Wednesday, June 01, 2016

The Way We Are



Sarah Netanyahu is under a dark cloud suspected of graft and corruption. And she's the Prime Minister's wife. One of her former employees at the Prime Minister's residence was recently awarded a 120,000 shekel (about $30,000) verdict that Sarah had to pay for shorting the guy when he worked for her. Another former employee has made similar claims, even to the extent that Mrs. Prime Minister pocketed the monies collected for returning wine bottles to the supermarket. Another claim, by a caregiver who took care of Sarah's late father when he was infirm, claimed on television, albeit speaking in the shadows with a distorted voice, that she'd never been paid for her work, “nothing, nothing, nothing.” Yet another supplier said that they were indeed paid, and a check was provided to the police during their investigation. But, says the supplier, the check was well short of the monies owed. Lawyers for Mrs. Netanyahu have dismissed the accusations as frivolous. One, they say, the police had no standing making a recommendation for indictment since they have no power to do that. Only the attorney general can recommend indictment. Two, they dispute that Mrs. Netanyahu is not of sound mind, a rumor that has been circulating in the press for several years. Three, they claim that the charges against Mrs. Netanyahu are just more personal attack that have no basis. Even the sum of money she allegedly owes is not worthy of a criminal investigation. In other words, the attorneys, who are well-paid and very competent, are using the classic lawyers tactic of dismissing the claims of the plaintiffs and negating any possible hint of guilt. Some pundits agree and wonder why money issues are not cause for civil not criminal suits.

All of this would have been very amusing if not for a recent report by Yosef Shapira the Israeli State Comptroller who claimed PM Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu could well be guilty of various crimes of his own. Netanyahu has been sullied with suspicions that he 'double-dipped' into State coffers for trips he took abroad while serving as Finance Minister in the mid 2000's. These trips were at the invitation of various Jewish groups who paid for transportation and housing. Netanyahu is suspected of charging the government for the same plane tickets and hotel rooms. The report also states that Netanyahu took money from foreign businessmen for his trips, and even received illicit campaign contributions in cash.

However, the State Comptroller's report took five years to come to light. Raviv Drucker, an investigative reporter for Channel 10 TV news, had witnesses and incriminating evidence of Netanyahu's misdeeds that he turned over to the police five years ago. The police were slow to act. The attorney general at the time, Yehuda Weinstein, was even slower to act. By the time an investigation was completed years had gone by. Witnesses had changed their stories. Charges were never brought. Drucker says he'd even had an interview with one of Netanyahu's drivers who claimed he took cash from businessmen and turned it over to Netanyahu for his campaign, or some other use. Why did it take five years for these charges to come to light? Analysts say that the police and the state's attorney and Micha Lindenstrauss, the State Comptroller at the time, were all appointed by Netanyahu and did as little as possible to implicate him in any misdeeds. Shapira, the new State Comptroller, did eventually issue a report on the matter but according to observers even that was watered down, missing important points. Legal experts claim that the statue of limitations has probably run out on Netanyahu's alleged misdeeds. The current chief-of-police, also a Netanyahu appointee, said after the furor began in the press over Mrs. Netanyahu's alleged graft charges, that the police should never have made their recommendation to indict Mrs. Netanyahu public.

Some observers say that if the situation wern't so serious, the leader of the country and his wife suspected of illicit monetary dealings, and if the previous Prime Minister Ehud Olmert hadn't already been convicted of graft and corruption, then these charges could be ignored. But Israel is surrounded by enemies interested in Israel's destruction. Playing fast and lose with money and morals could erode Israel's ability to defend herself. And send the absolutely wrong message to the general public about acceptable behavior. Analysts say that leaders are supposed to lead, hopefully in a positive direction. The direction received by the PM and his wife, these analysts say, seem to be more schlock than substance.

Now we come to Avigdor Leiberman, leader of the far-right Israel Home party. Leiberman's party has been beset by criminal charges. Members of his party have been indicted for graft and corruption including sweetheart deals, kickbacks, and running up private bills that the State paid for. Leiberman himself was under police investigation for corruption for nearly a decade. The charges were eventually dropped, but some pundits saw the hand of PM Netanyahu in this. Leiberman is a sometime partner of Netanyahu. They ran on a joint ticket in the last election. And once Leiberman was the Director-General of the Prime Minister's office under Netanyahu. Leiberman has often criticized Netanyahu for not being forceful enough with the Palestinians, and ISIS, and Iran. He reportedly said that should Hamas attack Israel again Gaza should become a parking lot. He supported the soldier who shot and killed a disarmed and shackled Palestinian terrorist who had stabbed a fellow soldier. Pundits believ that saying Leiberman takes a hard-line stance is a gross understatement.

The previous Minister of Defense, Gen. Moshe 'Bogie' Ya'alon, criticized the way the police and army were responding to the wave of terrorist stabbings in the streets of Israel. Ya'alon made a statement supporting his deputy-minister, a Lt. General, who started fireworks by saying the trends in Israel reminded him of Germany before WWII. This after the newly appointed army chief-of-staff Gen. Eisenstadt came out in favor of restraint when subduing a terrorist, not shooting and killing someone holding a scissors who was a good distance away from causing harm to anyone.
Netanyahu reportedly saw these statements as a polite military coup waiting to happen. He put a lot of pressure on Ya'alon, who resigned his position, claiming that Israel had lost her “moral compass.” Ya'alon, a former chief-of-staff and highly-respected military man was replaced with Leiberman who had never risen above the rank of corporal.

This all came at a time when Labor party leader Isaac Herzog was in talks to join the coalition with Netanyahu. The Labor party had been holding secret talks with Britain's former PM Tony Blair, US Sec. Of State John Kerry, President Hollande of Holland, and others who were pushing for a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Herzog had long been saying that the time was ripe for Israel to make deals not only with the Palestinians but with “moderate” Arab states under threat by ISIS and other radical Islamic fundamentalist movements. Blair and Kerry even managed to convince Egypt's president Al Sisi to make a speech in support of the peace agreement Egypt had with Israel. Pundits believed that Herzog had made a deal with Blair and Kerry to bring Israel to the negotiating table with the Palestinians in exchange for Israel securing some sort of diplomatic ties with the Saudis and others under ISIS threat all paving the way for Herzog's entry into Netanyahu's government that observers thought would pull Netanyahu back to the political center.

Netanyahu was apparently not interested in the deal but was interested in using Herzog as a bargaining chip to get Leiberman to enter the government without making outlandish demands. Leiberman apparently agreed. Netanyahu surprised Israel by announcing that Leiberman would be the new Minister of Defense. The same Leiberman who had been a harsh critic of Netanyahu's 'liberal' policies. The same Leiberman who had been under investigation for a decade for corruption. The same Leiberman who would now be in charge of one of the largest budgets in Israel's economy.

As the new Minister of Defense Leiberman presented himself as moderate, even going so far as to say he wouldn't oppose a two-state solution. He met with the top ranks of the army and tried to clam them. Some accepted his soft words. Others said non-military men had been Minister of Defense in the past and done well, like Moshe Arens under Yitzchak Shamir, and Amir Peretz under Ehud Olmert.

But, still, some of Leiberman's pandering to the moderate core of Israel didn't sit well with Neftali Bennet, leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party. Recently Bennet said he did not want a two-state solution to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, also of the Jewish Home party, said no deals with arab states and the Palestinians would happen on her watch.

Neftali Bennet, Minister of Education, whose parents were American before immigrating to Israel, once worked for Netanyahu, and who reportedly views Sarah as a 'terror,' has instituted policies at the Ministry of Education that some observers say warp the educational system, putting undue stress on religious subjects. Bennet is modern orthodox. He is the leader of HaBeit Hayehuda, (The Jewish Home), the inheritor of the zionist religious party voters. His supporters are those who believe in settlements in the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria. Shaked has made outrageous claims in the past. Pundits say she is part of the group aiming to neuter the Israeli judicial system which many on the right consider “leftist” and against settlement.

Some observers say that Netanyahu managed to neutralize the army's criticism of his policy, drift even farther to the right by signing on Leiberman, and side-step any corruption charges against himself by making certain that by the time the facts came to light the statue of limitation had run out. Other observers believe that Netanyahu exhibited outstanding political skill and strategic thinking. He managed to embarrass leader of the opposition Isaac Herzog, quell criticism by the army, and expand his shaky 61 seat coalition to now include a firmer 66 seat hold on the Knesset. And dismiss any move by Blair and Kerry and Hollande to push him into a peace deal he didn't want or wasn't ready for. In reply to these moves Netanyahu has said he would meet with Palestinian president Abas anytime he wanted, one on one, not as part of a committee at French President Hollande's palace. Netanyahu has said he wanted to make a deal. Pundits are not so sure. Netanyahu, they say, seems to be following in the footsteps of former PM Yitzchak Shamir who did his best to do nothing about signing any peace accords while in office.

Which brings us back to Sarah who reportedly has great influence over Netanyahu. Or does she? My personal story is simple. And Sarah wasn't involved. And the few times I'd had to interview Netanyahu it was always like a meeting with a star. I'd interviewed Shamir, Peres, Rabin, and others, but never felt I was being granted a favor or an audience. With Netanyahu an advance man always showed up to make sure the make-up lady was ready, the sound technician was ready, the camera was in place and the lights on, pointed at the chair waiting for him. Then he'd breeze in, after his staff informed us Netanyahu was late for this or that meeting and had no time, impatiently answer questions, and then streak away.

I'd heard the rumors that Netanyahu would have lunch or dinner with supplicants, friends, or supporters and made certain to leave before he had to pay the check or simply wait until someone else paid. I'd heard about the transport company that moved the Netanyahu's possessions from their private apartment to the PM residence and/or back to another residence and then not paid. Of the electrician who did work for them and thought of it as a patriotic duty. (He is also named in the recommendation for indictment because besides his 'patriotic' duty fixing up the Netanyahu residence he also received contracts from the government without the required three estimates for the work.)

But all these were rumors until I ran into the Netanyahu system for avoiding paying when they could. What happened was I'd received a phone call from a major Jewish organization in the states, who I won't name, that was holding a fund-raising dinner. They'd managed to get video blessings from the governor and the senator and the mayor of their state for their cause. I was to get Netanyahu to make a positive statement, a blessing from Israel. To do this I first called up the PM's office and spoke to the staff-member in charge of such requests, an American-born Israeli, who I also won't name. He said he'd make the arrangements. But the next day I received a call from the local representative of the same Jewish organization. Sorry, I was told, but “Bibi” (Netanyahu's nick-name) had his own guy he used to do video interviews. But, I said, his guy didn't get the phone call to do the job, I had. 'Too bad,' I was told. That's the way it is. Okay, I said, then I'm going to have to go public with this. My reason was simple: I have to make a living. I'm not turning over one of my clients to another guy who I suspected would then become the go-to guy for the major organization, not me, when the PM or anyone else had to be interviewed. “Are you planning to sue the PM,” the representative asked, chuckling. “If I have to,” I answered.

The crises was avoided. I was reluctantly granted the interview. Two cameras, two crews, two angles, lighting guy, make-up persona, all in all a big deal. Took forever to clear security to get into the Knesset, because that's where the interview would be held, and even longer to set-up. But finally we were ready. Cameras in place, lights in place, make-up girl in place, empty chair waiting. And in comes the staff guy. “Oops, sorry, very tight schedule,” he said mentioning a visiting head of state that Netanyahu was meeting with in the Knesset. I was in shock. Here I was, ready and waiting, money on the line, even the major organization's representative on the set having flown in especially for the interview. But what I'd encountered was simply Netanyahu's way of negotiating. I envy his confidence and cool. I was told Netanyahu had agreed to give a video blessing to a friend's son for his bar mitzvah. If I would just change tapes, (this was back in the day when Betacam tapes were used professionally) after the blessing to the major organization, and record the blessing for his friend's son's bar mitzvah, Netanyahu would find the time to give the blessing for the organization. I instantly agreed.

And a few minutes later Netanyahu rushed in, looked around, sat down, the make-up girl put a napkin around his neck and applied the make-up. The cameras started to roll. Netanyahu made a statement, serious, cold, matter-of-fact. Then it was over. We switched tapes and then Netanyahu launched into a warm, smiling, happy blessing for his friend's son. Nice of him. (of course the friend could have been a major donor.) But the PM blew the blessing. Half-way through the blessing he got the kid's name wrong without realizing it. When he reached the end he was out of his chair a second after he'd uttered the last word. “Uh, Bibi,” his aide said. “What?” he asked, turning to him. And the aide told him he'd switched names in the end.

That's when I got the distinct impression that Netanyahu frequently made the same blessing and had it memorized. He sat down and flawlessly began again from nearly the exact spot he'd made the mistake, this time completing the blessing with the correct name. Then he was up again, and out the door. “Hey, wait a second, do you want me to send the tape as is, with the mistake and the correction?” He thought a second, and moved out the door. “Edit out the mistake,” his aide said from amid the slip stream left behind by Netanyahu's fast exit. “Who pays?” I called, but the aide was already out the door. I turned to the representative of the major Jewish organization, who shrugged an acceptance of yet another expense for this production.

Then it was go to an editing studio, rent an editing suite and an editor, buy more tape, and cut the piece together. Then make a home video tape to send to Netanyahu's friend's family. All on the major Jewish organization's budget. And that is only my little personal story. I can only imagine what else Netanyahu has pulled to save a buck.But, hey, is this the way to run a country? That's what many Israel's are asking now. Is this the kind of leadership Israel needs? Or do you simply take the good with the bad. Or, perhaps, that's just the way we are, like it or not.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

"Arrested Overnight" A new novel by Larry S. Price



http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00TNN1DII

Book Description

February 14, 2015
"Arrested Overnight. Harry Glassman steps unwittingly into a spider's web when he makes Amal the subject of his documentary film. Is she a Palestinian Arab terrorist or a Jewish housewife? Is she smuggling bomb-laden vests to suicide bombers? Is TV reporter Mari Lee in love with Harry or just chasing a Pulitzer prize? Who is the mastermind behind all those deadly terrorist attacks? How did Harry get in the cross-hairs of an assassin’s rifle? Fans of Michael Connelly, David Baldacci, or James Patterson will find themselves right at home with “Arrested Overnight.” Set in Israel and the West Bank, this is a story of intrigue and passion, with an unexpected outcome."

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Tzuk Eytan (Protective Edge) Day 44

The cease-fire ended when over 100 rockets were fired at Israel on Wednesday. This after Hamas violated a 24-hour cease-fire extension of a five-day cease-fire brokered in Cairo. Israel responded with over 80 air strikes, and recalled 2,000 reservist to the Gaza border. Tuesday night sirens were heard in Jerusalem at 11:53 p.m. and the Iron Dome was called into action, downing a rocket. Other rockets aimed at Ashkelon, Ashdod and Beer Sheva, were also downed by the Iron Dome. Two Israeli homes were damaged by mortars near the Gaza border, but no injuries were reported.
Aafter Hamas fired the first few rockets on Tuesday afternoon, Israeli planes struck at a home in Gaza that intelligence said contained the Hamas military leader Mohamed Def. The house was destroyed, and it is as yet unclear if Def was inside. This would have been the fifth time Israel has tried to assinate Def, a veteran terrorist who is wanted for organizing suicide bombers in Israel as far back as the 1990's.
According to reports, Hamas leader Khaled Mashal, was told by his sponsors in Qatar, where he lives, that if he does not break the cease-fire with Israel he would be ejected from Qatar. Mashal not only lives in luxury in Qatar, but has banked nearly $2 billion in that country. Then at 9:30 p.m. Israel attacked the house where Def was to have been, dropping approximately seven bombs, totaling five tons of explosives on the house. Experts in Israel say that Def was probably injured, if not killed.
However, Hamas spokesmen say that Def is still alive. “Abu Khaled is a great leader,” said a spokesman on Arabic TV in Gaza, using Def's nickname.
Military commentators also pointed out that Def had built a very stable and highly functioning military and even if he were dead the army he built was still quite capable of carrying on without him.
Qatar reportedly is upset with the fact that the Qatar leadership had not been included in the ceasefire talks in Cairo. Egyptian leaders have little patience for Qatar's leadership, who they consider sponsors of attempts to overthrow the Egyptian government under General al-Sissi.
Another factor complicating the situation is the discovery by Israel of a Hamas plot in the West Bank to overthrow the Palestinian Authority's Abu Mazen and replace the PA with Hamas. The plot was hatched by Hamas operatives in both Turkey and Jordan. The same Hamas men also planned the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers that ignited the current fighting. Pundits say that ,as would be expected, the PA was having a hard time sitting in Cairo and trying to broker a cease-fire with Israel, shuttling between Hamas and Israeli representatives.
Surprisingly, according to pundits, Israel is still expecting the ceasefire talks to continue in the next few days. However, analysts say that the option to send the Israeli army back into Gaza is also on the table. The Israeli cabinet met on Wednesday to discuss the situation. Israeli commentators say that Hamas is not interested in another month of fighting. Rather, one points out, Hamas takes the long view, that one day, maybe tomorrow, maybe next year, maybe in a decade, or two, they would eventually drive out the Infidels.
Reportedly, an agreement had been reached in Cairo that would open some of the Gaza/Israel border crossings, allow Gaza fishermen to work up to a 12-kilometer limit off the coast, and even reached an agreement to discuss the distinct possibility of a Gaza seaport, under international control. The seaport would be stationed off-shore, in Greece or Cyprus, with cargo examined by Israeli officials for weapons and explosives, before the cargo was shipped to Gaza.
Gen. (ret) Giora Eiland told a panel on Channel 10 TV news that Israel had to start thinking of different strategies. He said that the traditional methods, using planes, bombs, artillery, tanks, and ground troops, was not working. He said that Hamas and Gaza were one in the same. The population supported Hamas, and anyone who thought the population was captive to Hamas was mistaken. Once the reality of Hamas as a governmental entity was accepted, then Israel could start using other methods to control Gaza. Eiland pointed out that Israel supplies Gaza with most of the water, electricity and communications used by the population. This conundrum could be used to Israel's advantage by simply stopping the flow of these services. Ironically, these services continued even during the fiercest fighting between Hamas and Israel.
Or Heller, Channel 10 TV's military correspondent, said that the possibility of Israel using ground forces is still possible but he said that this was something Hamas would relish. They have set booby-traps and ambushes in buildings and roads, primed for an Israeli invasion.
Hamas fought well during Tzuk Eytan, said Heller, not like the previous battles, then called Cast Lead, nearly two years ago when Hamas fighters ran from IDF forces. “This time they fought hard, defending every tunnel opening.” Heller pointed out that Israel lost 10 soldiers in the Cast Lead incursion in Gaza and of them four were friendly fire. “This time the IDF lost 64 soldiers. Showing that Hamas was a much better fighting force than it was before.”
In the Hollywood film “Extremely Close and Incredibly Loud” a young boy spends the entire film searching for the lock to a key his late father had hidden in a closet. The father, played by Tom Hanks, had perished in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in NYC.
One commentator made the connection to the current situation. The same terrorist ideology that brought down the World Trade Center, that is shared by ISIS, formally Al Qaeda in Iraq, by Hezbollah, and Hamas forms a tight web of belief binding the groups.
One observer pointed out that the sight of Hamas wounded in Gaza hospitals skews the reality in Hamas' favor.
In fact, Hamas followers, and their allies around the world, those that gather to hold anti-Israeli demonstrations, and organize boycotts of Israeli goods, are the same people, ideologically, who flew those 747's into the World Trade Center, who attacked the Pentagon, and tried to attack the White House. For good or bad, the observers say, Israel is the one facing this rising wave of Islamic fundamentalism on the ground, on a daily basis.
War is a bloody business. And the west should remember who would be stood up and shot, hung, or beheaded, if the Islamists take over.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Tzuk Eytan (Protective Edge) Day 30


Who ever said life was fair.
A French TV24 reporter, safe out of Gaza, showed footage of rocket tubes in the ground a few yards from an apartment building in a densely populated area only 100 yards from a five story UN building.
Pundits are now sitting in TV studios telling the viewers that Israel needs to think up more stuff like the Iron Dome, not rely on the old tanks, artillery, air force bombs.
Something wild, like Entebbe, to neutralizenot only Hamas, today, but Hezbollah, tomorrow, and ISIS, the day after tomorrow..Pundits now wonder if there are not other ways than pummeling Gaza into dust.
New methods are needed to battle these groups, said Nehemia Strassler, an Israeli professor, and Haaretz columnist. Not nice to hear comments like this, said the moderator on the Channel 2 news morning talk show.
Other pundits speculated that all the brainy, creative guys have opted out of joining and staying in the army, as smart guys did when the state was young, rather choosing  high tech jobs. Choosing Armani, an IPO, a Mercedes, and trips to Paris, over
khaki for thirty years and a small apartment. Now the smart guys who do reserve duty, put in their time and go home. Lucky for Israel a surprisingly high number still do reserve duty. Over 90 percent of those called up for this conflict showed up at their bases.
So, speculate the commentators,  who's left to think up the smart stuff?
They point out that Iron Dome was dreamed up by a guy who had to fight tooth and nail to get anyone to even think about this device, and then it was the then Defense Minister Amir Perez, who was part of the debacle of the second War in Lebanon, who approved it. One of the only things he ever did right, said one analyst.
Another commentator asked where were the Gatling guns, and lazer canons,  that were to take out the same mortars that killed over twenty soldiers, and sent the residents of the Gaza border scurrying to shelter, or taking their children and leaving for the north of Israel.
Still another asked where were the tunnel detectors that have been discussed for nearly a decade, reminding viewers that Gilad Shalit was kidnapped back in 2006 and dragged into a tunnel into Gaza.
A reporter for Channel 10 TV lives in a farm along the Gaza border. He reported on the situation in the south every day, how many rockets, how many injuries, how many killed. He worked every day, nearly all day and night. Hardly slept. The moderator of the TV show pointed out that this reporter had been a pilot in the Israeli air force until he finished his service.
The reporter, whose wife and children were with relatives in the north of the country,wondered what will happen after the first mortar lands in the Jewish areas along the border.
Will Israel rush troops in, as the commander of the southern command promised him?
Or do nothing, just absorb the mortars, as Israel has done after the last two wars with Hamas? If the latter than this Tzuk Eytan action only bought a few months or maybe two years.
Another analyst on Channel 2 TV news said that Israel has always been like that. Buying a chunk of time, stretching out the timeline of how long the Jews can last in this country. A few years here, a few years there, adding up to 66 years so far.
Israel's pundits say that the idea of Tzuk Eytan was to duplicate the results of Lebanon in 2006. Demolish enough buildings and shake the ground so much that that the population won't come back for a number of years to start another war.  So far the Israel/Lebanon border has been quiet for 8 years. Analaysts say that the present Israeli government expects the same results from the current Tzuk Eytan conflict.
A period of quiet.
Another patch on the timeline.
One commentator pointed out that in the 1,000 years that Israel held the land from the time of King Saul until the destruction of the
2nd Temple Israel only had about 7 years of peace.
So now what? ask the commentators. Will the PA be able to grab the reins in Gaza from Hamas? Will Egypt supervise what's going to go on there? Will the USA get involved? Or the EU, or Britain? Will the threatened boycotts of goods from the EU, Britain, Germany and others, actually take place?
Time will tell. Hamas was in dire financial trouble before this conflict.And politically isolated. Now billions of dollars will be poured into Gaza. And while Hamas claims they want a settlement, most pundits expect them to steal the cement sent by well-meaning countries to rebuild Gaza and use them to rebuild the tunnels.
Commentators remind viewers that the last time Hamas and the PA vied for control of Gaza, Hamas pushed the PA out, sometimes shot them, sometimes tossed them off of rooftops. These commentators ask why would the PA be able to control Hamas now?
One analyst said that the PA is a partner with Israel in the West Bank, but the IDF is there in force to back up the PA. No one expects the IDF to take up positions in Gaza.
Polls in Israel's papers today say that 44 percent of the population thinks Israel didn't accomplish much in this war. 42 percent thinks they reached their goals. About 37 percent think that the problems aren't solved, 32 percent thought they were.
Only PM Netanyahu came out ahead, with a 72 percent approval rating.
A former general told Channel 1 TV that he'd warned in the past two engagements with Hamas that unless the leadership was taken out the rockets would start again in a short time. He reiterated his opinion for this engagement as well.
The political leadership in Israel is suddenly looking at Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the PA as possible partners for a new Middle East. The peace-talks are going on in Cairo. Hamas says they want to make a peace agreement. A 72-hour ceasefire has been declared, but most analysts expect the talks in Cairo to last a lot longer since so many difficult points have to be ironed out. And the analyst reminded the audience that the negotiations were not face to face. The USA doesn't talk to Hamas, neither does Egypt, or Israel. The PA representatives will be the go-betweens, shuttling from floor to floor, suite to suite, trying to get a lasting truce.
One former general pointed out that the irony was that Hamas, a puny, guerrilla,, although well-organized army divided into 6 divisions of good fighters, had Israelis kissing the asphalt in Tel Aviv when a siren sounded, kept millions of Israelis on edge, closed Ben Gurion Airport, and made a significant dent in Israel's economy.
Economists estimate that the war cost Israel an estimated 8 billion shekels (@$2 billion) and caused a loss of another 4 billion shekels (@ $1.3 billion) to Israeli businesses.
Hamas considers these major achievements.Their leadership sat out the war in bunkers, sacrificing the Gazans up to the Holy War. And when the war is over, Hamas is still around. Still alive. To the leadership that is a major victory.
64 Israeli soldiers fell in this war. Nearly 150 are in the hospital, 11 in serious conditions. Three civilians were killed. Over the last two days three terrorist attacks took place in Israel. A bus was toppled over by a tractor crushing a passerby. A soldier hitchhiking in Jerusalem,was shot and killed by a terroist who escaped on a motorscooter. A guard at the gates of the Israeli town of Maale Adumim, down the hill from Jerusalem, was stabbed by a terrorist who escaped in a taxi cab.
The Israeli police reported that on July 11 they'd arrested Hossam Kawasmeh, who admitted to leading cell which abducted and murdered Gil-Ad Schaer, Eyal Yifrach, and Naftali Frenkel; He said he'd received funds from Hamas.  Kawasmeh said that the two Palestinans, Marwan Kawasmeh and Amar Abu-Eish who carried out the attacks, were sheltered at his house, and then they went underground. The police are still searching for them.
According to Channel 10 TV news' Alon Ben David, Gaza lost approximately 2,000 citizens, among them women and children. 700 Hamas fighters were killed in the fighting.
One pundit thought that perhaps, just perhaps, when the Gazans return to their homes, and see the destruction, they'll pressure Hamas to change their ways, and seek a peaceful solution. According to Ynet on-line news, Palestinians in Gaza attacked Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri out of anger at Hamas for causing the latest round of violence with Israel.
An economist speculated that a truce could help implant a new direction in the region. One that allows Gazan construction workers to return to jobs they had in Israel before the borders were closed. Allow an industrial zone that opened, and then closed, on the Gaza/Israel border where businessmen from the two areas cooperated in trade. The future could be bright, said the analyst, if only....

Monday, August 04, 2014

Tzuk Eytan (Protective Edge) Day 28

Almost all of the soldiers have been pulled out of Gaza.
Hamas is still sending in rockets, about 60 today.
And two terrorist attacks inside Israel, both in Jerusalem.
The driver of a huge tractor with a massive shovel attached to it swung the arm at a city bus and toppled it over crushing a passerby and injuring
several passengers. Luckily the bus was on its first stop and was nearly empty.
Policemen passing by rushed the driver and killed him before he could do any more damage.
An hour later a terrorist approached a soldiers' hitching station and opened fire, seriously wounding a soldier in the stomach. He was rushed to hospital, and the terrorist escaped.
A terrorist alert was just issued for Tel Aviv.
Hamas seems to be reverting to old ways. As you recall back in the 90's Hamas' favorite weapon was suicide bombs.
Meanwhile the world community is about to pounce on Israel for massive inhumane destruction of areas of Gaza.
New investigations seem to show that it was Hamas that exploded a bomb in the UN school, dragged in bodies, and then allowed in the press.
But even if true, and it probably is, that doesn't mean that the public will ever get the scene of the original carnage associated with and probably not even perpetrated by Israel out of their minds.
The soldier who rushed into the Gaza tunnel two days ago chasing after the terrorists ran nearly two kilometers before he turned back. He found enough evidence on the way to determine that 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin was dead. He was buried yesterday.
So much for day 28, so far.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Tzuk Eytan (Protective Edge) Day 27


"22 Gazans were killed for ever Israeli. Don't you feel guilty about that?” asked the host of a BBC talk-show. He was speaking to Israel government spokesman Mark Regev, who replied, “Hamas shot 2,700 rockets at Israel. If someone shot rockets at Britain you'd react the same way.”

"But you have the Iron Dome that effectively neutralized the threat,” the host said. Regev responded Israel was lucky to have the Iron Dome or more Israeli lives would have been lost. He said Hamas was trying to kill Israelis, just wasn't succeeding. One viewer watching the interview said, “What, now we're to feel guilty that we have the Iron Dome?”

Regev also pointed out that Hamas was managing the news, prohibiting reporters from showing anything but the destruction caused by the Israeli attacks, or bodies in Gazan hospitals. “Hamas rules Gaza with an iron fist,” Regev told the BBC host, who appeared to brush off any Israeli response to what seemed a pre-disposition to find Israel guilty no matter what the facts. The moderator also asked how Israel could bomb a marketplace when a ceasefire had been declared. Regev seemed put off by the blatant one-sidedness of the questions, but kept his cool. He reminded the moderator that Hamas had broken the ceasefire by firing rockets into Israel so no ceasefire was in place when Israel went after terrorists firing rockets from the marketplace.

Earlier the program discussed the conflict in Gaza with five participants. One the former head of the pro-Arab Al Jazeera TV news station, based in and paid for by Qatar; an Egyptian novelist who thought Egyptians would live to regret unseating Moslem Brotherhood's Morsi as president; and a professor from the London school of Economics who had an Arab name. Two others were former Mossad head Ephraim HaLevi, and a US diplomat.

HaLevi was given a couple of minutes to speak, in which he pointed out that Hamas and Hezbollah were non-state terrorist groups, with Hezbollah members fighting for Assad in Syria, with Iran supplying boots on the ground both in Syria and Gaza, and Russia and Iran supplying the weapons used both in Syria and Gaza. Then he was cut off towards the end of the sentence as the moderator shifted the topic and interviewee.

This was the beginning of a revolution similar to the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution, said the London School of Economics professor. The Israeli humanitarian carnage in Gaza would only fuel this revolution. His words were supported by the Al-Jazerra man, who said that the entire Arab world would now be mobilized against Israel and the west, all because of what Israel was doing in Gaza.

The BBC also ran a special report by chief international correspondent Lyce Doucet on the plight of children in UN schools in Gaza. One observer watching the report commented that Doucet has long been a harsh critic of Israel going back to the time she first began reporting for the BBC. The report on the children was another of her harsh criticisms of Israel. Another report on the BBC gave a balanced background to the conflict, “Israel occupied Gaza in the 1967 Middle East war and only pulled its troops and settlers out in 2005. Israel considered this the end of the occupation, but it still exercises control over most of Gaza's borders, waters and airspace. Egypt controls Gaza's southern border.”

Other stations ran anti-Israeli pro-Palestinian protests around Europe and in Washington. Rarely did the reporters note that the mass of protesters were themselves Palestinians.

As Israel begins to pull forces out of Gaza the questions now begin, did the IDF accomplish the goal of quelling the Hamas attacks? Were the Israeli farms and villages safer after the Israeli incursion into Gaza than before? Would Israel be held to a harsh standard because of the human life lost in Gaza?

Israel's PM Netanyahu told a news conference Saturday night that Israel would continue to do what was necessary to protect Israel's citizens. This even as protesters took to the streets calling on the IDF not to withdraw from Gaza until Hamas was destroyed. Gen (res.) Giora Eiland, former Israeli National Security Advisor, said that Hamas was Gaza. You couldn't separate the two. You couldn't destroy Gaza. The only way to change the situation was to do something that throws Hamas off-balance. So far, Eiland said, nothing like this has been achieved.

Military analysts say that Israel has destroyed 35 tunnels, and will withdraw forces from those areas where the tunnels were located, but keep other troops in place to protect the southern settlements.

Most observers say that a full-scale invasion of Gaza was indeed possible since is a relatively small area, and could be overrun by Israel. The question pundits ask is at what cost to Israeli lives, and Gazan lives. And what comes next? The common thread heard by most experts is that the solution is to have the PA's Abu Mazan take control of Gaza, protected by perhaps Egypt or other outside forces.

2nd Lt. Hadar Golden, believed to have been kidnapped during a Hamas attack, was pronounced deceased on Saturday night. His family was visited by Israel's chief rabbi who gave them the news. Later Moshe Yaalon, Israel's Minister of Defense, visited the family. Golden's death brings the number of soldiers killed to 65. Nearly 140 soldiers are still in the hospital, 11 in grave condition.
The Palestinians claim that approximately 1,700 Gazans have died in the fighting and about 9,000 injured.

Some analysts remind TV viewers of the fact that Hamas kidnapped three Israeli teenagers, then began firing rockets into Israel, and these facts go nearly unnoticed in the foreign press. On Saturday Hamas fired 90 rockets into Israel. One mortar round landed in a farm along the border fence seriously wounding a 70-year old farmer. The Hamas rocket fire continued on Sunday. The fact that Hamas can still fire rockets underlines that Hamas still has the ability to fire weapons into Israel even after 27 days of Israeli counter-attacks.

Where is the fairness in this coverage, asked one concerned Jewish American. A Sky News reporter in Gaza quoted residents who stated that Israel was bombing Mosques simply because they were Moslem structures and that the mosques had no missiles or terrorists in them. He also said that Hamas was demanding and end to the economic boycott of Gaza. One analyst said that had this reporter criticized Hamas in any way he would have at least lost his privilege of reporting from Gaza. In the past Hamas has been known to kidnap reporters and hold them for ransom.

Hamas leader Khaled Mashal admitted to CNN that Hamas had indeed broken the ceasefire on Friday, but only because Israel was occupying Gaza and digging up tunnels. The fact Hamas broke the ceasefire was lost in a previous news cycle replaced by scenes of destroyed buildings in Gaza.

Hamas representatives, along with their partner Islamic Jihad, as well as representatives of Qatar, Turkey, and the PA arrived in Cairo to continue the process of reaching a formal ceasefire. Israel has said it will not attend at this time. Experts say that Cairo will take a tough line against Hamas, not wanting them to achieve any significant goals as a result of this conflict. These pundits point out that Egyptian president Al-Sissi has more than 35,000 prisoners in jail, including many members of the Moslem Brotherhood, a Hamas brother organization.

Critics of PM Netanyahu say that the war against Hamas is ending with muddled results. Tunnels destroyed can be rebuilt. The farms along the border will still be hit with mortars, and long range rockets will still lobbed into Israel when Hamas felt like doing so.

Israeli residents on the Israel/Lebanon border in the north of Israel have reported that they hear tunneling beneath their homes. The terrain in Lebanon is much different than Gaza with hard thick bedrock and basalt rather than soft sand. Drilling equipment and explosives are needed to tunnel. Experts said that once Israel withdraws from Gaza and the south they will focus on the very real tunnel threat along the northern border.

Pundits say that as long as this rise of Islamic Fundamentalism continues, Israel will be on the front line of confronting these groups, functioning as proxies of the west, all the while criticized for the damage incurred in the fighting by the countries they are representing.

As author William Goldman wrote in “The Princess Bride” who ever said life was fair.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Tzuk Eytan (Protective Edge) Day 24


“Everyone knows someone who has lost a soldier, or has a soldier wounded, or has a soldier in Gaza,” said one Jerusalem resident. Another added, “This hits home when you know a mother who has lost a son in Gaza.”

As of Thursday afternoon, 65 Israeli soldiers have died in this conflict, with over 300 injured. Nearly 1,400 Gazans have been killed, including over 200 Hamas fighters. According to reports, 400,000 Gazans are homeless. Channel 10's military correspondent Alon Ben David said that those driven from their homes are migrating to the wealthier and untouched neighborhoods, knocking on doors, asking for shelter, or food.

Rockets continue to rain down on Israel from Hamas. Most are intercepted by the Iron Dome, some drift through and crash either in open areas, or occasionally land on a house or apartment building usually, but not always, devoid of residents.

But the mortars lobbed into Israel have been exacting a high price. One mortar attack landed in the midst of a group of Israeli soldiers gathered along the border, killing ten, injuring six. Another mortar attacked killed five in a different location. “Mortars are more dangerous than the tunnels,” said one military expert.

Israel is searching for solutions to the mortars, and tunnels, similar to the high-tech answers to Hamas rocket fire like the Iron Dome. Anti-mortar solutions are also in development, ranging from radar-guided radar, to gattling guns. So far none have been battle-tested enough to be put in service. These systems are important, said a military analyst, because of tomorrows threat from Syria, Lebanon, and Iran, not just today's threat from Gaza. Israel has also equipped Merkava tanks with high-tech anti-rocket rockets that have saved many lives. One IDF officer said that Israel also has an answer to the tunnels that would match the Iron Dome, but the system wouldn't be operational at least for another year. Experts point out that many tunnels exist that start in Lebanon and exit in Israel.

Or Heller, a Channel 10 military correspondent, reported today that the Israel army continues to battle with Hamas fighters in various towns along the 60-kilometer length of Gaza, while staying within a two-kilometer range from the border. Analysts say that over 20 of the 32 terrorist tunnels uncovered have been destroyed. “Destroying the tunnels will take time,” said Heller. Reportedly, some of the tunnels descend 35-meters, nearly 10 stories, below ground, and run over two kilometers from Gaza into Israel. Most are at least 45-feet below ground.

The Israel army is busy searching Gaza neighborhoods for the tunnel openings. A number were discovered in the basement of Gaza Mosques. Television scenes show automatic weapons near the tunnel openings in a mosque basement ready for use should Hamas fighters need them.

Many of the tunnel openings are in residential buildings that have been booby-trapped. Fifteen Israeli soldiers walked into such an apartment building without noticing that one wall was packed with explosives. Nine soldiers died when the booby-trap was detonated, five others were taken to hospital in serious condition. Most of the tunnel openings are defended with booby-traps. Usually, but obviously not always, the bombs are discovered. An observer said this is just another example of how Hamas is fighting this battle. One reporter said that buildings housing tunnel openings in the basement are often laden with gasoline. When a sniper fired on Israeli troops from one such building, the entire three story structure blew up.

In another incident shown on Hamas TV a squad of Hamas fighters infiltrated Israel through an underground tunnel, emerging into the fields of a border kibbutz just a few hundred meters from an IDF concrete fortified watchtower manned by raw recruits. The Hamas squad crept unnoticed by the soldiers in the watchtower. Neglecting orders the steel door to the watchtower was wide open. The Hamas soldiers had no trouble engaging the Israeli soldiers, killing four. A fifth fought back, killing a Hamas fighter. The others fled, trying to take an Israeli corpse with them, but gave up and ran. An Israeli Tabor automatic rifle was later shown on Hamas TV as a trophy of the fight.

Wednesday night the Israel air force was less active than the previous nights, only attacking 50 targets rather than the up to 150 the nights before. But the horrific pictures emerging from Gaza were fresh fodder for anti-Israeli feelings. A Sky news correspondent walked through an open-air market in Saujaiyeh reporting that witnesses said an Israeli helicopter strafed the area with machine-gun fire, and then fired a missile into a nearby building. The reporter said the Israelis claimed mortars had been fired from the area and were only returning fire. An IDF air force commander said that no bombs were dropped, or missiles fired until it was clear that no civilians are in the area.

Hamas, according to observers, is reveling in the scenes of destroyed buildings, wounded in their hospitals, and masses carrying bodies in the streets of Gaza. Hamas, say these observers, are using these scenes as weapons, as much as the terror tunnels, mortars, and the fighters sneaking into Israel.

One Italian reporter told the TV that he watched as a Hamas rocket landed in a school, then saw Hamas troops quickly rush in to clean up the debris that would incriminate them. The reporter said he was threatened if he reported the event, and only once on the Israeli side of the fence did he tell what he saw.

Analysts point out that Hamas also prohibits reporters in Gaza from showing scenes of Hamas fighters in anything but heroic situations, like infiltrating Israel through a tunnel. No scenes are ever broadcast of the nearly 200 Hamas fighters captured by the Israeli forces. Or Hamas fighters injured or fleeing from Israeli troops approaching their positions. Hamas fighters fleeing Israeli forces is reportedly a regular occurrence.

Other reports are of Hamas gunning down 20 Gazans that demonstrated in Gaza against Hamas. “Terrorists rule by terror,” said a pundit. “And many of those in Gaza are terrified of saying anything against Hamas. They have even been threatened if they flee their homes where tunnels openings have been drilled in the basement.” Another commentator said, “These people don't talk to the TV cameras. If they did they'd be killed.”

A similar situation exists with the UNRAA schools. So far Israeli troops have found Hamas rockets and weapons in three UNRAA schools. In each event the rockets were returned to Hamas. “The guys who run these schools want to stay alive,” said an observer. “Cooperation is their insurance.” Another analyst pointed out that some of those running the UNRRA schools are Hamas sympathizers.

On Wednesday, Israel declared a 4-hour humanitarian ceasefire but Hamas refused to abide by it claiming they hadn't been asked, and weren't interested in a ceasefire imposed on them by Israel.

Some commentators are critical of the Israeli military for underestimating how long it would take to neutralize the tunnels, originally thinking only a day or two. Other voices have been raised wondering why if the army knew about the tunnel threat, obvious after the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers Gilad Shalit six years ago, nothing was done earlier to destroy them. Defenders of the army say that the cost of destroying the tunnels was something no one wanted to pay until it was necessary.
US Sec. Of State John Kerry has reached out to Qatar and Turkey in an effort to build a coalition in order to reach a ceasefire. The so-called Egyptian initiative is the one citied as the operative plan. Egypt has agreed to host the talks. Both Palestinian Authority representatives, as well as Hamas representatives, are expected to travel to Cairo today. Even Hamas officials from Gaza who have been assured of a safe passage by Israel.

However, observers point out that even if Israel attends, that doesn't mean the Israeli delegation will do more than listen, as they have done in previous meetings. No decisions will be made at these meetings.  Labor Party leader Herzog advised patience. “These talks take time. A lot is being done behind the scenes.”

Still, observers say, Hamas has not yet scored a decisive punch that would justify all the damage to Gaza, and is thus not willing to agree to a ceasefire yet. Especially since the Hamas leadership is safely deep beneath the ground.

Israeli politicians, from PM Netanyahu down, have been stressing that the USA is a firm supporter of Israel and deeply involved in Israel's well-being. This as a way to moderate the ill-feelings in Washington that arose from Israeli press criticism of the way Sec. Kerry was handling the ceasefire negotiations. Today it was announced that the US gave Israel permission to use the stockpile of weapons the US had strategically positioned in Israel. This because Israel's ammunition was dwindling as the conflict dragged on. The US had already agreed to a $250 million allocation to Israel to replace the rockets used in the Iron Dome.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin 'Bibi' Netanyahu told a press conference on Thursday that the operation in Gaza would continue until the tunnels were destroyed. Israel is adamant that the soldiers would stay in Gaza until the tunnels were destroyed. Experts believe this may take another week to ten days. Netanyahu's statement was seconded by Moshe Yaalon, Minister of Defense, who said Hamas had suffered greatly from this operation, and was severely weakened.

But for some this is not enough. Gen. (ret.) Uzi Dayan, once head of the Southern Command in charge of Gaza, said that only by sacrificing Israeli soldiers' lives and marching into Gaza city, going down into the bunkers, and killing the Hamas leadership, would Israel insure quiet that would last for more than just a year or two. Similar calls were echoed by Beit Yehudi head Neftali Bennet, and Yoav Shamir of Israel Beitanu.

Prime Minister Netanyahu's problem though is not only from the right-wing of the Israeli political spectrum, but also in the nearly 70 percent approval rating he has from the Israeli population to continue the fight until Hamas' leaders are eliminated. Yitzchak “Bougie” Herzog, leader of the Labor Party, and the opposition in the Knesset, said he was firmly in favor of the operation and the government, stating that this was a time for the country to stand together and 'defend our homes.'

Pundits believe that the fighting will go on for at least another week. TV2's political analyst Aviv Drucker said that the negotiations for a ceasefire were a mess not only because the two sides disagree on terms, but the various participants to the talks, even those from the same side, don't agree even to be in the same room with each other. He was referring to the Egyptians who refuse to speak to Hamas.

Still, the consensus is that a ceasefire will be reached. Israel is hoping the international community will step in and demand Hamas be disarmed. This would obviate the necessity of a further march by Israeli forces deeper into Gaza. Hamas, observers say, will not agree to this since they'd then lose their reason for opposing Israel. Most pundits see the PA's Abbu Mazan as the man to take over the leadership, although they all agree that the PA is too weak to run Gaza, and control Hamas, on its own.

David Brooks, writing in the New York Times, said that what is going on in Gaza is a proxy war between “Islamists and authoritarians.” He said this type of war is something that could last for years, and be fought in many other battlefields. Meanwhile it is Israel who is representing the west in the battle against Islamic fundamentalists, and Israeli families who are paying the steep price, along with the simple people of Gaza held hostage by a group willing to sacrifice them as “shahidim” holy warriors.