was recently assured of this by someone who is enough on the inside to have knowledge of these matters. Those red lines may not be the same as mine (or yours), but she has limits with regard to negotiating.
Now Livni has come out with a statement that "progress on the establishment of a Palestinian state is conditional upon Israel’s security. This is the current bone of contention between us and the Palestinians in crafting a joint declaration for Annapolis."
Elsewhere she observed that "They [the Palestinians] need to understand that the implementation of future understandings would be carried out only according to the phases of the road map – the meaning is security for Israel first and then the establishment of a Palestinian state. No one wants to see the creation of another terror state in the region."
If she really holds fast to this — and she does head the Israeli negotiating teams — everything will indeed stalemate.
Her statement here flies in the face of the Rice position I’ve described above, which sanctions looking the other way for the moment with regard to PA dismantling of terror.
Livni is also adamantly aga
inst establishment of a timetable for negotiations for fear of creating unrealistic expectations that will lead to violence.
She will be bringing these messages to a foreign ministers’ conference in Lisbon this week.
And Olmert? He is said to be taking under consideration the release of prisoners requested by Fayyad; Fayyad asked that 2,000 be released and there is certainly no promise of this. In all, over the last few months, fewer than 350 have been let go. Once again we confront the ugly issue of letting out prisoners with blood on their hands
Speaking at the left wing Saban conference yesterday, Olmert said that all issues would be on the table at Annapolis. A seriously worrisome statement. This means Jerusalem, too. In spite of the protests of ministers within his own government and a demand by a majority of the Knesset that Jerusalem stay united.
Also dangerous is a demand by the Palestinians that Israel permit PA institutions to function in eastern Jerusalem. They claim the right to do this in accordance with a letter from Shimon Peres, then foreign minister, which was attached to Oslo documents. But these institutions — most notably Orient House — which were shut down in 2001, had exceeded what was permitted to them under Oslo: they were functioning politically as a PA embassy in Jerusalem, meeting dignitaries there from other nations. The claim now is that we have an obligation under the Road Map to re-open these places. Another one of those "confidence building" measures, you see.
But that’s not the way Israeli gov’t saw it when the 14 reservations to the Road Map (to which I will return) were drafted.
The danger is that once the PA gets a foot hold in eastern Jerusalem it becomes a de facto capital of a Palestinian state, with the particulars to be ironed out later. That’s where it was all headed when Orient House was closed.
The Shin Bet, which is putting forth an analysis of the situation, is particularly wary of this tactic and warns that once the PA is established in eastern Jerusalem, there will be an expectation on their part that all of the Old City, including the Kotel and the Temple Mount, are theirs.
In the months after Gilad Shalit was kidnapped last year, the IDF made a number of forays into Gaza, entering the strip with relative ease. That situation has now shifted, as Hamas militia, trained by Hezbollah and the Iranians, is building resistance along the border, constructing bunkers and mortar positions. Hamas’s army has organized into areas, with a coordinated network of observation posts and forces that include riflemen and anti-tank units. Recent forays by the IDF across the border, which are now more difficult, are now done in part to prevent the digging of tunnels under the border or setting up mortar positions.
One more argument for a major operation into Gaza before it gets even worse than it is.
According to the Lebanese paper Al-Akhbar, Hezbollah has just held its largest military drill ever, in southern Lebanon. Spanning three days, and incorporating thousands of fighters — including infantry guerillas, anti-tank missile units, anti-aircraft missile units, the engineering unit and the units of rocket launchers — it was intended by Nasrallah to send a message of deterrence to Israel.
But get this: UNIFIL "was amazed by the covert action of Hezbollah, which was able to keep the drill under wraps right up to its start."
Those guys in UNIFIL are really monitoring the area carefully!