Israeli Government flirting with disaster

The recent swing leftward in Israel’s new government can be seen across the board in the media today, here’s a sampling from Haaretz alone. At a crucial time when Israel needs strength, the focus is on a shift towards weakness and worse yet, internal conflict.

Ari Shavit writes deal with Iran before settlements:

[...] The Middle East is on the verge of going nuclear, and the locals are obsessed with the convergence. Yet it is clear that there is no convergence without American leadership. Equally clearly, the United States is a superpower that cannot simultaneously manage the battle against Iran, the war in Iraq and the Israeli withdrawal. It is therefore evident that the convergence will have to wait. The vital task of dealing with the settlements will have to wait until after the urgent task of dealing with the centrifuges has been completed.

The most important decision of this decade will be made in the coming months by one man: Bush. And Israel’s role is to assist this one man, who is under great pressure, to make the right decision, in the right way and under the right circumstances. Israel must humbly stand by his side while he makes a final attempt to prevent disaster by imposing sanctions and while he considers the other alternatives. Israel must not make it difficult for him, and should not divert his attention from the priority. [...]

I’m not sure if I ascribe entirely to Avi’s strategy, but tackling a convergence now seems premature in light of the weak mandate, and Hamas and Iranian threats that’s for certain. 

New Defense Minister guns for defense strategy

Amir Peretz seems intent on pursuing settlements as a top priority, apparently he considers a rethink of Israel’s defense policy vs Hamas is in order including.

  • Ending isolation / sanctions policy of Hamas 
  • Questioning the use of artillery against Gaza
  • Opening the Gaza crossing points limited due to security considerations
  • Propping up and pursuing peace dialog with Abu Mazen

This is due to the ‘humanitarian’ crisis in Gaza according to Haaretz

The EmeerPeretz: Rethink PA isolation that is causing humanitarian crisis
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service

Defense Minister Amir Peretz on Thursday urged a rethink of the policy of isolating the Hamas-led Palestinian government, Army Radio reported, due to the humanitarian crisis it has sparked in the Palestinian territories.

"We need to help Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas], and we need to find ways of bypassing Hamas that will strengthen the leader of the PA," the radio quoted Peretz as saying.

Peretz’ call for an end to the sanctions on Hamas goes against the traditional stance of the defense establishment. Since Hamas’ victory in the parliamentary elections in January, Israel has halted tax revenue transfers to the PA, and the Western nations have suspended aid. The PA, which employs more than 150,000 people, has been unable to pay salaries since March.

The defense minister is considering easing the policy on transporting goods between Israel and the Gaza Strip, out of concern that the current stringent policy at the border crossings is causing humanitarian damage to Palestinians in Gaza.

Peretz, who will visit the Israel Defense Forces Southern Command facilities next week for the first time since becoming defense minister, plans to review the defense establishment’s policy on the Gaza border crossings shortly. He also plans to review the continued massive artillery fire on the Strip [...]

What Amir is proposing is the exact opposite of current defense strategy in Israel, the fear of what the defense establishment calls a two headed snake. One PA, with two heads Hamas and Abu Mazen playing good head, bad head. Amir proposes effectively normalizing the PA led by Hamas under the guise of Abu Mazen.. Good lord.

Waffling on Defense policy?Where’s Livni in all of this?

She’s also opting for concessions, actually leap frogging the US to embrace the new crumbling Quartet strategy, and pledging to release tax monies to the Hamas PA but only for ‘humanitarian purposes’.

Phew, and I was worried there might be no one around to balance out the Emeer’s crazy new defense strategies. What can I say, I’m not impressed with Livni’s ‘blancing act’ and neither is John Bolton, US Ambassador to the UN apparently..

U.S. wary of new mechanism for bankrolling PA salaries
By Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz Correspondent and News Agencies

NEW YORK – The United States is wary of the initiative agreed upon at a meeting of the Quartet on Tuesday, under which a mechanism will be created to transfer financial assistance to the Palestinians while bypassing the Palestinian government headed by the radical Islamic party Hamas.

This wariness was expressed yesterday by the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, during a meeting with visiting Israel Defense Forces officers from the National Security College in Israel.

Echoing his boss, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Bolton expressed concern that the international mechanism was meant primarily to transfer salary payments to more than 165,000 Palestinian civil servants. Among these are some 75,000 security personnel, who have not received regular payments in recent months and have been exacerbating the unrest in Palestinian society.

At a press conference with her counterparts in the Quartet on Tuesday, Rice said that "no country in the world, including poor African countries, relies on foreign sources in order to make payments to its employees."

Bolton said that "the United States has still not granted its full agreement" to the establishment of the international aid mechanism. He said that Washington was waiting for details on how the mechanism would work and what kinds of controls it would include, matters that are expected to be handled by the European Union, the largest donor to the Palestinian Authority and the driving force behind the idea of such a mechanism.

Only after the U.S. receives all the details will it "evaluate the proposal and consider its response," Bolton said. [...]

Olmert’s Eye off the ball..

It looks to me like neither the Iranian issue, nor defending against the Hamas are top priorities for the Government of the State of Israel on this day, the convergence takes priority. I see a few threats to Zionism in there as PM Olmert alludes to, however settlers in comparison to Hamas & Iran is not one of them.

Olmert is shortly off to Washington to visit with the President, maybe Bush can talk some sense into him before this spiral of weakness goes out of control.