Monday, September 25, 2006

Usually, Nothing Happens

The New Year began in Israel with rumors of peace and war. The daily Yideot Achranot newspaper ( reported today that Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with a top Saudi official, who some believe is none other than King Faisal himself, to discuss possible peace arrangements between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Olmert denied such a meeting took place.

In Syria Prime Minister Bashir Assad said that peace with Israel was possible, but if not then war was on the horizon. Prime Minister Olmert reportedly dismissed any chance of peace with Syria at this time. According to press reports Israel held back-door meetings with Syria during the course of the War in Lebanon II.

In Lebanon Hezbollah leader Sheik Nasrallah told a massive gathering of an estimated 800,000 supporters in the S. Beirut neighborhood which had been nearly leveled by Israeli bombs. Nasrallah told followers that Hezbollah had won the war. He also said that he’d misrepresented the number of missiles in his arsenal and actually still had 20,000 missiles.

Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer told Israel Army Radio on Monday morning. "Israel needs to be prepared for a surprise attack by Syria or Hezbollah," Ben Eliezer told Army Radio that Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah's declaration that his organization has over 20 thousand rockets in its possession needed to be taken seriously. “He means what he says.”

Meanwhile UN forces taking positions in Southern Lebanon have taken extra precautions against possible Al-Queda attacks. In the last few days Al-Queda has issued statements that Israel is on its hit list.

The exchange of prisoners has still not come to fruition. Israel’s military court today reversed an earlier ruling and denied the release of 25 Hamas lawmakers arrested over the last month. Some pundits assume these men are chips in a grand prisoner exchange that has still to be worked out.

A leading Hamas lawmaker said today that the release of Gilad Shalit wasn’t going to happen soon. He said that nearly 10,000 Palestinian prisoners were being held in Israeli, and wondered why the Palestinians should give up Shalit “for free.” The Hamas activist said that some of the Palestinians have been in jail for two decades, and thought that the two-month imprisonment of Shalit was nothing in comparison.

These statements shed light on the thinking of Palestinians as they ponder the negotiations over the release of the three Israeli prisoners, Shalit, Goldwasser, and Regev.

The spokesman said that a significant price must be paid for the release of these prisoners. Press reports estimate that as many as 800 Palestinians would be released in the exchange for Shalit. Palestinians have demanded the release of Palestinian Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti who was convicted of organizing terrorist attacks against Israelis. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has dismissed the possibility of Barghouti’s release as part of an exchange.

Yideot Achranot also reported on Monday that representatives of the state comptroller’s office are expanding their investigation of Prime Minister Olmert’s purchase of a home on Carmiya Street in Jerusalem. Olmert is under suspicion that the purchase was not carried out properly.

Ex-Minister of Justice Tzachi Hanegbi, a strong Olmert supporter, and Kadima party member, was indicted today for graft, corruption and illegal political appointments. Hanegbi told Israel radio that he didn’t do anything any differently than cabinet ministers or Knesset members have done over the past decades.

According to the Jerusalem Post ( the Palestinian national unity government is in trouble. Armed groups have reportedly threatened PA any Palestinian government that recognizes Israel’s right to exist. Four groups have threatened the government. PA leader Mohamed Abbas cancelled a planned meeting with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza to discuss a national unity government after the reports of the threats.

“Abbas has demanded that the political program of the proposed government recognize Israel and honor all previous agreements signed between the Palestinians and Israel. Hamas leaders have rejected Abbas's demand, saying they would never join a government that recognizes Israel and the Oslo Accords.”

Egypt meanwhile has decided to enter the atomic age. Reportedly Egypt will begin construction of nuclear power plants. Earlier in the week Egyptian officials said that Egypt should start moves to acquire their own nuclear weapon. As of now no Middle East country officially has a nuclear weapon, although most pundits assume that Israel has a number of nuclear bombs in its arsenal.

The war of the generals is still going on. Israel’s ex-Chief of Staff Moshe “Boogie” Ha’yalon continues to call for the resignation of present Chief of Staff Dan Halutz. Ha’yalon said that Halutz is not the man to run the army during this period of reorganization.

Infrastructure Minister Faud Ben Eliezer also said, "instead of all the arguments and meetings between generals and deputy generals who speculate as to what Hezbollah has, every one of them should stop speaking and begin to rejuvenate the army."

Rumors are also a foot that Likud party leader, ex-Prime Minister Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu is meeting with Kadima party’s Minister of Transport ex-Chief of Staff and ex-Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz in a possible bid to recruit Mofaz as a candidate for Defense Minister in a Likud lead government.

Present Defense Minister Amir Peretz has said that he has no intention of resigning his position and that he was a key element in Israel’s success in the War in Lebanon II. Both PM Olmert and Chief of Staff Halutz have also said that they will stay in their posts.

The Rosh Hashana holiday ended. The weather was cool in Israel, fine for touring and praying. In the end the questions that existed at the beginning of the holidays still existed at the end. What would the future hold? Many thought that the danger level had not receded in Israel, and that peace was farther down the line than war.

“What do we do with our kids?” asked the manager of a Jerusalem non-profit organization, the father of three small children. “We just go on as if nothing is going to happen,” was the answer. “Because usually, nothing happens.”

It only that’s true this time as well.