a different side of Israel

Tag: Ehud Olmert (page 3 of 7)

Hamas Never Recognize Israel

Palestinian Prime Minister and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh declared on Sunday that “whoever declares that he will never recognize Israel earns the Palestinians’ love”. Speaking before an estimated Gaza City crowd of more than 200,000 who had gathered there to commemorate the 20th anniversary since the founding of the organization known as Hamas, Haniyeh noted a number of “achievements” that his organization was either fully or partially responsible for including the 2005 Israeli pull out from Gaza, the Hamas takeover of the Gaza strip from rivals Fatah, the 2006 war, and the continued captivity of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit. He also said that Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert “is weak and unable to negotiate Shalit’s release”.

Though Haniyeh said that his organization is willing to negotiate a peace agreement with Fatah, they will never do so with Israel. “Hamas has already begun to dig graves for the Jews” a Hamas parliament member Nushir al-Masri said during the same rally.
“The Israeli soldier Schalit will never see the light of day as long as Palestinians remain in Israeli jails”, Osama al-Muzaini, the Hamas official responsible for the soldier’s well being was quoted as saying.

And from exile in Damascus, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal congratulated Haniyeh and added that “our people are able to launch a third and even fourth Intifada until the day of victory arrives”.

Regarding any possible Israeli military invasion into Gaza, Haniyeh said that a lot of unpleasant “surprises” awaited any planned IDF operation into “the Palestinian Motherland” and that Israel forces would pay dearly.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian man who lives in the area where the June 2006 cross border raid that resulted in IDF corporal Gilad Schalit being captured and two IDF soldiers killed took place revealed that he had seen Schalit on the day of his capture. He said that after hearing gunshots and explosions he saw several Palestinian militants leading an IDF soldier who appeared wounded and had blood stains and burns on his face, upper body and arms.

All of this appears to be a marked contrast to the recent summit in Annapolis Maryland in which both Israeli P.M. Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Machmoud Abbas agreed to work together towards the creation of a Palestinian State by the end of 2008. The belligerency of Hamas also seems contrary to a pledge to give the Palestinians a sum of over $5.6 billion to assist towards the development of a Palestinian infrastructure. The pledge, given at a special donor’s conference which took place in Paris over the weekend was attended by Abbas as well as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

Only one thing was missing and that was representatives of the more than 1.2 million Palestinians living in Gaza and ruled over by Mr. Haniyeh and his exiled colleague Khaled Meshaal.. And judging from the noise being made by the over 200,000 Hamas supporters who had gathered Sunday to cheer their leaders, trying to avoid Hamas is like trying to avoid Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon – with the same explosive implications.

Olmert’s Last Stand

Many of you may recall that infamous episode in American history when U.S. Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer and his 7th Calvary regiment were defeated and massacred by Sioux Indians led by Chief Sitting Bull in the Battle of the Little Bighorn. That historical episode, which took place in the summer of 1876, reminds me of another “last stand”, still being played out Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is becoming embroiled in so much political and personal controversy that he very much resembles Custer in many ways.

For one thing, Mr. Olmert directed then IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz to wage war against the Hezbollah in Lebanon in July 2006, and Gen. Halutz (a real-life stand-in for Gen. Custer) vowed to “blast Lebanon back into the Stone Age”. Well, blast he did, but much of northern Israel got ‘blasted” as well by at least 6,000 Hezbollah fired rockets. Now, with himself under criminal investigation for a number of offenses, the P.M. is desperately pulling at straws to try to work out some kind of deal at the upcoming “peace conference” in Annapolis Maryland. Recent public opinion polls conducted in Israel have resulted in at least 53% of the population believing that Olmert should be suspended from his position as prime minister until the investigations are concluded. Olmert has other ideas, however, and appears to be trying to keep his job by making the impossible become reality in a deal with a Palestinian leader who only represents a portion of the entire Palestinian People.

Of the people polled, at least 65% also believe that Israel shouldn’t withdraw troops from the West Back as they fear that a similar result will happen as did in Gaza following the unilateral pullout in August, 2005. The respondents said that they fear a an even bigger danger, with much of Israel’s most populated areas put in direct line of fire from Kassam and Katyusha rockets. An even larger number of respondents (77%) fear that PA Authority President Mahmud Abbas does not have the strength to win out over a possible take-over in the West Bank by Hamas, as occurred in Gaza.

Olmert appears ready to do whatever he feels necessary to make a good impression at the conference, despite whether or not the result will be good for Israel. What is presently going on in both Israel and the Palestinian Authority is vastly different than the situation prior to the Camp David meeting in July 2000, when then P.M. Ehud Barak offered P.A. Chairman Yasser Arafat nearly all of the Israeli occupied lands, including most of East Jerusalem, on a silver platter. The result of this was not only Arafat’s refusal, but the Second Intifada uprising less than three months later. Though not mentioned in the opinion poll, it’s interesting to note that Ehud Barak is now Israel’s Defense Minister.

What will happen at “Camp David III” remains to be seen. But with the P.A. now split in half and Olmert himself under investigation, the results of the George Bush sponsored Annapolis meetings will most likely not be any more productive than the Bill Clinton sponsored Camp David one.

Meanwhile the “Indians” are tightening their circle around “Custer” and his men and Little Bighorn II will probably end up a similar way.

Why Olmert Doesn’t Give A Piss

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appears to ‘have let the cat out of the bag on Monday when he announced during a press conference that he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Olmert, who has previously tried to show that he is in the best of health, said that the tumor found during a “routine examination” was ‘microscopic’ in size and the once removed he stood an excellent chance of being cured without having to undergo either chemo or radiation therapy.

Olmert, aged 62, told his audience that the surgical procedure, planned to take place next month, and following the scheduled peace conference in America, would not keep him from performing his duties as head of state. The announcement was aired on a number of international news networks, including Sky News and CNN.

Professor Shuki Shemer, a former Health Ministry Director and specialist in treating prostate cancer, said that Olmert’s condition is more prevalent in men over age 60, although it can strike younger men too. The disease is curable if caught in time, i.e., before the malignancy spreads outside the prostate gland, which is located in men between the bladder and urethra.

Olmert thought it necessary to advise his condition to the public, his press aids said. he wanted to assure everyone, especially the general public, that his condition is not life threatening and is 90% curable. Following his return from the Annapolis conference, Olmert will undergo a three hour surgical procedure to remove his prostate gland. Judging from men who had undergone this “procedure” however, recovery is not immediate and is often accompanied with temporary problems of incontinence or inability to hold urine in the bladder. Anyone who has visited a urology department of a major hospital and seen men walking along pulling a bag of bloody urine can testify to the fact that prostate surgery (in the event of a tumor) is no picnic.

Olmert himself had to take over the reins of government nearly two years ago when Ariel Sharon was stricken with a massive stroke in January, 2006. Due to this incident, it is hoped that arrangements have been made for the assistant prime minister to temporarily stand in during Olmert’s incapacity. Though prostate cancer is a much slower progressing malignancy than other forms of cancer, it still must be dealt with in time. French President Francois Mitterand died of this disease several years ago, and Ezer Weizman, a former Israeli President, also contracted the disease.

Despite the fate of Mr. Mitterrand, only 16% of men affected with prostate cancer will have any symptoms, and only 6% will eventually die from the disease due to its slow metastasis or spreading.

Professor Shemer noted that men in their 60’s had a 50 – 60% chance to be stricken by prostate cancer, while men over 70 have an 80% chance. “It’s just something that all men eventually face due to the gland’s designed function”, he added.

Olmert Target of Assassination Plot

Israeli government plans to attend the upcoming Middle East conference in Annapolis Maryland next month have been complicated considerably by release reports that Palestinian Fatah gunmen had plotted to attack Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s convoy during his meeting with P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas (photo) in Jericho last August. The disclosure, only released now, stated that members on the Palestinian Police force had planned to attack Olmert’s convoy when it approached the historic West Bank City for the first visit by an Israeli Prime Minister to a Palestinian controlled city.

The report, given by Shin Bet security head Yuval Diskin, contained information that several Palestinian gunmen belonging to Fatah, the Palestinian political organization, had made intensive plans to carry out the operation, and had conducted extensive surveillance operations on the route that the motorcade was going to take, once it entered Palestinian controlled territory. Although several suspects had been detained by P.A. police authorities, most have been released, further dampening relations between Israel and the P.A. The release of prime suspects in this affair, which was alleged to have been cancelled at the last moment, makes government officials wondering about the sincerity of Abbas’s government in entering into any kind of agreement with Israel.

“Israel will not ignore this attempt and look the other way” Olmert was reported to have said. Members of Olmert’s cabinet as well as numerous officials are new saying that with this in mind, the Israeli government should call off it’s participation in the meeting, scheduled to take place in only two week’s time. Israel Foreign Minister Zippy Livni was quoted as saying that the Palestinians had returned to a “revolving door policy in which they say something and do something entirely different altogether.

In addition, many Knesset members have told the Prime Minister that not only should Israel not sent a delegation to the conference, but should seriously reassess Israel’s relationship with Mahmoud Abbas and his government. Members of Olmert’s Kadima political party, including MK Zvi Elkin should halt all meetings with Abbas, and cease any cooperation with P.A. police and other government authorities until those suspects who were released from custody are re-arrested.

Olmert, who had only returned before the weekend from his brief meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and who is currently under police investigation for a number of “legal issues”, must now come to grips with an assassination attempt by members of Mahmoud Abbas’ own civil administration. Right winged Knesset members, especially those like National Union Chairman Effie Etam and National Religious Party Chairman Zvulun Orlev are demanding that Olmert sever relations with the P.A. altogether. Both men also said that Olmert should recite a special prayer of thanksgiving for being saved from possible assassination. National Union party member Ariyeh Eldad even went one step further by suggesting a prayer be said to rid the country of Ehud Olmert’s leadership as a result of his dealings with the Palestinians.

Whether the Prime Minister will heed this advice is anyone’s guess. But in any event, these disclosures have cooled the “atmosphere” considerably between Israeli and Palestinian officials. And down in Hamas controlled Gaza, Hamas leader and former Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, must be enjoying these sudden turn in events.

Olmert’s Russian Quickie

Olmert and PutinIt seems that we writers can’t get enough about writing on Israeli political tête-à-têtes. And Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s “quickie” visit to see Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin last Thursday is just one of those episodes in Israel’s continuing problem with Iran’s ongoing nuclear program – and Russia’s latest involvement with the Iranian Republic. That this short, three hour visit, followed on the heels of Putin’s own state visit to see Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, must have sent alarm bells ringing in Jerusalem. Olmert, who barely had time for a quick dinner meeting with the Russian leader before flying back to Israel, must have expressed his country’s concern for Putin’s remarks that Iran (in Putin’s opinion) does not appear to have plans to build a nuclear weapon.

That “assurance” was not enough to satisfy Olmert who only last year, on October 18 2006 (see photo), spent a longer period in Moscow to warn Russia that Israel will not stand idly by and allow Iran to become a nuclear military power. Putin even made his own comments then that his country would not allow this to happen.

So, why Putin’s seemingly ambivalence to what appears to be a very serous situation regarding the Islamic Republic? Was it serious enough for Olmert to ‘commute’ to Moscow in the time that he would do to drive to Haifa in heavy traffic; and in addition, to make this quick trip known to the press? Indeed it was, as Russia seems to be charting its own foreign policy course, which is definitely one that favors its own self interest, and is bringing Russia into a confrontation position with the United States that hasn’t been around since the end of the Cold War. There are many reasons for the Kremlin’s friendliness with Teheran. For one thing, Russia’s foreign trade with Iran is considerably larger than its trade with Israel (except for possibly diamonds that is).

Besides agreeing to supply the Iranians with a lot of updated military hardware, including several types of missile systems, Russia has also agreed to help Iran with its nuclear reactors, which are supposed to be for the manufacture of electricity and other “peaceful purposes”. What isn’t being divulged is to what extent Putin is actually committing his country to helping Mr. Ahmadinejad and Mr. Ali Kahmanei, the chief reigning Mullah, to complete Iran’s nuclear facilities and have them “on-line” as soon as possible.

Olmert warned the Kremlin last year that Israel would do what it has to do to prevent Iran from reaching the “point of no return” regarding Iranian reactors producing weapons grade enriched uranium and plutonium. That “point” is apparently nearer than most of us would like to believe, and this has prompted Olmert to pop in to see Putin at what apparently was a “spur of the moment” arranged visit (something like out of an “Ice Station Zebra” or “Fail Safe” movie scenario, perhaps?).

More on this visit will undoubtedly be divulged, as what exactly Olmert did discuss with Mr. Putin is still classified information – and rightfully so. Too much detail of these kind of events often get leaked out and the consequences are not helpful to any of us, especially here in Israel.

Most of us living in this country, myself in particular, would like to go bed at night without wondering what might be store for us – and perhaps sooner than we think!

The “Good Ol’ Boys ” are Back

Knesset Dress Code Needed !Monday, October 8 was the opening session of the 2007/2008 winter Knesset assembly. The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, had been in recess since August, giving its members the opportunity to enjoy a vacation period which included the religious holidays. This is not to say that these politicians were entirely on holiday, as many of them use these break periods to catch up on their private and often questionable business affairs. In fact, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who gave the opening speech of the winter session, seems to have been very busy lately trying to consolidate his legal defense against a number of allegations relating to his private business affairs.

Olmert, whose, real estate dealings in Jerusalem and connection with Bank Leumi, the country’s oldest and most well known bank, seems to be slipping further down the slimy slope of financial irregularities which puts an even bigger cloud over his head; much to the delight of his political enemies. Olmert tried to put on a strong face by saying that the Israeli government has made no agreements with the Palestinians prior to the scheduled international summit conference in Annapolis Maryland, now said to only be coming off in two months time. The conference was to have commenced in only a few weeks; but was post phoned due to a lack of progress by Israel in making any tentative deals with the Palestinian Authority, and further remarks by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that it would be useless to hold such a meeting without any concrete itinerary by both Israel and the Palestinians.

Concrete itinerary: that was something that was severely criticized by Knesset opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu, who expressed great doubts that any kind of agreement could be made with Mahmoud Abbas. The P.A. President only represents part of the Palestinians due to Gaza being under the control of Hamas party leader Ismail Hananyah. As both Israel and the United Stated refuse to have any dealings with Hamas, which is considered a ‘terrorist entity’, the scheduled summit in Maryland is virtually doomed from the outset.

From many points of view, including Mr. Netanyahu’s, that’s ok with them as they believe that this conference is a complete non-starter. With Palestinian rockets continuing to be launched against Israeli settlements and towns, including the launching of the longer range Grad missile, and Corporal Gilad Schalit still being held captive in Gaza, any kind of conference is almost doomed before it begins. As Secretary Rice remarked during her last visit to the region, “We are looking for something more than just a ‘photo session’ and a few handshakes”.

Both Prime Minister Olmert and Opposition leader Netanyahu did not speak kindly regarding the problem concerning Iran; especially in the aftermath of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent address before both Columbia University and the U.N. General Assembly. It might be said that at least the two Israeli leaders did agree on something!

Despite all the mixed feelings it was nice to see that Israel does have a very vibrant democracy, and not just a “puppet parliament “as in countries like Syria and Iran.

Sukkot Lemons

Sukkot LemonsIsraeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, shown meeting Wednesday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas inside the Knesset’s Succa, must be trying everything to appease the man who really isn’t worth appeasing. No sooner had this most recent meeting between the two men taken place when it was learned that Mr. Abbas is planning to meet secretly with top Hamas officials; possibly with Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ leader in Gaza.

All of these events are tied with a proposed summit meeting between Israel, the P.A., Jordan, Egypt, and the USA. With Abbas planning to meet with Hamas officials in Cairo, and judging from the Israeli government’s policies concerning any dealing with Hamas, any benefit of a summit meeting does not have much of a chance of achieving anything, according to Israeli government officials. It was only a couple of weeks back that the Israeli government declared Gaza to be a ‘hostile entity’ and could therefore be treated like an enemy country, including cutting off all services, short of dire humanitarian ones.

Mr. Abbas, who’s ability to really represent the interests of the Palestinians was made very doubtful following the Hamas takeover of Gaza, does not really have much to negotiate with insofar as achieving any kind of agreements with Israel. His desire to find a way to patch things up with Hamas indicates that he fears for his own future in light of Hamas gaining strength, as contrasted to the fortunes of his own Fatah Organization. Being a radical Islamic entity, Hamas has managed gain considerable support with not only many Palestinians, but with Arab and Muslim states abroad as well. Hamas’ popularity is in fact so strong that a senior Hamas official remarked recently that his organization has “a million and one ways to receive funding abroad”. This statement is most likely very true in light of countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia more than willing to help out. The Saudis, despite being fearful of their own monarchy being destabilized by terror groups like Al Qaeda, still favor an entity like Hamas which wants to introduce strict Islamic Shariah laws into Gaza and turn the Strip into a mini Islamic republic.

Israel’s feelings toward Hamas are “known and unequivocal” according to officials in Jerusalem. And in light of events during the past two and half years, it is unlikely that any kind of peaceful relations will ever develop between Hamas and Israel.

Meanwhile, Mr. Olmert, shown Wednesday on T.V. explaining the significance of the yellow citrine fruit known as an Etrog to Mr. Abbas, may eventually find that his efforts to create a fruitful relationship with Abbas’ portion of the P.A. may turn out like that other type of yellow citrus fruit, known as a lemon. This reminds me of the words of that classic song dealing with a broken love affair: “lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet. But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat”.

Mr. Abbas, in looking at the prospects of his sharing power again with Hamas, is probably already aware of the significance of this song.

Back to Kassam School in Sderot

The beleaguered Israeli town Sderot, only a ‘stones throw’ or in this case, a Qassam rocket launch away from Gaza, “celebrated” the new school year today, September 3, being once again under a barrage of Palestinian launched Qassam rockets. When it had been announced earlier by local municipal authorities that the town of 15,000 would start the 2007/08 school year like every other Israeli community, their “neighbors” in the Hamas led Palestinian Gaza Strip decided otherwise. These “good neighbors” shot not less than 7 home made missiles into Israel, one of them actually striking a kindergarten and sending more than 20 children to hospital for treatment from severe trauma and shock.

The afternoon news broadcasts, showing scores of Sderot residents and police scurrying for the shelters, was a sad reminder that this type of harassment is far from over. Despite Prime Minister Olmert appearing on television with a warning that these kind of incidents will not be tolerated by Israel, it can only be wondered if the Palestinians will take Mr. Olmert seriously. Most likely, they will not.

Previous retaliations against Palestinian terror groups who are involved in this kind of activity have not been very effective; and even if several key terrorists are ‘taken out’ by selective “culling”, there are plenty more volunteers to eagerly take their place. I say eagerly, because it must be understood by all that not only are these people (the Palestinians) not afraid to die, they look forward to the “opportunity” to become ‘Holy Martyrs’ for their cause.

Israeli communities like Sderot and several smaller towns and settlements, including kibbutzim, which lie near the border with Gaza, will most likely continue to suffer these attacks; and larger communities like Ashkelon and Kiryat Gat may soon be targeted as well. It’s no secret that Hamas and other groups have been smuggling many varieties of weapons and explosives into Gaza; and longer range rockets may be part of this new arsenal. Even benevolent people like Arkady Gaydamak won’t be able to do much to alleviate the suffering of the people in areas under fire.

Recently, exiled Hamas leader Khalid Mashaal stated that relations between the Palestinians and Israel cannot improve as long as the Israeli military continues to “massacre” innocent Palestinian civilians. What Mr. Mashaal means by this term is puzzling as the IDF tries very hard to minimize civilian casualties among the Palestinians despite unfortunate incidents such as the deaths of three Palestinian children during a recent IDF military operation. With Palestinians having some of the most densely populated cities and towns in the world, it’s no wonder that occasionally some Palestinians are caught in the line of fire – especially when many Kassam rocket attacks occur from within densely populated areas.

Such is the reality of “back to school” in both the P.A. and some Israeli communities; especially Sderot.

Eleventh Hour Plea for Aged Holocaust Survivors

Israel has one of the largest populations of Jewish Holocaust survivors in the world. This reality is largely due to the Jewish State being the only place of refuge for the remnants of Europe’s Jewish community, most of who were wiped out during the years 1938 to 1945 by the Nazis and their allies.

Most of these people who are classified as Holocaust survivors, including those who were partisan fighters, now live in Israel and many of them are living far below the poverty line and are in poor health. A great deal of media attention has been given to the survivors recently, particularly regarding their attempts to receive increased pensions and more health care benefits from the Israeli government; which until now appears to be far from granting what this segment of the population has asked for. There are more than 120,000 Holocaust survivors over age 70 living in Israel. A great many of these are well into their 80’s. The largest number of survivors living outside of Israel, reside in the USA.

Holocaust Survivor March IsraelAlthough the Israeli government has promised to give Israeli Holocaust survivors a special stipend amounting to around N.S. 300 per month for individuals and N.S. 520 per month for couples, most survivors consider this amount as “too little – too late” for many of them, as indicated in the above photo. This is especially so if it is to be spread out over a 3 year period beginning in 2008. For many of these people, especially those over age 85, they will probably not be around to receive the full amount, scheduled for 2011.

Many of these survivors feel that they are actually reliving the Holocaust considering how they have been treated on this matter. A spokesman from the Ministry of Finance said, however, that “if we give the survivors the full amount they are asking for (between N.S. 3,000 and 5,000 immediate grant per person or couple, plus the monthly allotment) we will be forced to cut back on child allowances given to large families”.

Israel, like most other Western oriented countries, has a high population of older people. Though all are not Holocaust survivors, a great many of them are in the same situation as the ones who survived the Holocaust. There are also many families with small children living below the poverty line, and according to Finance Ministry spokesmen, there just isn’t enough money to go around.

Not enough money; or just not allocated properly? Who deserves more of the government “Pie”, the Holocaust survivors or others in similar financial straits?

More than 30% of Israel’s 7+ million population are living below the poverty line. Many elderly people are included in this percentile, and many were not involved directly in the Holocaust. It appears that the only fair solution is to take each case on its own merits; and perhaps the time has come to give more assistance to the country’s elderly, especially those in need of long term and other special care.

The Holocaust survivors are definitely a special case, though; and judging from their reactions to meetings their representatives had with governmental authorities, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the issue is far from over.

Hat Tip for Image: Ynet..

State Comptroller’s Report Results in a War of Wills

Olmert VS. Hamevaker

The fall-out generated by the presentation of the State Comptrollers report dealing with last summer’s Lebanese war, has resulted in an even greater rift between the State Comptroller, Micha Lindenstrauss and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The report noted that both the Prime Minister and top IDF generals committed a number of failures during the 34 day war; and went into detail on how the home front was completely unprepared for such a conflict, while the government pre-occupied itself in waging a major air and sea campaign against most of Lebanon. The result was that over a million of Israel’s population were subjected to outright panic and undue suffering while the government appeared unable to properly assist them.

Without a proper plan regarding the home front, which became the war’s “front line”, the majority of assistance came from the Israeli public themselves, including private donors. The resulting shambles of public policies, showed everyone how prepared the country was to endure this kind of conflict.

Despite the Comptroller’s findings, Olmert and his government still refuse to admit that they failed; and even accuse Mr. Lindenstrauss and his staff of trying to make the government look bad for their own personal reasons. In fact, the government’s unwillingness to accept blame and to act on the report’s recommendations – as distasteful as they may be – indicates a political leadership who appear to have little regard to the feelings of the country’s population. That a gathering of over 150,000 people in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, plus groups of reserve soldiers protesting in front of the Knesset did not result in Olmert’s resignation only means that he and his cronies in the Kadima Party are intent on doing anything possible to enable them to stay in power.

Meanwhile, a number of Knesset members from outside of Kadima’s sphere of influence are calling for immediate implementation of the report’s recommendations
Which include a plan to be made up to handle the immediate evacuation of civilians from high risk areas, and to insure that ‘absorption areas’ are capable of handling an emergency situation without needed assistance from wealthy private benefactors.

Talk of creating a special investigative committee to probe deeper into the State Comptroller’s findings is also in the works among a number of Knesset members including NRP Knesset member Zvulun Orlev and Labor Party parliamentarian Shelly Yachimovich who feel that the report’s findings indicate “disgraceful failures by the government towards its citizens”.

Though the findings of the Winograd Committee resulted in the eventual resignation of former IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz and the voting out of office of Defense Minister Amir Peretz in recent Labor Party primaries, it’s anybody’s guess what will be the final outcome of Lindenstrauss’s findings; some of which are even more scathing than in the Winograd Report. Olmert and his immediate following appear unwilling to admit that things went terribly wrong during last summer’s conflict; and that needed recommendations appear to be implemented too slowly by the government – if at all. Until now the general public has acted with amazing restraint, considering all that has transpired. The question now is how much longer can things continue as they are, especially with threats of another, even more terrible conflict continuously present. Israel needs better leadership at the helm; and we can only wonder who is capable of doing this.

Moshik shows Olmert preparing the war against the State Comptroller: “This time we are going to war ready..”

Meet the “New Nice Guys”

Peres and Abbas at the World Economic ForumPicture from The World Economic Forum Jan. 2007
Recent events centering around the attention being given to P.A. Authority President Mahmud Abbas and his Fatah Organization (formerly known as the Palestine Liberation Organization or PLO for short) makes many Israelis wonder who their true friends really are. With the P.A. now divided into two entities “Hamastan” in Gaza and “Fatahland” on the West Bank, both the Israeli and the United States governments seem to have thrown their combined support behind Abbas, even though his people were thoroughly crushed by Hamas in Gaza, and are only still in control of Palestinian held areas in the West Bank due to Hamas not yet having enough strength in these areas – not yet anyway.

Israeli P.M. Ehud Olmert inviting Abbas to Jerusalem for talks, together with U.S. President George Bush’s speech on Monday concerning the U.S. government’s support of Abbas’ reorganized administration and outright rejection of Ismail Haniyah’s Hamas organization, seems to indicate everyone’s acceptance of the division of authority within the P.A. Olmert in fact appears so willing to accept a “moderate” Palestinian entity that in a gesture of good faith, he has agreed to release a total of 255 Palestinian prisoners in order to cement the deal. Not only that, the Israeli P.M. is also willing to not pursue another 180 members of West Bank terror groups, such as the Al Aqsa Brigades, some of whom were definitely involved in killing and wounding Israeli soldiers and civilians in the past.

Just who are these “moderate” Palestinians with whom Israeli government leaders, including newly installed Israeli President Shimon Peres, are now willing to accept as new partners for peace? Many Israelis appear to have very short memories since previously, before groups such as Hamas and the Islamic Jihad came into being, Israel’s Public enemy No.1 was non other than the PLO, headed by that old-time believer in armed struggles, Yasser Arafat himself. With Arafat at the helm, and being ably assisted by none other than Abbas , known better by his code name Abu Maazan, some of the worst “armed struggles” against Israelis occurred during a 25 year period leading up to the 1993 Oslo Accords. These attacks include:

1. The 1968 Savoy Hotel attack in Tel Aviv
2. The 1970 attack at Ben Gurion Airport, carried out with the able assistance of both the German Badar Meinhoff gang and the Japanese Red Brigade.
3. The massacre of Israeli Athletes at the 1972 Olympiad in Munich Germany.
4. The attack and massacre of 23 Israeli school children in the northern Galilee town of Maalot.
5. The 1978 Haifa Road bus hijacking in which more than 30 Israelis lost their lives.
6. And numerous attacks against Israelis in Nahariyah, Jerusalem, on Kibbutzim, and on army bases.

For the point of good order, it must be pointed out that all of these attacks were carried out long before the first suicide bomber blew himself up at the Hadara central bus terminal in late 1993!

In more recent times, many of these ‘moderate’ Palestinians were involved in numerous shooting incidents against both soldiers and civilians in the West Bank, and were also part of the group of Palestinians who lynched two Israeli reserve soldiers at the police station in Nablus at the beginning of the Second Intifada in October, 2000.

Moderate Palestinians? It might be argued by some that the group of 255 slated to be released on Friday are not supposed to be ones with “blood on their hands”, such as Marwan Barghouti, who was sentenced to no less than 5 consecutive life prison terms by an Israeli military court. But really now, how can it be possible that none of these persons, including several women, have absolutely clean records without even a few drops of blood on their hands? Not only that, with the P.A. now split into two separate entities, the release of even a thousand Fatah prisons will not help towards securing the repatriation of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is being held by a group similar to the one who held BBC journalist Allan Johnston in Gaza for nearly four months. Who knows how many Hamas and other prisoners, many whom are surely murderers, will have to be set free in order to gain Shalit’s eventual release?

“Moderates”, in reference to Abbas and his Fatah organization, is only a cosmetic term conjured up to make the whole situation seem more palatable. But ‘palatable’ for whom? The citizens of Israel who have to live with their Palestinian ‘neighbors, or for US President Bush and other nations composing the 4 nation “quartet” who have pledged to bring about a final status solution for both Israel and the Palestinians.

If this scenario is what one refers to as “palatable”, then a lot of indigestion is certainly due to take place in both Israel and within the Palestinian Authority. And acute indigestion usually leads to a severe case of ulcers – bleeding ones that is.

War or Peace? Israel’s ‘new’ polices towards Syria

Syria’s President Bashar Assad claims that the Israeli government, especially Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, is sending out “mixed signals” in regards to possible peace negotiations with Syria. Olmert’s recent announcement that his government is ready to enter into serious negotiations with Syria involving the Golan Heights, is coming on the heels of both countries preparing for a future military conflict over the territory taken by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War.

Assad, who recently declared that his country is ready to retake the “Heights”, sees Israel in a much weakened position following last summer’s Lebanon II war. Basking in his so-called “re-election” for another 7 year term as president, Assad seems more determined to reclaim his country’s ownership of the territory still being held by Israel. Olmert for his part is offering to return nearly the entire Golan Heights, except for small sections around the Sea of Galilee, including Hamat Gader, one of the important sources of the Jordan River and a major water supplier for Israel.

Giving back this territory to Syria, which would include the entire Mt. Hermon Ski area as well as most of the eastern shore of Lake Kinneret, would mean that Syria will once again be sitting literally on Israel’s doorstep. It would also mean that Syria would have full access to Israel’s most important fresh water supply, and could literally pump out the same water now being used by Israel. Some of the region’s best fruit crops, especially apples, are grown on the Golan; and more recently world-class quality wines are produced there as well.

More than 30,000 Israelis live on the Golan Heights, as well as several thousand Druze who still claim Syrian nationality. Returning the Golan to Syria would necessitate relocating the Jewish inhabitants back to Israel – a feat much more difficult than the disengagement from Gaza in August, 2005.

The Golan Druze, however, still remain loyal to Syria despite receiving various services from Israel including medical care..

Many analysts agree that Prime Minister Olmert is offering up the Golan Heights out of a position of weakness; and that a stronger leader would not have considered this gesture to one of Israel’s worst enemies. Still, other political leaders including Yizhak Rabin and even Binyamin Netanyahu have made similar offers in the past.

Both Israeli and Syrian military forces have recently staged military exercises on each other’s respective side of the border; and intelligence reports indicate that the Syrians are repairing and cleaning bomb shelters and bunkers on their side of the cease fire line. Syria reportedly has hundreds of Scud-type long range missiles aimed at central Israel, including major population centers like Tel Aviv. And if Syria and Israel were to go to war, The Hezbollah in Lebanon would certainly “join the party”.

Present day realities show that returning the Golan Heights to Syria is not as simple as returning the Sinai to Egypt. If this is not believable, then all one has to do is to go to the Golan and see this reality ‘on the ground’ Still, peace – even a cold one like the current relations with Egypt and Jordan, is still better than no peace at all, many declare.

That may be true, but can the Syrians really be trusted to abide by a peace treaty? And who would gain most by a final agreement. Possibly both countries would, if they take it seriously.

Our Matched Pair

Andy Ram and Nathalie Dechy
Andy Ram, Israel’s doubles match tennis star, proved once again that he can bring it home again. For the second time in two years, Andy, together with his French tennis partner, Nathalie Dechy, won the Grand Slam trophy in the mixed doubles championship at the renown Roland Garros tournament, known to all as the French Open.

Besides achieving the glory of winning ‘the silver cup’ the duo will split a prize of 70,000 Euros.

Ranked at number 8 Seed in doubles ranking, Ram and Dechy defeated no. 5 Seed ranked Katarina Srebotnik and Serbian Nenad Zimonjic in a blistering 7-5, 6-3 performance that afterwards had even Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert calling to offer his congratulations. For Ram, this feat marks the second time in a year to win this trophy, have done it previously just a year before with Russian partner Vera Zvonareva.

Ram’s performance helped end the tournament, known to all in the ‘circuit’ as the “prelude to Wimbledon” assured the duo of an invitation to what many consider as the most acclaimed European professional tournament of the season with only the U.S Open remaining afterwards. Ram and Dechy appear to enjoy playing together; which, as said in his words: “and when that happens, you win titles”.

Israel’s star female tennis player, 15th Seed Shahar Peer, made it to the quarter finals, but lost to Russian player Svetlana Kuzentsvou 6-4, 6-3. Sahar’s former nemesis, American Serena Williams also didn’t make it past the Semi-Finals, losing to the No. 1 Seed, Belgian Justine Henin.

For Ram, this is a great victory for the 27 year old player, not only for him for Israeli tennis, whose young players appear to be improving in their international rankings. He was reported as saying that Dechy had asked him if he would like to team up with at Wimbledon. “Let’s see how things turn out at Roland Garros” was his reply.

As it turned out, ‘things’ turned out excellently for both of them; and we wish them much success both at England’s historic hard clay courts and afterwards as well.

Olmert Says Enough & Gaidamak On Evacuation Spree Again

Olmert ShrekIn a cabinet meeting yesterday Olmert decided to stop the “turn the other cheek” policy that’s been taken in Sderot. The rockets continue and with Arkadi Gaidamak starting his latest “Evacuation for Popularity” Campaign, it just “looks” bad. It seems that’s Arkadi is really pissing off Olmert, “Hamas likes to see town’s getting evacuated as a result of its attacks”, he said. Olmert did emphasize that the ministry of defense needs to use its resources to help the people in Sderot (good luck there…).

This makes me think about Arkadi again. I suspect that Arkadi is missing the whole “fighting for survival”, “Israel Independence” idea. I can understand that if you’re rich and things get “uncomfortable” you just leave and go on vacation. But, is this something that we can all afford?

I wonder where we would have been if Arkadi Gaidamak was in Israel during the early days of Israel’s existence. I mean if we evacuated every time we were under attack, well. I would be probably writing this from London, as one of her Majesty’s loyal subjects….

Judgment Day for Olmert?

Olmert - In Hard Times
Photo: Gil Yochana

Despite attempts by embattled Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to remain in office, a mass rally scheduled for 8 p.m. Thursday night may decide the fate of the man who has been shouldered with much of the blame for Israel’s failures in last summer’s Lebanon II war. The event, at Kikar Rabin in Tel Aviv, is expected to be attended by more than 100,000, including a number of well known media and entertainment personalities as well as yet-to-be-named politicians. Seemingly hemmed in on all sides by a number of protest groups, including striking university students (pictured) Olmert’s political future seems in jeopardy as a majority of the Israel public feel that he has failed in his position as head of government and should therefore resign his post.

It’s not the first time that Israeli political leaders have resigned following wars and other trying events in which their leadership was questioned. David Ben Gurion resigned his prime minister’s post at least twice; and both Golda Meir and Menacham Begin resigned after receiving public castigation following the Yom Kippur and Lebanon I war. In the case of Olmert, however, he refuses to leave his ‘watch’ despite the devastating findings of the recently released Winograd Report. The same also holds true for Defense Minister Amir Peretz, who also is trying to stay put despite an even higher “vote’ on behalf of the Israeli public.

What remains to be seen is what will happen after the dust settles following tonight’s rally, where such ‘well-knowns’ as Aviv Gefen, Gilad Sagev and Nimrod Lev. Interest groups such as the Movement for Quality Government, Organization of Northern Border Communities, as well as a large contingent of army reservists who found themselves thrown into the heat of battle with virtually no preparation, and little or no food and water. “We want the P.M. to know just how we feel concerning what happened to us in Labanon” one angry reservist was quoted as saying. It’s questionable if any members of the Prime Minister’s cabinet will make an appearance, but for sure, many of the opposition Knesset members may show up for this event which may draw as many as 200,000.

As for both Olmert and Amir Peretz, they will probably not like what they see and hear should they both watch the spectacle on T.V. Judging from Olmert’s appearance at a ceremony to inaugurate the new National Police Commissioner, Dudi Cohen, Olmert’s already tired and drawn face may become even more pathetic on the “morning after”.
All the signs and banners telling both Olmert and Peretz to go home, will remain in the minds of many, especially the ones for whom the ‘party’ is being held.

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