Tomorrow night begins the week-long Festival of Sukkot (known by Christians as Feast of Tabernacles). Identified as a season of joy, it involves the construction of sukkahs, or temporary booths, in which observant Jews live for the duration of the holiday, and by the daily ritual waving of a lulav — composed of palm fronds, myrtle boughs and willow branches bound together, and clasped in the hands with an etrog, a large fragrant citron. Symbolism abounds.
For me, every year it is a delight to see sukkahs being constructed outside of restaurants here in Jerusalem — for religious Jews will not patronize these places unless they can eat in a sukkah. Piles of palm fronds, pruned from trees by the municipality, are placed at street corners, where people can help themselves; they use these fronds for the skach — the greenery that is spread over the top of the sukkah in place of a roof. Such is the normative Jewish nature of life in Israel. A continuing wonder: Life in a Jewish state.
In this sad and frightening world, we need all the joy we can get, and Sukkot provides a good measure of it. All over the country there are special activities for families during the week. After today, there will be a hiatus in my postings — perhaps one occasionally, and perhaps none until the night of October 14 or the 15th.
See my most recent article, on National Review Online at
Israeli Intelligence forces are now reporting that Hamas has a trained army of 7,500 fighters in Gaza. This is not a group of guerillas, but a genuine army with specialized units including a short-range missile unit, a long-range missile unit, an anti-tank unit, and a sniper unit. Estimates are that if the flow of weapons and experts into Gaza continues, they will be operational and ready to take on Israel by next summer.
Their offensive capacity consists not only of an ability to launch long range missiles into Israel, but to infiltrate Israel via dozens of sophisticated hidden tunnels that originate in Gaza and will open up inside the Green Line. This is how Shalit was kidnapped: the terrorists entered into Israeli territory underground. These tunnels (as they have been used between Gaza and Egypt for smuggling until now) are often fully equipped, with electricity, tracks for little carts that carry the weapons, etc., and are high enough to allow people to walk upright. There is no way to estimate how many such tunnels are in process of being constructed, but in an area of one single kilometer 12 were discovered. Imagine, if you can, terrorists bearing weapons suddenly showing up inside our borders at various points and dispersing to do their damage. The stuff of nightmares.
According to Israeli military sources, as reported by YNet, this plan was activated by Hamas from the day they were elected, and has proceeded undeterred since, even during the time of IDF operations in Gaza. The military sources say they will have to decide soon how to deal with this.
Personally I believe that we have gone mad. Our military has information on what is happening, and we sit here and think about what to do?
It is obvious that only a full and intensive military re-occupation of Gaza will suffice, but if our military/political leaders have not the wisdom and courage to take this necessary action, then at the very least a massive military campaign is called for forthwith. A pre-emptive campaign — there should be no waiting until we get hit.
Along with it there must be an equally massive PR campaign. We have evidence that this tunnel building is going on and that an incredible amount of weaponry — including some that is quite sophisticated — has been smuggled in. Call press conferences. Bring the evidence to think tanks and forums. Send envoys to capitals all over the Western world to discuss this. Have our people write op-eds. We must make our case as strongly as possible, so that when we take the military action there is no way for the Palestinians to yell that we are abusing them and they need international forces to protect them.
But no…we are currently engaged in discussions about how to allow a freer flow of goods and people between Egypt and Gaza, and Israel and Gaza. Mad, I tell you.
The grave mistake that was the "disengagement" comes back to haunt us again and again in different contexts. It is glaringly obvious that we wouldn’t be facing the situation I have just described above if we had not left, and left in spite of warnings that it would be a security catastrophe.
Another reminder has now come from Maj.-Gen. Yiftah Ron-Tal, who has said in an interview that our failure to shine militarily in Lebanon was a result of the "disengagement" as well: When the IDF should have been training for such eventualities, training to be ready to defend the nation, it was instead involved in training for evacuating Jews from their homes. He said more as well: [for a country to volunteer to uproot its own communities is] "an act of suicide… I still cannot understand how Israel gave up parts of its land so willingly and enthusiastically, and how it turned the residents who are so attached to the Land into criminals, instead of admiring their struggle to preserve the Jewish character of the State." The pity is that he didn’t say this before the pullout took place.
Chief of Staff Halutz announced that he was firing him because of his statement, but Ron-Tal said he beat him to it and had already submitted his letter of resignation.
There is talk now, in line with helping the Palestinians, of opening crossings. The U.S. has submitted a plan for upgrading the Karni Crossing — with improved scanning technology installed at American expense — so that security checks of trucks could be done more effectively; the crossing is sometimes closed because of terrorist threats.
The larger issue, as I see it, is the pressure on Israel to open the Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt. Last year, with the Rafah Agreement, Israel pulled out completely and the Palestinians took over, with the EU providing monitors; the entire setup proved to be a fiasco, with the EU simply watching as terrorists went through and Israel — which was supposed to be provided with real-time information on who was crossing, but mostly was not — having no leverage. When Shalit was kidnapped, Israel, as part of its operation, closed the crossing so that Shalit couldn’t be brought into Egypt. The entire border area between Gaza and Egypt is a hot issue because of the smuggling being done.
Part of the $20 million plan that has been advanced by the U.S., and would include improvement of the Karni Crossing, involves providing training of Abbas’s personal security forces. This is difficult to swallow. There’s a history of the U.S. having done this before. The result? CIA-trained Palestinians ended up using their enhanced skills against Israel instead of against terrorists. Again?
PM Olmert, meeting with Rice, indicated that once Shalit is released, there are a number of things he might consider doing to help boost Abbas. Good old Olmert, cooperatively part of the "let’s support Abbas" crowd.
A recent poll by Bir Zeit University indicates that 44% of young Palestinians would emigrate if given the opportunity. This is hopeful news
This posting can be found at: http://www.arlene