‘Special Status Areas’ you might ask?
Whatever the Kadima coalition throws around, underplaying Jerusalem & Final Status issue talks in order to placate Shas in the Israeli Parliament, it’s hard to disregard the facts. In direct contravention to Olmert’s bold statements when President Bush visited – The Prime Minister has totally frozen all settlement areas under his direct order.
Olmert seems intent on just ramming right through, in an all Annapolis type rage disregarding the upcoming Winograd report, on the heels of tiny matters such as the disastrous Gaza policy. Which in the last 24 hours has blown up directly in Kadima’s face in the worst way, and has left the Labor Coalition head, our Defense Minister Barak looking like a fool.
PM completely freezes new construction in W. Bank settlements (Haaretz)
[...] Olmert has categorically denied approval for all new construction tenders, including in the so-called consensus settlement blocs, which Israel intends to keep in any future peace accord with the Palestinians. The freeze also applies to the construction of public institutions, including schools and kindergartens. Olmert recently sent an official letter to relevant cabinet ministers instructing them to refrain from authorizing any construction in the West Bank without his and Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s prior approval.
Several days ago, the prime minister met with Ma’aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel, who asked Olmert to approve several construction plans -including in the controversial E1 corridor linking Ma’aleh Adumim to Jerusalem. Olmert refused, saying the issue was sensitive in terms of relations with the United States and the Palestinian Authority.
Mayors and council chairmen in other consensussettlements have also reported a total freeze on construction in recent weeks, including Efrat in the Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem, as well as Ariel in the northern West Bank. Olmert has in the past defined those settlements as part of the consensus blocs, but is currently refusing to approve the construction of new housing units – including within the settlements’ current urban boundaries. The prime minister has denied authorizations for the construction of schools and kindergartens in these settlements as well.
According to information made public several days ago, Barak had ordered settlement construction frozen beyond the parameters set forward by Olmert. Among other things, the defense minister said his approval is even needed for the private purchase of a home that has already been built. [...]
Instead of battling Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, & the terror groups.. Our PM, FM, & Defense Minister are all gearing up to do battle with Israeli citizens! Olmert’s bold statements didn’t hold two weeks. Barak’s bold moves cutting off fuel to Hamas in Gaza didn’t hold two days, 48hrs!
Seems they are much tougher when slapping around Israel’s populace with these tremendous concessions to all an altogether unpopular peace process, now devolving into total chaos in the recently conceded Gaza Strip.
I'm going to make some far ranging political predictions.
The Olmert govt is currently dealing with a crisis in Gaza, but it is symptomatic of a much greater malaise. Olmert's stubborn refusal to re-visit the disengagement idea despite its obvious lack of public support is a colossal mistake. This is compounded by the fact that the plan has not even been formulated yet, no plan tabled as of yet..
If anything now is the ideal time for humility in this regard, but Olmert can't seem to the the forest through the trees. The result is in my own opinion going to be a three pronged political attack that may topple the precarious Kadima govt.
Added to all this mayhem Olmert is dealing with, is his begrudging partner Labor. He's been pretty fair to Labor as a coalition partner, much more courteous than usual in Israeli coalition land. This is clearly due to the fact that Olmert decided early on that his so called 'natural' partner is the only one with enough weight to enable Olmert to carry out his political agenda. The reality is that the natural partners are unraveling before Olmert's very eyes. He gave defense to Labor's Peretz, and he towed that line.. Unfortunately he reeled it out WAY too far. Peretz numbers have fallen off a cliff, and they were not something to write home about in the 1st place. With them, Olmert's own numbers are tanking as well. There are a number of no confidence motions in the Knesset.
'No rockets when I was PM'
This speech to the WZO is well worth a gander, read the whole thing at YNET
Netanyahu said that when he was prime minister there were no Qassams or rockets. There were, however, Hibzullah Katyusha rockets in the north. He added: Once, when there was massive Katyusha firing on Kiryat Shmona, I acted and said from the beginning that I would not tolerate having civilians under massive Katyusha firing.
Netanyahu also said he acted against infrastructure in Lebanon, turning out the lights in Beirut, and threatening that this was the first portion. The rocket fire ended and didn't return for years, he said.
Of course one must avoid hitting innocent civilians, said Netanyahu, but they must know that in the end we cannot tolerate Qassam fire on Sderot, he added. [...]
It wasn’t particularly loving, or caring, nor did it bring anyone closer but the honeymoon period usually granted new administrations is decidedly over.
The Skill of the IDF won’t save the Emeer from his political battles
Peretz, overwhelmed by defense as it is, will not be able to call in seasoned IDF troops to save his ass in the Labor Party should hostilities flare.
For Peretz trouble was brewing from the night of the election on. While the left touted some mythic social wing of parties that supposedly stunned everyone, the reality was clear to political dogs from the get go, Labor didn’t add a single mandate despite calling for and forecasting a full on revolution! In the World of politics dropping a mandate from the last turn out which was characterized as one of the worst disasters in party history, does not make you a messiah, nor does it particularly safeguard your ass in the top seat.
Coalition of the damned
The coalition negotiations went well for Labor, but it didn’t mask the boiling over angst in the party over seats.. The press endlessly reported it as coalition jockeying, seat jockeying etc. But the truth is that Labor didn’t collect enough mandates, had a poor showing so no matter what coalition was jockeyed there would not be nearly enough positions for the Labor egos any way you sliced it.
The "we will form our own coalition with the right" move Peretz pulled one week in didn’t help, talk about making an ass of yourself, the party and everyone who voted for it. I was expecting Ami Ayalon and others to mount the challenges, not this soon mind you but it has been brewing since day one.
What was interesting to me was the failure of Peretz & Labor to unify and bring in under his wing other party leaders (he has actively done the opposite in fact). Barak, nowhere to be found, Ben Eliezer has been silent (probably eating something).. But that will come home to roost for Peretz now, he claimed yesterday the Government would last the full 4 year term, but will ‘Amir the Emeer’ do the same?
Olmert under siege for his ‘unstoppable‘ plan
Things aren’t rosy for Ehud either. He fumbled the Hamas situation before the election, dropped over ten mandates in the few weeks running up to the election, was forced to do major sellouts of his so called center position to the left in order to mount a government, and to date has yet to put forth a coherent reason for his convergence plan now that the territory goes to Hamas, and no one will recognize the borders.
USA to the non rescue
His visit to Washington hailed as a great success has not brought him closer to convergence by a long shot, if anything it has tied him more than ever to the graces of Bush on Iran, on Hamas, and on convergence at a time when Bush is himself under serious fire from all sides. His wonderful speech to congress was missing one thing, it was filled with pompadour and some prose, but was light on the reasoning of his ideas. Many can agree that Israel cannot realistically, nor should it want to govern over a million plus Palestinians..
Screw them. Literally, I couldn’t care less if they all have to eat dirt after so many duplicitous shams they have put forward in the ‘name of peace’. But I don’t see how Olmert’s plan solves this problem, if anything it will hamper the IDF from acting as the Gaza plan has, only this time Israel doesn’t even get a recognized withdrawal and border in return. This reality is dawning on a wary Israeli public, and Olmert’s statements disavowing referendums, of muscling through his un-sketched plans and coming home without any manner of paying the massive bill doesn’t smell for a particularly smooth road ahead in my opinion for Israel’s latest PM.
Two wrong lefts don’t make a right
Add these two big boys together and there’s going to be some serious fireworks coming for Peretz & Olmert’s coalition of the damned. The only saving grace as I see it, is the total ineptitude of opposition parties so far. Olmert’s budget is barely able to squeak through today, when the votes start to count on other big issues and Arab parties and Meretz are making the deciding calls, Olmert may well regret the failure of Kadima to woo Lieberman’s Israel our Home party..
The Russians will be back IMHO, and this time they will wield either the axe, or the deciding votes.
Like a dumb parrot I’ve been harping on the cash aspect of the convergence plan. More than anything else I’ve felt that money and paying for the construction of new settlements, security, and compensation will be the number one factor of difficulty for Olmert’s plan.
There’s only one thing that can stop a unilateral move, cash
Unilateral by definition means undertaken by one side only. In the area of support, if Israel were to shrug Europe off and proceed without the EU (and they will never support the plan in any case) and relied solely on US support it still would not solve the cash riddle.
Before Gaza the Israelis had banked on about a billion plus dollars from the US to aid in offsetting the costs, that money was allocated in talks but has not materialized. The US is spending hard and heavy these days, the reluctance to toss out more is natural. Olmert’s advisers got a bit of a rude shock this week when they were advised themselves to not even consider tabling any requests when the two leaders meet in Washington, for a potential 10 Billion dollars in aid to help for the convergence should it roll out.
The notion that this was newsworthy for Olmert’s adviser’s is a little scary, it speaks to a real disconnect by withdrawal supporters to realities. I want to secure the major blocks, I don’t think it is realistic to think Israel can hold all the territories and as such under different circumstances I would support a unilateral move if a referendum in Israel called for it.
But handing the territory to Hamas, not having anyone recognize the borders as legitimate, and lastly not being able to fund this initiative in the time frames laid out by Olmert mean convergence will simply have to wait.
One parrot is more than enough, two becomes highly annoying
It’s find and dandy for me to repeat myself like a parrot, but Olmert is the Prime Minister of the State of Israel. He can’t merely stick to this repeating record he’s in about convergence, he should be assessing the realities and changed facts on the ground since last year and be formulating policy for the betterment of the State. It has now become in some sense, converging just for the sake of converging, but I have news for you Olmert, the US is not going to pay.. just for the sake of paying.
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
Peretz: 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.
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.