Thursday, June 21, 2007


Nine Kassam rockets landed in Sderot and the surrounding areas on Wednesday night, lightly injuring two residents. This comes as Hamas, which now controls Gaza, says that do not have complete control of the 1.2 million people living there. Other militia factions, Hamas says, are responsible for the rocket attacks.

As a sign of appeasement to those doubting Hamas’ ability to behave in a civilized manner, Hamas has said it would secure the release of Alan Johnston, the BBC reporter held captive by one of the militias. On Wednesday night a member of the militia reportedly holding Johnston was shot dead by masked Hamas gunmen. This was seen by analysts as a reminder to the militia that the reporter be released by the Hamas deadline of early next week or more of the militia would be killed.

Pundits believe that Hamas can control the smaller militias if it wants, but feels that allowing them freedom of movement helps the cause. Hamas can be the good cop, much as Arafat was, and blame the other guys for firing rockets, or setting off bombs, that strike in Israel.

Thomas Friedman, writing in his New York Times column, saw the phenomenon of masked gunmen a failure by the Palestinians. The masked gunman, wrote Friedman, is now the symbol of the Palestinian cause. Masked were used by Palestinians to hide their identity from the Israelis. According to Friedman, the Palestinians should have the courage to face each other in battles without their masks.

Other columnists seem to be in agreement on one issue, that Mohammed Abas (Abu Mazen), the President of the Palestinian Authority, has no authority among the majority of Palestinians. Shmuel Rosner writing in Haaretz, Israel’s prestigious daily newspaper, said that the Bush administration made a serious error thinking that Abu Mazen could have any impact on the Palestinians. According to Rosner Abu Mazen is nothing more than a fantasy cooked up by the Americans to please themselves. Following the ‘coup’ Hamas went from controlling 98 per cent of Gaza to 100 per cent.

The consensus among the columnists seems to be that Israel’s PM Olmert is going along with the US requests to support Abbas since no other alternative to Hamas is on the horizon. The pundits criticize the US for pushing for general elections in the West Bank and Gaza against Israeli advice. Reportedly former PM Ariel Sharon advised against this move. The Americans, wrote the columnists, held the belief that democracy was magical, and once the elections were held peace would break out like a popular song. Instead Hamas won and their song was variations on the ‘destroy Israel’ theme. The US then set about unsuccessfully delegitimizing Hamas. The problem, say the pundits, is that Hamas was duly elected because they are the popular party supported by the masses, and ignoring that fact through the fiction that Abu Mazen is an alternative is silly.

Another columnist wrote that the basic American misconception is that the political conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, or even the West and Radical Islam, fostered the growth of extremism, when in fact it is extremism that fosters the conflict between the West and the Arab world.
A retired Major General in the IDF wrote in the Jerusalem Post that Hamas is simply an arm of the Iranian and Syrian military. This view was supported by a discussion on Israel Radio that said Hamas was incapable of organizing this coup without outside support, be it from Iran or Syria.

The retired Major General wrote that Syria is inundated with Iranian security personnel, so that Syria and Iran together can work to disrupt Israel’s, the American’s, or the European’s plans. The writer claims that Syrian border guards are corrupt, and in exchange for substantial bribes routinely allow Iranians and Iranian weapons in and out of the country. Khaled Mashal, the leader of Hamas, has his headquarters in Damascus.

Another writer claims it is folly to think that all 1.2 million Gazans are led by a small band of Iranians or Syrians. Gaza wants Hamas in power, plain and simple, says the writer. They don’t need outsiders to stir them up. However no one denies that the outsiders may be better at organizing and executing a coup than the Hamas operatives of Gaza.

The future, according to the retired Major General, is bleak. Israel has no plan to deal with this threat. America believes Abu Mazen is a knight in shining armor who was temporarily knocked off his white horse, and that peace, and the road map, are still viable.

Pundits believe that when Israel’s PM Ehud Olmert talks about the road map, he is only voicing hollow words. Most reasonable people in the US and Israel realize the road map is dead, and that following the Abu Mazen path will only lead to another dead end.

An editorial in the Haaretz newspaper on Thursday called for the release of Marwan Bargoutti. This editorial is part of a campaign waged by Bargoutti followers to secure his release. Bargoutti, once one of Yassir Arafat’s right hand men, ran the Tanzim militia, a youth-oriented militant arm of the PA security forces. Bargoutti was arrested by the Israeli army after the last Intifada, tried, convicted of murder, and sentenced to five consecutive life terms plus forty years.

The stiffest resistance to Bargoutti’s release comes from the right-wing of Israeli politicians. But Avi Dicter, Minister of Security, seemed to hint that if Barghoutti would numerate what he planned to do to bring peace if he were to be released from prison, someone might consider the appeal. So far nothing has come out publicly.

What seems clear is that no short-range solution is on the horizon. Ex-President Jimmy Carter has stated that the world cannot ignore Hamas and must recognize that entity. A columnist writing in the Jerusalem Post criticized Carter, pointing out that Carter allowed Ayatollah Khoumeni to come to power. The analysts say this was because Khoumani was a “holy man” and Carter believed that God was showing his hand through Khoumani. The result of Carter’s delusion was the kidnapping of an embassy filled with US citizens, and the rise of radical Islam. One pundit believed it was time for Carter to keep himself busy counting peanuts, and stay out of things he didn’t understand, which was anything other than counting peanuts.

In the near future Hamas is expected to reach some accommodation with the Palestninan Authority. According to press reports Hamas was never short of money. While the US stopped financing Hamas, they still received huge sums from outside sources, both Arab and European. Hamas is not expected to come begging to the PA to make ‘sholem.’

Some analysts even expect Hamas to make a move in the West Bank, use their popular support to seize control from the PA. Should this happen, Israel will be surrounded by Westbankistan on one side and Hamastan on the other, with Hezbollahstan in the north.
Time will tell if these expectations come true.

Esteemed Haaretz military columnist Zev Shiff died on Wednesday at the age of 74. Shiff was the dean of Israel’s military correspondents, and considered the most knowledgeable journalist in Israel on security matters. Considered a ‘mench’ Shiff wrote about what he knew to be true, and sometimes kept back facts that would have made a good story, brought him greater fame and glory, but harmed Israel. The who’s who of Israeli journalism turned out for his funeral.

Shiff, whom his friends called “Wolfy”, and his accurate, informative, level-headed reports will be missed.

Jerusalem will be the venue for a Gay and Lesbian parade on Thursday. The parade will march down King David Street to Liberty Bell Garden. Streets will be blocked off to prevent anti-parade demonstrations and protesters. Ultra-orthodox youth have been burning garbage and tires in their neighborhoods for the past week trying to create enough noise to effect the cancellation of the parade. The Jerusalem Post today reported that the United Jewish Communities have contributed over $200,000 to the Jerusalem-based Gay and Lesbian Committee which has organized the parade. In the past parade an ultra-orthodox man jumped out of the crowd and stabbed one of those in the parade.