Monday, March 14, 2011
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Hamas has declared that an eighteen month truce with Israel is almost ready. Originally Hamas said the truce should last no longer than a year and Israel was adamant that eighteen months was the minimum it would consider.
Hamas deputy leader Moussa Abu Marzouk said on Thursday that his organization supports an 18-month truce with Israel.Hamas has a very interesting way of putting its position.
Abu Marzouk, in Cairo for truce talks with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, told Al-Jazeera that Hamas was waiting for Israel to approve the details of the emerging agreement.
Taher Nunu, another member of the Hamas delegation in Egypt, said the cease-fire would be officially announced within three days.
"Most of the obstacles preventing us from consolidating an agreement have already been solved," Nunu said, adding that the agreement would ensure an end to the fighting with Israel and the opening of the crossings into Gaza.
Earlier, a senior Egyptian official said "the discussions with Hamas representatives in Cairo were very successful" and an agreement would be signed as early as Thursday night.
Hamas would accept an 18-month truce if Israel stopped its "aggression," i.e. attacks, lifted its blockade and opened the Israeli border crossings with the Gaza Strip, the official said earlier Thursday.In other words, "If you will quit beating us we will quit fighting." It will be interesting to see how long and how well this truce holds. If history is any guide I'd say about a month.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Evidently Hamas was not really interested in a long cease fire with Israel. Ten days and the war is back on.
The Israeli military says one soldier has been killed and three wounded in a bomb attack on the Gaza-Israel border.Swell. Just swell. Evidently Hamas has not yet had enough war. Here are some more details:
The bombing Tuesday marks the first serious clash along the border since a cease-fire began on Jan. 18, ending a punishing three-week offensive by Israel against Hamas.
No militant group has claimed responsibility, but a Hamas leader expressed support for the attack.
An Israeli jet broke the sound barrier and set off a loud sonic boom over Gaza City not long afterward, possibly as a warning, but there were no further reports of Israeli retaliation. Since ending a punishing three-week offensive against Hamas on Jan. 17, Israel has said it will respond in force to any attack from Gaza.Naturally the Israelis are responding.
Israeli troops crossed the border fence into Gaza to search the immediate area of the bombing, defense officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity under military guidelines.
Israel closed its crossings into Gaza to humanitarian aid traffic after briefly opening them Tuesday morning. Gaza border official Raed Fattouh said Israeli officials informed him the closure was due to the attack.
Eight Palestinians were reportedly wounded in the southern Gaza Strip Thursday when the IAF struck a vehicle in the town of Khan Yunis. Among the wounded were several children, according to Palestinian sources.As far as I can see the purpose of these attacks is to keep the border crossings between Israel and Gaza closed and to see if Hamas can get some more of their human shields killed. Dead human shields make for great headlines. And of course it is an embarrassment for Obama who just sent George Mitchell to Israel to help foster peace.
The strike targeted 25-year-old Mahmoud Hamdan Samiri, a Khan Yunis resident involved in the terrorist cell behind Tuesday's attack at the Kissufim crossing. In the attack, a roadside bomb killed one IDF soldier and wounded three others.
The air strike followed the firing of a Kassam rocket Thursday morning which fell in an open area near the town of Sderot. No one was wounded in the rocket attack and no damage was reported. It was the second rocket fired into Israel since the end of Operation Cast Lead eleven days ago.
The rocket attack came after an IAF jet struck a weapon manufacturing facility in the Rafah area late on Wednesday night, in response to another Kassam rocket fired from the Strip at Israel several hours earlier. The IDF identified an accurate hit. The rocket landed in an open area in the Eshkol region, causing no casualties or damage.
Evidently Obama the peacemaker hasn't devoted enough effort to the Israel/Hamas conflict yet. This may just be the Hamas response to Obama's attempts to make peace between Hamas and Israel a priority. It was a fools errand to begin with. And Hamas is illustrating with action that they will do to Obama what Palestinians have done to every other President who made Israeli/Palestinian peace a priority. Make a fool of him. George Bush had a better idea. Let the parties involved come to their own resolution in their own way. You know, maybe that Bush guy understood the dynamics of the Hamas/Israel conflict better than the new guy.
What next? I think Iran will be further testing Obama. I think I made a point during the election that electing a guy who had zero military experience and was predisposed to a kumbayah approach to foreign policy was a bad idea. I guess we are stuck with that bad idea for another three years, eleven months, and three weeks.
Cross Posted at Classical Values
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Mr. Obama the great peace maker whose policy in the Middle East is peace, peace, and more peace, because there is nothing like a peaceful peace to make you feel at peace said:
"It will be the policy of my administration to actively and aggressively seek a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as between Israel and its Arab neighbors," he said.Lovely sentiment. However it appears he is going to have a spot of bother with some of the peace loving people of the Middle East. Like the fellows who control Gaza, Hamas. One of them, Senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan, had some words about peace.
He maintained that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process had ended.I wonder if that means that Hamas is temporarily out of rockets?
Cross Posted at Classical Values
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Hamas has returned to governing Gaza by their usual methods. Murder and theft.
The liaison office for civilian territories said Hamas is intentionally harming humanitarian aid transferred from Israel by firing mortars at the Karni, Kissufim and Kerem Shalom crossings. The liaison office and Shin Bet security service both accused Hamas of looting trucks bringing supplies into Gaza.And people wonder why Egypt has no interest in taking Gaza back or even opening its border crossings to Gaza. Best to keep the disease penned in.
The Shin Bet also reported many instances since the cease-fire of Hamas members shooting and wounding Fatah activists in Gaza.
Speaking of disease it seems like an old one is on the loose among terrorist cadres. The Black Death.
At least 40 al-Qaeda fanatics died horribly after being struck down with the disease that devastated Europe in the Middle Ages.When I was in the Navy a long time ago ('63 to '67) I got an anti-Plague shot aboard ship while patrolling off the coast of Viet Nam with the Enterprise task force. Evidently Al Queda is not that interested in the health of its fighters.
The killer bug, also known as the plague, swept through insurgents training at a forest camp in Algeria, North Africa. It came to light when security forces found a body by a roadside.
The victim was a terrorist in AQLIM (al-Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb), the largest and most powerful al-Qaeda group outside the Middle East.
It trains Muslim fighters to kill British and US troops.
Now al-Qaeda chiefs fear the plague has been passed to other terror cells — or Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.
One security source said: “This is the deadliest weapon yet in the war against terror. Most of the terrorists do not have the basic medical supplies needed to treat the disease.
“It spreads quickly and kills within hours. This will be really worrying al-Qaeda.”
Black Death comes in various forms.
Bubonic Plague is spread by bites from infected rat fleas. Symptoms include boils in the groin, neck and armpits. In Pneumonic Plague, airborn bacteria spread like flu.
It can be in the body for more than a week — highly contagious but not revealing tell-tale symptoms.
The al-Qaeda epidemic began in the cave hideouts of AQLIM in Tizi Ouzou province, 150km east of the capital Algiers. The group, led by wanted terror boss Abdelmalek Droudkal, was forced to turn its shelters in the Yakouren forest into mass graves and flee.
Keep an eye on Afghanistan. If the Black Death breaks out there the Taliban Spring offensive may be derailed or attenuated.
What is ironic is that Al Queda wanted to return to the days when Islam controlled part or all of Spain. From 711 to 1492. And those years include Plague Years. Funny that they are getting their wish to return to those thrilling days of yester year where medicine was relatively ignorant. I don't think dying of the Black Plague was what they had in mind when decrying the corruption of the West. I think if I have a choice of corruption I'd pick Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll over disease and death. But I was never much of a fanatic about religion in any case.
H/T Israpundit who links to this article about Syrian biowarfare.
Cross Posted at Classical Values
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
From Trumpets of victory
Israeli President Shimon Peres (what a nice name - Shimon) says that Obama's desire to talk to Hamas and Iran will make no difference.
President Shimon Peres said Tuesday that he wasn't worried about US-President elect Barack Obama's intention to talk to Iran and perhaps Hamas. "I don't believe they will get what they want by talking to him," Peres told Army Radio. "Their goals are different from Obama's goals. He wants to build, but they want to destroy. He wants peace, they want war."That is true. America is the same.
Peres maintained that although America had chosen a different president, he had not received a "different America."
Italy is, however, different. Just look at the picture below.
We didn’t expect what you see now in the picture. This is the square of the Italian Parliament in Rome, Piazza Montecitorio: you can see the Palace on top of the square, and in front a lot of Israeli flags.That was yesterday night from 6:30 to 9:30 P.M. What you cannot see here, is the extraordinary number and variety of members of the Parliament, about 100 from all political sides, that took the stage during our marathon: for about three hours we have been speaking about the role of Israel, its right to self defense, its moral height, its fight in name of all of us, of our civilization and values, against the wild hate of the Islamic jihad represented by Hamas. It seems to me that for the first time in the too-long history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, apart from a minority of crazy leftists and fascists that took the street on anti-Semitic slogans, we have obtained a huge consensus about one critical point: this is not an episode of a local conflict, there is nothing in it that reminds the land for peace theme that has characterized the Palestinian issue. This is an episode of the attack against the Western world, and Iran has a lot to do with it.Now that is a different Europe even from as little as two and a half years ago in the summer of 2006. Iran was behind Hizballah then. I wonder why the change in sentiment?
The change of attitude is great: the dictatorial religious nature of Hamas and the democratic, civilized nature of Israel are seen face to face for what they are at least by the European elite at large, dead and wounded notwithstanding, and there rises an identification with Israel against a regime that uses human shields and promises slaughters of Jews in its charter.
Maybe it has something to do with an Israeli Army of Davids.It could be. Consider this article from the January 5th Jerusalem Post:
Many supporters of Israel have grown frustrated with hostile feedback posted to Web articles and on blogs since the start of Operation Cast Lead nine days ago. A group of Israeli students has decided to fight back.It seems to be working.
HelpUsWin.org is manned by social media experts and Israel activists around the clock, with the main "situation room" based at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, and sponsored by the Stand With Us education organization. Social media are primarily Internet- and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information.
Students and volunteers have been monitoring and responding to social media Web sites worldwide in several languages, to mount a public diplomacy offensive for Israel on the Internet.
"There is a misconception that the Internet is democratic, but that's far from the truth," said Alex Gekker, 24, a student in new media diplomacy at IDC and a volunteer at HelpUsWin headquarters.
"You can voice your opinion, but it doesn't mean anyone will listen. So we created HelpUsWin.org to give people a simple toolset to make a lot of noise," he said.
"This truly is Israel's first new media war," said Michael Dickson, director of Stand With Us International. "We've seen demonstrations and rallies around the world, and they have been really militant and extreme.In a January 19th update on the story the Jerusalem Post gives more details about the results of the information campaign.
"We can engage with these people, but until now, we've been missing from the debate. We need to be offensive as well as defensive," Dickson said.
A cornerstone of this on-line campaign is a new feature called QassamCount, an application on social media sites Facebook and Twitter that automatically updates a user's status every time a rocket hits Israel. All of that user's friends will see the status update, which lists the location of the attack and the number of rockets fired.
Israel's newest weapon on the public relations front is "an army of bloggers," according to a statement issued by the Absorption Ministry Sunday afternoon.The Israelis have had two and a half years to prepare for this war. It seems their time has not been wasted. Have a look at the video below in Arabic with English subtitles. The Video is called "Hamas Profanes Islam".
In cooperation with the Foreign Ministry's Public Relations Department, the Absorption Ministry has initiated a statewide effort to locate volunteers who speak other languages, to take part in the country's PR efforts over the Internet.
The volunteers will post comments in their native languages - including English, French, Spanish, German and others - on anti-Israel Web sites and blogs, presenting an Israeli perspective on the Middle East.
During the past few years, a significant change has occurred in the realm of public relations communications, the ministry statement said, noting that the Internet has created a new arena of "PR warfare."
The main weakness in Israel's hasbara (public diplomacy) efforts is the current lack of people willing to sit in front of their computers and comment in languages other than Hebrew. The comments would concentrate on positive aspects of Israeli life and accounts of the hardship Israelis suffer while living under a constant threat of terror.
The Absorption Ministry is seeking new immigrants willing to volunteer for the effort, and will forward their contact information to the Foreign Ministry. The volunteers will be briefed, given up-to-date material and referred to problematic Web sites where an Israeli perspective is badly needed.
So it is not just college students, and the Absorption Ministry. It is also the Israeli Defense forces that are waging the information battle. They even have their own YouTube Channel called idfnadesk which was started on December 29th. A couple of days after the opening of the war.
I think the Israelis have learned the lessons of Lebanon 2006 and the lessons that the Americans on the right have learned about their media and the world media. You can't depend on the main stream media to get your message out. What you need is An Army of Davids.
Cross Posted at Classical Values
Sunday, January 18, 2009
It seems that both Hamas and Israel have declared unilateral truces independent of each other. However Hamas keeps firing rockets at Israel.
Gaza terrorists continued to attack southern Israeli civilian areas on Sunday afternoon, despite the fact that the Israeli unilateral cease-fire had already been in effect since early that morning.Naturally the Israelis have responded.
The IAF struck back, hitting a terror cell and a launching pad.So how is Hamas doing? They are doing their usual pretending to be the victors except when they are pretending to be the victims.
Earlier Sunday, Hamas operatives in the Beit Lahiya area shot at IDF soldiers, who returned fire. An IAF helicopter then shot the gunmen, the IDF reported. Mortar shells were also fired at the troops.
There was an understanding in the IDF that it would take time for Hamas to make a decision as well as to transmit orders to all of its different operatives on the ground.
Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal announced on Syrian television on Sunday afternoon that the Islamic group would implement a cease-fire in which they would halt all military activity and give IDF troops one week to pull out of the Gaza Strip.That is the ticket guys. Promise to end all military activity while still shelling Israel. And if Israel doesn't pull out in a week Hamas can always declare a new truce.
According to the statement, Israel must end the blockade and open the border crossings.The Israelis have a different idea about what the truce entails.
A leader of the Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip said that his group agreed to the Hamas truce, and said that other smaller Palestinian factions have signed on, as well.
The development comes after Israel declared a unilateral cease-fire which took effect earlier Sunday morning.
Shortly after it announced a unilateral cease-fire in Gaza, Israel said on Sunday it will not consider a timetable for withdrawing all of its forces from the Gaza Strip until Hamas and other militant groups halt their attacks.Of course time tables are for trains and I think that is one train the Jews are not getting on.
"We can't talk about a timetable for withdrawal until we know the ceasefire is holding," said Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, rebuffing United Nations calls for setting a timetable.
"If there is a danger Hamas is going to deliberately torpedo the cease-fire, and we will have to reinitiate offensive actions against Hamas, for that reason we have to be reticent about withdrawing our forces."Evidently the Israelis consider Hamas' behavior an open invitation to stay in Gaza. I think I said a few years ago that if giving Gaza to the Philistines didn't work out the Israelis could always take it back without too much difficulty. It will be interesting to see if Hamas wants Gaza back badly enough to cease the rocket attacks.
"If the ceasefire holds, we can start a process of moving out," Regev added.
Olmert earlier on Sunday branded Israel's cease-fire in Gaza as fragile and said the Israel Defense Forces was free to respond to attacks by Gaza militants.
"Israeli forces inside the Gaza Strip and many more encircling the Gaza Strip are...prepared to act in any area in accordance with their commanders' orders if and when the cease-fire violations, such as those that occurred this morning, continue," Olmert added at the cabinet meeting.Olmert is actually acting like a leader these days. He says if Hamas wants more he is more than willing to see that they get some.
Late Saturday night, the prime minister said the IDF would only leave Gaza if Hamas ceased its rocket attacks. Olmert made the pledge as he announced a unilateral cease-fire in the coastal strip.
"If Hamas entirely ends its rocket fire on Israel, Israel will consider an IDF withdrawal from the Gaza Strip," Olmert declared.
If that did not occur, he said, "The IDF will continue to operate in order to protect our citizens."
"If our enemies decide the blows they've been dealt have not been sufficient and they are interested in continuing the fight, Israel will be prepared for such and feel free to continue to react with force," the premier added.Molon labe indeed. And there is a carrot to go with the stick.
Israel said on Sunday it will be prepared to sharply increase the flow of food and medicine to Gaza if the unilateral cease-fire holds, but it ruled out fully lifting a blockade until captured Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit is freed.It will be interesting to see in the coming days how much Hamas is willing to give up to get what it wants.
"If the quiet holds, there will not be any problem dramatically increasing aid like food and medicine. If this quiet holds, we will work with the international community for reconstruction," said Mark Regev, a spokesman for Olmert.
"But you can't have anything close to full normalization of the crossings as long as Gilad Shalit remains a hostage," Regev added. Shalit was captured in a cross-border raid in 2006.
So you may ask why was Israel interested in a cease fire without an agreement with Hamas? The answer is from a report from over two weeks ago that said Israel was running out of targets. And that is not all. My guess is that Israel had no intention of taking Gaza city. No doubt Hamas in its usual efficient style had booby trapped a number of buildings in Gaza City just waiting for the Israelis to come in. Now the Hamas engineers will be responsible for removing the booby traps. Saving Israeli lives and costing Hamas some of its engineers as the inevitable mistakes happen.
Despite Israelis "loss" in the 2006 Lebanon War things have been quiet (mostly) on that border. I think the same thing will happen to Gaza. In time.
Cross Posted at Classical Values
Israeli Prime Minister Olmert says:
"All the world agrees that Hamas's arming must be stopped," he continued, stressing that now, after the operation, the entire world understands "that Hamas is Iran's Gaza branch."It seems I misread the Prime Minister's words. I promise to do better next time.
Cross Posted at Classical Values
Saturday, January 17, 2009
An interview with Mira Awad and Achinoam Nini about the state of Israeli/Palistinian relations with interludes of them singing together the Beatles' We Can Work It Out.
The two young ladies will be appearing together in the Eurovision song contest whose purpose is to promote dialog through cultural exchanges. The choice of the ladies to represent Israel has created quite a fire storm among those who think the Israelis and Palestinians can't work it out.
Several local artists and intellectuals are calling on the Israeli Arab singer and actress chosen to represent Israel at the Eurovision song contest to step down, saying her participation in the "Israeli propaganda machine" would convey a false impression of national coexistence used to cover up the deaths of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.And there is the usual inflamed rhetoric to go along with the denunciation of the duo.
The duo Mira Awad, a Christian Arab, and singer Achinoam Nini, who is Jewish and also known as Noa, were chosen this week to represent Israel in the televised contest.
"Israel would not be able to continue with its war crimes without the support of the international community, especially the United States and the European Union," the signatories, both Jewish and Arab, wrote in an open letter to Awad.Of course there is no mention of the Palestinian war crimes of intentionally attacking civilian areas with rockets in order to terrorize the residents. Or the previous wave of suicide bombers.
"What allows the international community to provide support is Israel's image as a 'democratic,' 'enlightened,' 'peace-seeking' country. Your participation in Eurovision is taking part in the activity of the Israeli propaganda machine," they added.
Every contribution to the "false image" Israel is building "allows the Israeli army to use another 10 tons of explosives, another phosphorous bomb," the letter says.
Actor Juliano Mer-Khamis, one of the people who initiated the open letter, said Awad's participation in Eurovision would be a "fig leaf" for Israel's actions, and spoke out against Nini's call to Palestinians in Gaza to renounce the Hamas leadership.
No response was available from Awad or Nini by press time, but their manager, Ofer Pesenzon, charged the signatories - who include filmmaker Nizar Hassan and publisher Yael Lerer - with extremism.I thought the part of the interview where Mira thinks there could be a solution if everyone wanted one was quite to the point. Achinoam thinks that another of the keys is mutual recognition. The problem with that approach is that Hamas refuses to recognize Israel. They are sure taking a beating from some people they don't recognize. Ah well. Irreconcilable differences. All that is left is concluding the divorce settlement with the division of the property. And they don't seem to be able to even work that one out.
"Achinoam and Mira have been cooperating for five years," he said. "They have appeared in many respected venues around the world, and their approach has always been in favor of dialogue, out of a belief that only thus will it be possible to achieve peace between the Palestinians and Israelis and in the Middle East in general. It's very sad that Jewish and Arab extremists in our country are motivated by hatred and anger."
Cross Posted at Classical Values
Thursday, January 15, 2009
A protest against Israeli operations in Gaza was called off because not enough Palestinians showed up.
RAMALLAH - It's quiet in Ramallah. At the northern entrance to the city, not far from the mall, a new fountain spouts water. Next to it lies a sign in English: "Gaza under fire." But it seems the Gaza Strip has never been so far away. Tel Aviv, meanwhile, feels closer than ever. Almost every day at 1 P.M., a demonstration leaves Manara Square in the city center, expressing support for the residents of the Gaza Strip. The number of participants has declined, however, on a daily basis, and on Wednesday the demonstration was called off for a lack of protesters.What explains this lack of solidarity? Walid Omari, the Al-Jazeera bureau chief for the Palestinian Authority and Israel, thinks he knows.
Dozens of men sit in cafes near the square playing cards. In the background, the television blasts the voices of Al-Jazeera reporters, who provide continual updates about the events taking place in the Strip. But even the dramatic reports do not stop the card players for a moment. Occasionally one of them glances up at the screen, but then gets back to business.
Omari explains that the quiet all over the West Bank in the face of the events in Gaza stems mainly from disappointment and frustration with the leadership of Hamas and Fatah.In other words " I'm not having any of what they are having." A wise move. Perhaps Israel has sufficiently demoralized the Palestinians to the point that they are becoming willing to deal.
"The residents of the West Bank lost a great deal in the course of the last Intifada, but saw no achievements. They are very afraid of more losses, mainly in light of the crisis of confidence between the Palestinian street and its leadership.
And speaking of deal how is the truce deal that Egypt is negotiating coming along?
After 19 days of fighting and more than 1,000 Palestinian fatalities, the first significant signs that Hamas is breaking could be seen Wednesday night. Hamas representatives to talks with Egypt announced an agreement in principle on Wednesday to the Egyptian cease-fire proposal. They also demanded several clarifications, primarily from Israel.So Walid seems to have it right. A lot of blood and destruction for no gain.
The war in Gaza isn't over yet. The final days of the Second Lebanon War show that it's best to be wary of agreements that come too early. But the way things looked on Wednesday, Hamas seems to be willing to accept the Egyptian initiative, which is almost a kind of surrender agreement for it.
The Egyptian proposal is mostly bad for Hamas. It doesn't let the organization bring the Palestinian public any political achievement that would justify the blood that has been spilled, and even forces on it the return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza, in the form of its renewed presence at the Rafah crossing (as a condition for its reopening).
Once the cease-fire is reached, the IDF will withdraw from the positions it captured in Gaza, and only then will the two sides begin to discuss the opening of border crossings and removal of the blockade, which was the reason Hamas gave for waging war. The most that Cairo is offering is a timetable for the opening of the crossing points, and even that depends on negotiations due to begin after the cease-fire is reached, and it's tough to know how or when they will end.
And as I have said before Israel has some surprising allies in this war.
Arab League officials announced Wednesday night that they still did not have the necessary legal quorum to convene an emergency Arab League summit in Doha on Friday to discuss Israel's offensive in Gaza.So the Arabs don't seem to have a sense of urgency about the discussions. Advantage Israel.
So what are the Saudis and Egyptians up to?
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia on Wednesday called for its own emergency meeting of Gulf Countries in Riyadh to discuss the IDF operation in Gaza on Thursday.So not only are the Saudis and others dragging their feet, but the meeting on Gaza will be a side show to more pressing business - an economic summit. What we are seeing is a realignment of Middle East interests.
King Abdullah called for the meeting Thursday in the Saudi capital of Riyadh "due to the escalation of the latest events resulting from the Israeli aggression on the Palestinian people and the current circumstances in the Arab world," said a Foreign Ministry statement.
Arab states such as Qatar and Syria have been pushing for an emergency Arab summit to help put an end to Operation Cast Lead, which has resulted in the death of more than 900 Palestinians, most of them believed to be Hamas members.
However, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, two Western-backed political heavyweights in the region, along with Tunisia, have rejected holding a summit in Doha, suggesting instead that Arab leaders hold talks in Kuwait on Sunday on the sidelines of a planned Arab economic summit.
One other place the alignment is changing is Turkey, and in this case it is moving away from Israel.
A decade ago, Western and Israeli leaders could count on Turkey as an ally. A solid NATO member, Ankara took decisions based on pragmatic calculations of interest - and erred on the side of caution if at all. But under the rule of the Islamic conservative AKP, this has changed.Turkey has land borders on its Middle East Side with Syria, Iraq, Iran, Armenia, and Georgia. And on the Black sea it borders a number of countries including Russia with whom it seems to have formed an understanding if not an alignment.
In the face of Hamas rockets, Israel could have expected more understanding from a country long suffering from aggressive PKK terrorism. The vehemence with which Turkish leaders attacked Israel, and their apparent willingness to convey Hamas' position to the United Nations, came as a surprise to many.
Some of this may be explained by pandering to the Islamic conservative AKP's hard-core base. But Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's words - that Israel's actions will be punished by God and help lead it to self-destruction - are too significant to be taken lightly. Indeed, they are part of the trend of a Turkish government guided more by Islamic solidarity and anti-Western sentiment than by pragmatic calculations of interest. Indeed, Turkey's international behavior suggests that its attachment to the West is tenuous at best - and eroding.
Ankara's position on Iran has been similarly equivocal. When in Washington recently, Erdogan observed that "those who ask Iran not to produce nuclear weapons should give up their own nuclear weapons first" - a position that fits neither with Turkey's membership in the Non-Proliferation Treaty or NATO.So what does the future hold for the Middle East? The only certainty is that the countries of the region will find new and exciting ways to damage their own interests. The only exception to this rule seems to be Israel. At least for as long as George Bush has been in office. Bush's policy has been to isolate Syria and Iran.
More broadly, Erdogan has in recent years shown a remarkable willingness to meet with rogue regimes. Ankara's improving relationships with Syria and Iran are understandable, given that they are neighbors with which Turkey needs to work. But its decision to welcome Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir with full honors in January 2008, or to invite Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal to the AKP party headquarters in 2006, cannot be explained away simply by pragmatic decisions born out of necessity. Indeed, these decisions need to be seen in the context of the AKP's gradual change, with Islamic self-identification gaining ground in both domestic and foreign policy. Since reelection in 2007, the AKP has focused more on the advancement of Islamic values in Turkey's society and state than on democratic reform. In foreign policy, Islamic solidarity and anti-Western sentiment have gained ground - which in turn influence the views of society at large, making Turkey as a nation less Western.
Obama is interested in making overtures to Syria and Iran.
U.S. president-elect Barack Obama on Wednesday said that he is going to work toward a comprehensive peace in the Middle East "on day one" of presidency on January 20, and that would include Iran and Syria.In other words he intends to sell out the Israelis. He won't be the first US President to pull that trick. What I would like to know is what kind of campaign donations Obama got from the Syria/Iran axis? I'd guess that some one knows the answer and is holding the information until it can do Obama the most damage.
"We're going to have to take a regional approach," said Obama in an interview with CBS Evening News. "We're going to have to involve Syria in discussions. We're going to have to engage Iran in ways that we have not before."
"We've got to have a clear bottom line that Israel's security is paramount," Obama said.
We shall see. But I can say one thing. I don't think Obama has ever played politics at this level. If Blagojevich can roll him he doesn't stand a chance in the Middle East. They have had thousands of years practice in perfecting the art of the double cross.
Cross Posted at Classical Values
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Iran's ally Syria has called for a cease fire in Gaza that accepts at least part of what the Israelis wanted.
Syrian President Bashar Assad called on Israel to cease its military operation in Gaza immediately, while simultaneously demanding that Hamas cease its fire towards Israel.Aside from the usual anti-Israel rhetoric this is a big development. Both Syria and Hamas are supported by Iran. As to making extremism in the Middle East worse. I believe the war with Hamas is doing the opposite. It is showing that extremism doesn't pay.
In an interview with the BBC network Assad warned that the fighting in Gaza could lead to the exacerbation of Islamic extremism in the Middle East.
"The effects of the war are more dangerous than the war itself," he said during Wednesday's interview. "It's planting the seeds for extremism and terror in the entire region."
Assad accused Israel of refusing to honor the ceasefire that expired in December and claimed it was the State's responsibility to halt the "murder" of the Palestinians and the siege on Gaza.
He claimed Syria, which plays host to a number of senior Hamas officials, was doing everything in its power to put an end to the fighting.
As for Israel refusing to honor the cease fire? I believe the cease fire never existed - the rockets never stopped. In addition Hamas called off the cease fire anyway. Just the normal cease fire deal in the Middle East. Israel must cease firing and for its enemies ceasing fire is optional.
In theory negotiations are going on in Egypt for a cease fire which Hamas claims to have accepted and also claims to have rejected.
Hamas has accepted the Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire with Israel, the group said Wednesday evening, after talks in Cairo.It will be interesting to see what is in the Egyptian proposal. I think it can be reliably assumed that stopping the rockets is a central element.
The Hamas delegation was making it way back to Damascus to brief the group's leaders.
Egyptian officials told the Middle East News Agency (MENA) that Hamas had responded positively to the country's efforts to mediate a Gaza cease-fire.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said he would relay Hamas's response to the Egyptian proposal to Israel.
However, Osama Hamdan, the Hamas representative in Lebanon, said that Hamas's position regarding the Egyptian initiative had not changed. He said that despite reports that Hamas had agreed to the cease-fire initiative, there were still a number of differences between Egypt and the Islamist movement that needed to be addressed.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni were meeting in Jerusalem to discuss Israel's response to the initiative.
Also on Wednesday, France's foreign minister said his government was ready to talk to Hamas, if the group renounced violence and recognize Israel.
And those French. What dreamers. Hamas is dedicated to killing all the Jews in the world. Renouncing violence and recognizing Israel is not in the cards for Hamas.
I wonder how long it will take to complete the cease fire negotiations? The fact that Syria - who in effect speaks for Iran - has caved is significant. A cease fire by Friday is not out of the question. Of course this being the Middle East, negotiations could drag on for another week or more.
Cross Posted at Classical Values
Monday, January 12, 2009
Hamas has found a way to profit from its war with Israel.
Hamas on Monday raided some 100 aid trucks that Israel had allowed into Gaza, stole their contents and sold them to the highest bidders.Evidently Iranian cash is no longer enough to keep Hamas running. After bringing death and destruction to the Palestinians by keeping their war with Israel going, they have to steal food out of the mouth's of their own people to keep themselves going.
The IDF said that since terminal activity is coordinated with UNRWA and the Red Cross, Israel could do nothing to prevent such raids, Israel Radio reported.
Between 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the army had ceased all military activity in Gaza and once again established a "humanitarian corridor" to help facilitate the transfer of the supplies.
I don't think that Hamas is going to be in charge of Gaza for too long after the fighting stops. And to make the change happen Egypt is training Fatah fighters who will no doubt be escorted to Gaza through the Egyptian border once the fighting stops.
"The Iranians and Syrians are using Hamas to undermine the Palestinian Authority and other moderate Arab governments," the Fatah official told the Post. "Victory for Hamas in this war would mean victory for Iran, Syria and Hizbullah. This is something we need to prevent."Evidently not every one involved in the war sees what is going on as a Hamas victory. Maybe the Arabs are not totally delusional after all. Just some of them.
The official expressed hope that the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip would revolt against Hamas when the IDF operation ended. He also expressed hope that Hamas leaders Mahmoud Zahar and Ismail Haniyeh would be tried before a Palestinian court as "war criminals." The Hamas leaders, he charged, were responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent Palestinians. "Ever since they came to power, they brought death and destruction to our people."
The official would neither confirm nor deny a report according to which Egypt was training Fatah activists to regain control over the Gaza Strip. According to the report, some 300 Fatah militiamen who had fled to Egypt during the violent Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007 were being trained by Egyptian security experts.
Ahmed Abdel Rahman, the official Fatah spokesman in the West Bank, mocked statements made by Syrian-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal to the effect that Israel's military operation in the Gaza Strip had failed.
The light of reality may be finally shining on the Middle East. There has been a sea change among the Arabs. Their rhetoric is unchanged, but their policy is different. They are now in fear for their future. They can see the end of oil. Not soon. Maybe in fifty years, maybe a hundred, but the sands of time are running out of the hour glass and the oil is running out of the sands of the Middle East. If they are to survive on other than charity they have to make things the world wants.
The first thing they intend to make to reach that goal is a Palestinian State. The Palestinians are relatively well educated. Arafat after all was an engineer. The Palestinians under good government will unite to reform the Middle East. There is nothing the Israelis want more than to see its neighbors prosper. The reasons are two fold. One is that such a stance is part of their culture. The other is that well off nations need no longer use Israel as a scape goat for their failures.
They were so close in 2000 to the irreversible integration of the Palestinian and Israeli economies. So close. It may take a couple of decades, but I think the reintegration of the Israeli and Palestinian economies is now on the table. Followed closely by a change in the Arab culture and economy. I'm sure the hope is that the Israeli work ethic will rub off on the people of the Middle East. It will be difficult.
In that regard America is very fortunate. It is one of the few places in the world where aristocracy never took root. There is no monarch in America to confer titles. No Kings, no Queens, no Dukes, no Duchesses. The children of our wealthy have no special place in our society. If they want a place they have to earn it. It can't be earned by their ancestors. This is a huge change in culture for the Middle East. If they want it to take hold by the time the oil runs out they will have to get cracking. I think they finally know that.
Cross Posted at Classical Values
Victory is near in Gaza for Hamas. Yep. You heard that right. For Hamas.
For the second time since Israel launched its offensive in the Gaza Strip, Hamas television aired a taped message delivered by group leader Ismail Haniyeh on Monday. In the message, Haniyeh declared that Hamas was determined to continue fighting despite Israel's military offensive in the Strip.These people are delusional.
"Gaza will not break - our victory over the Zionists is near," Haniyeh said in a fiery speech. "Our fate is in the hands of Allah, so what power could the sons of Zion against him? Allah will take his revenge on them."
In other news somewhat closer to reality, Bush says that Hamas must stop the rockets.
U.S. President George W. Bush gave his last press conference at the White House on Monday, 8 days before the inauguration of incoming president Barack Obama, calling for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, but emphasizing Israel's right to defend itself.I think if we put two and two together we can come to some kind of reasonable conclusion. Hamas is very near the breaking point. So why the announcement of defeat by calling it a victory? It is due to a rule in the Middle East: Arabs never lose wars.
As Israeli troops continued targeting Hamas infrastructure in the Gaza Strip for the 17 day, Bush said that Hamas must stop firing rockets into Israel in order for an effective cease-fire to take hold in Gaza and said Israel should avoid harming innocent people there.
"Israel has a right to defend herself," the president told reporters at the White House. "Obviously, in any of these kinds of situations I would hope that she would continue to be mindful of innocent folks and that they help expedite the delivery of humanitarian aid."
"I'm for a sustainable cease-fire, he said, adding that such a truce would require Hamas' agreement to halt firing rockets into Israel. There will not be a sustainable cease-fire if they continue firing rockets. I happen to believe the choice is Hamas' to make."
Bush gave his backing to Egyptian-led efforts to secure a truce that would end the smuggling of weapons into Gaza through underground tunnels. Israel has been pounding the underground arteries with air strikes since it launched the operation on Dec. 27.
Hamas is getting heavy pressure from Iran to keep on fighting.
Iran is exerting heavy pressure on Hamas not to accept the Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire with Israel, an Egyptian government official said on Sunday.This can only mean that Hamas is seriously hurting. It also means Iran is expecting full price for what it has paid for. It probably also means that they can't afford to pay for much rebuilding and would like to put off for a few more days at least the tendering of the bill. However, every day they put off payment causes the price to go up. Perhaps they are expecting the price of oil to spike. If so they are out of luck. After going up to the $50 a bbl. range oil has fallen back to around $40 a bbl. With Hizballah quiet and Hamas taking a very serious beating Iran has lost a lot of prestige with the current war.
The official told The Jerusalem Post by phone that two senior Iranian officials who visited Damascus recently warned Hamas leaders against accepting the proposal.
His remarks came as Hamas representatives met in Cairo with Egyptian Intelligence Chief Gen. Omar Suleiman and his aides to discuss ways of ending the fighting in the Gaza Strip.
The Hamas representatives reiterated their opposition to a cease-fire that did not include the reopening of all the border crossings into the Gaza Strip, Hamas spokesmen said on Sunday.
The spokesmen said Hamas voiced its strong opposition to the idea of deploying an international force inside the Gaza Strip.
The Egyptian official said that the two Iranian emissaries, Ali Larijani, Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, and Said Jalili of the Iranian Intelligence Service, met in the Syrian capital with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and Islamic Jihad Secretary-General Ramadan Shallah.
"As soon as the Iranians heard about the Egyptian cease-fire initiative, they dispatched the two officials to Damascus on an urgent mission to warn the Palestinians against accepting it," the Egyptian government official told the Post.
"The Iranians threatened to stop weapons supplies and funding to the Palestinian factions if they agreed to a cease-fire with Israel. The Iranians want to fight Israel and the US indirectly. They are doing this through Hamas in Palestine and Hizbullah in Lebanon."
Perhaps Iran is hoping that in only eight more days the new administration in Washington will save them. With respect to that I think it will be a question of who gave Obama more funds for his election campaign the Saudis or the Iranians, and/or who he intends to
Meanwhile the Syrians are putting in a token appearance.
The fighting in Gaza appeared to reach the Golan Heights on Sunday when gunshots were fired at an IDF vehicle along the border with Syria. It was the second attack along Israel's northern border since Operation Cast lead began in late December.If a serious attack by Syria was planned they would not fire a few token shots to announce their intentions. I think the urban renewal that Lebanon got in 2006 has decided the question for the Syrians. I don't think they want a piece of that action given that their patron Iran is in serious internal financial difficulties with inflation in Iran running well above the CIA estimate of around 18%.
It also appears that Egypt is considering digging a moat across southern Gaza to deter future smuggling tunnels.
Egypt is considering a range of proposals on how to stop weapons smuggling through tunnels along the Philadelphi Corridor into Gaza, including the construction of a moat along the border that separates the Sinai desert from the Gaza Strip, The Jerusalem Post has learned.The ring is tightening around Hamas and Iran.
Israel has destroyed close to 150 tunnels since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead but estimates that there are at least another 150 tunnels along the 14-kilometer corridor. On Sunday, the Air Force bombed close to 30 tunnels that it said were used by Hamas to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip.
Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau, is scheduled to travel to Egypt later this week to hear Cairo's offer concerning the tunnels.
Since the operation began, Hamas has made attempts to smuggle weapons into Gaza through the remaining tunnels, officials said. Iran, they added, was trying to get explosives and weaponry - including long-range rockets - to the Sinai, from where supplies are transferred into the Gaza Strip.
While Israel has conditioned its acceptance of a cease-fire on an end to smuggling, the Egyptians have made clear that it will not permit the deployment of a foreign military presence on its sovereign territory. Egypt has however agreed to receive technological assistance from different countries including Germany and the United States, which has already sent combat engineers to Rafah in an advisory capacity.
Iran's last hope is getting atomic weapons. And even they they are not out of the woods. The weapons are defensive in nature, because if they use them offensively they will get wiped out. However, they are still trying.
The Iranian businessman was looking for high-quality American electronics, but he had to act stealthily: The special parts he coveted were denied to Iranians, especially those seeking to make roadside bombs to kill U.S. troops in Iraq.Inclinometers are gravity based attitude sensors. They would most likely be used in rocket guidance systems. I'm sure that is not all the Iranians are looking for. What all this means is that Iran has not given up its atomic ambitions.
With a few e-mails, the problem was solved. A friendly Malaysian importer would buy the parts from a company in Linden, N.J., and forward them to Iran. All that was left was coming up with a fake name for the invoice. Perhaps a Malaysian engineering school? "Of course, you can use any other company as end-user that you think is better than this," the Iranian businessman, Ahmad Rahzad, wrote in an e-mail dated March 8, 2007.
The ruse succeeded in delivering nine sensors called inclinometers to Iran, the first of several such shipments that year and the latest example of what U.S. officials and weapons experts describe as Iran's skillful flouting of export laws intended to stop lethal technology from reaching the Islamic republic.
There is a book out, Human Security in East Asia: Challenges for Collaborative Action,dealing with atomic weapons in the Near East. The Daily Times is of the opinion that the weapons are defensive in nature.
Nuclear deterrence is also not what it used to be, that is, the US deterring another superpower. Today it is challenged to deal with asymmetric nuclear threats which could come from a terrorist organization. Medium and small sized states acquiring weapons through proliferation seek to deter in a variety of patterns: to stave off conventional invasion, to shake off coercion and blackmail, etc. North Korea’s weapons deter coercive action in the region by the US; Iran wants to avoid ‘regime change’ compulsions; and Pakistan wants to deter perceived military aggression from India. On the other hand, India wishes to ensure security for its posture of a global power.It is possible that with Iran in such a precarious financial situation it fears internal problems more than external ones. Of course thinking you know the other guy's intentions while being severely mistaken is how wars start. Or at least start badly. One only need look up the history of December 7th, 1941 (At Dawn We Slept is a good one) to see the folly of not preparing for capabilities rather than relying on perceived intentions to see the folly of the method of intentions.
The new nuclear states face dangerous constraints — dangerous because they compel unorthodox behavior — like scarce resources, lack of technology and domestic scientific expertise and, last but not least, an undertow of suicidal nationalism. Once the weapons are acquired, the problem of establishing a command and control is compounded once again because of lack of technology and funds. India and Pakistan are faced with severe constraints in establishing their command and control systems, thus introducing the world to a new series of dangers, including accidental launch and repossession by terrorists.
So where will all this lead? In the near term Iran is going to have trouble buying new friends and keeping old ones.
Cross Posted at Classical Values
Sunday, January 11, 2009
A number of people have regretted the fact that the Israelis turned down the Arab peace offer of 2002.
Only after several costly wars did Egypt and later the PLO conclude that, since Israel could not be vanquished, they had better cut a deal. In Beirut in 2002 all the Arab states followed suit, offering Israel normal relations in return for its withdrawal from all the occupied territories, an opening which Israel was foolish to neglect.But what folks fail to realize is that although the there was no official acceptance of the Arab Peace Plan, Gaza is a test case. If the Arabs decide to make Gaza work, other steps can be taken. What the Arabs will not get is a return to the '67 borders. At least not for a long time. What they can get is movement their direction and an integration of the Israeli and Arab economies, which was well under way when Yasser Arafat started the Second Intifada - or as I prefer the Stupifada. Unemployment among the Philistines had gone from about 35% to about 15% in the four years before the Stupidfada. Now it is estimated to be well above 50%.
Now you have to ask yourself - in whose interest is the disconnect between the Israeli and Philistine economies? The PLO for one. You know - the guys that started the Second Stupidfada. Hamas for another - the rocket people. Because a people with jobs is not a people interested in war. The wave of suicide bombers was a tactic specifically designed to get Israel to sever all connections with the Philistines and get the Israelis to impose a blockade on them. It worked. It will take a generation or two to undo that stupidity or brilliant move - depending on your perspective.
H/T Fred Lapides whose blog Good Shit features naked ladies. You will have to look it up. Although I must admit the naked ladies are most attractive. And he has some interesting links as well.
This short video explains why there is a war between Hamas and Israel. You can see other videos in this series at sderotmedia23.
How is it going for the Philistine rocketeers? The Israeli military reports that Hamas is getting tired. They also seem to be losing their enthusiasm for a fight.
A senior Israeli military commander involved in Operation Cast Lead said on Saturday that Hamas militants are suffering from exhaustion and are deserting battle.Hamas is supposed to have 20,000 trained fighters in Gaza. The Israeli Army estimates they have killed 300. An estimate of wounded would be around 3 to 10 times the number of killed. Say we are moderately conservative and account it at 4 times the number of killed. That would tell us that 1,500 fighters are out of action. About 7 1/2%. When a military organization loses 10% of its forces it is considered to have lost almost all its combat power. If the tooth to tail ratio in the Philistine forces is double that of a typical Army the organization might have to be reduced by 20% to lose its combat power. At the rate of 30 killed a day (150 out of action including wounded) it will take Israel about 17 more days to fully reduce the Philistines combat power to a negligible value. That may not be quick enough given the international political realities. Thus the Israeli Army will intensify the fight in order to up the rate of Philistine casualties.
The commander told reporters that Amir Mansi, the commander of Hamas' rocket-launching program in the Gaza City area who was killed by the Israel Defense Forces on Saturday, fired mortars himself after junior Hamas operatives refused to go outside, fearing an Israeli strike.
So how are ordinary Palestinian taking the fighting? Some of them miss the Jews.
Back in Gush Katif, Itai's father, Yossi, owned a cement factory, where he employed Palestinians from Khan Yunis and the Muwassi area.And how was it? The Israelis provided security and jobs. What has Hamas provided? A civil war with Fatah and oppression of the people of Gaza by attempting to impose strict Islamic fundamentalism on them. Hamas was supposed to give them a fundamentalist moral purity that was intended to get them right with Allah so Allah would give them victory. Given the rain of bombs it appears Allah has something else in mind.
"Before the 'expulsion' they helped us put up our protest signs," says Yael Noyman, Itai's mother. "I know, it's surprising, right? We asked them, 'Do you know what these say?' And they said, 'Oh, sure, we understand.'"
The family is still in touch with many of those workers, Noyman says, and they aren't shy about saying how much they miss the Jews. "Boy, are they really crying now," she says, referring less to the current fighting than to the stagnation and hardship that have characterized the Gaza Strip since disengagement in 2005. "They're just waiting for the Israelis to come back in on their tanks and put everything back to the way it was."
Cross Posted at Classical Values
Israel is warning the Philistines of a wider war in order to reach its objectives of stopping rocket attacks on its territory and preventing rearmament of the Philistines of Gaza.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Israel dropped bombs and leaflets on Gaza Saturday, pounding suspected rocket sites and tunnels used by Hamas militants and warning of a wider offensive despite frantic diplomacy to end the bloodshed.So far Hamas (or should I say Harm Us?) has declared that they will not agree to Israel's terms.
Egypt hosted talks aimed at defusing the crisis, but war had the momentum on a bloody day on which more than 30 Palestinians, many of them noncombatants, were killed.
At hospitals, distraught relatives — men in jeans and jackets and women in black Islamic robes — sobbed and shrieked at the loss of family. Flames and smoke rose over Gaza City amid heavy fighting.
A top Hamas leader said the Gaza war has killed the last chance for settlement and negotiations with Israel.Yeah. The Israelis are always blowing their last chances. Except if you read the Hamas Charter.
"Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."They are getting their jihad. They are getting their martyrs. And they are getting creamed. I guess it is the last part they object to.
"There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors."
In any case, given the Hamas Charter what chance was there of an equitable negotiated solution with Hamas? None. So the Israelis have lost their last chance for no solution. I believe, however, the Hamas guy is lying. The Israelis will have future chances at no solution. After all since 1948 Israel has had numerous chances at no solution.
But neither strength nor magnanimity nor the combination of the two has solved Israel's basic problem. For all its brilliant victories on the battlefield, its gains in regional diplomacy remain modest. The Six-Day War of 1967, one of the most decisive military triumphs in history, led not to acceptance but to the famous "Three No's" of the Khartoum conference ("no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it").The wars with Israel will go on until the Arabs find something better to do with their lives. Some times these things take centuries to work out. Israel should be in no hurry. After all their enemies are in no rush for a settlement of differences.
Cross Posted at Classical Values
Friday, January 09, 2009
It is looking like Arab unity is taking hold of developments in the Middle East. It appears that the Arabs are united in their disagreements.
Serious differences of opinion between Syria and Egypt are making the process of reaching a Gaza cease-fire agreement difficult. Syria has advised Hamas not to accept Egypt's cease-fire proposal, arguing it is too vague, particularly regarding the issue of Israel's withdrawal from the Strip.And giving Israel an advantage would be bad. For Hamas and Iran.
In Syria's opinion, which is coordinated with Iran, the Egyptian proposal may undermine Hamas' position in the Gaza Strip and present Israel with an advantage.
And it appears that the Philistines are chasing that chimera of national unity again.
Hamas is demanding a return to the terms of the cease-fire that were reached last June, which bar Israel from attacking the Gaza Strip and demand that the calm be applied in the West Bank after six months. By this, Hamas would show that Israel had not achieved any political gains through its Gaza operation.No matter what agreement is reached, Hamas is going to get the short end of the stick. Iran is out of money and the rest of the Arab world is out of patience. All that is left now is the working out of the surrender terms.
The Egyptian initiative, on the other hand, calls for a cease-fire that would take effect within 48-72 hours and would open border crossings to allow humanitarian aid into the Strip.
During the cease-fire, Egypt would hold talks with Israel and Hamas to reach a long-term agreement, and at a later stage would resume the talks between Hamas and Fatah over forming a national unity government.
Hamas is opposed to this proposal because it believes it recognizes Mahmoud Abbas as the president of the Palestinian Authority. His term officially ends Friday.
Syria has urged Hamas to demand that the first stage of a deal include the opening of the Rafah border crossing, a demand that Egypt rejects.
The Egyptians are only willing to open the crossing on the basis of the terms of a 2005 agreement, which requires the presence of Palestinian Authority officials, European Union observers and Israeli cameras.
So what is being discussed relative to surrender terms?
The United Nations Security Council on Thursday voted in favor of a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire the Israel Defense Forces and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.You have to love the UN. We agree. We agree! To what? That hasn't been decided yet. The greatest clown show on earth. Except for the US Congress.
The United States abstained from the vote.
On Thursday the head of the Arab League said that key Arab nations and Western powers had reached an agreement on the deal.
Amr Moussa on Thursday told reporters an agreement was reached, but diplomats said the exact wording of the text was being fine-tuned by ministers behind closed doors.
On Thursday the head of the Arab League said that key Arab nations and Western powers had reached an agreement on the deal.I suppose they have an agreement in principle. And what is the principle? Let Israel and Hamas fight it out until one or the other gets tired.
Amr Moussa on Thursday told reporters an agreement was reached, but diplomats said the exact wording of the text was being fine-tuned by ministers behind closed doors.
"Peace will be made in the region, not in New York, but actions in New York can support the search for peace in the region," a senior British official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.Egypt and Israel hold the keys to Gaza. They at least are in agreement. "We want nothing to do with the rabble in Gaza. The longer the Philistines stay penned in the Gaza cage the better for all concerned." Egypt, like Israel is not happy with their connection to the Gazans.
With Palestinian civilian casualties mounting, the Arabs are under intense pressure to get a resolution - and several diplomats said they want it before Friday prayers at mosques in the region.
"We are not going to leave without a vote today," Moussa told reporters. The key elements are the withdrawal (of Israeli forces), cease-fire, the humanitarian situation, the opening of crossings.
But France, which holds the Security Council presidency this month, might want to delay a vote until Friday, diplomats said.
How about the Gazans? What are they currently after?
In a possible sign Hamas was unwilling to compromise yet, a senior Hamas official in Syria, Mohammed Nazzal, told Syrian TV on Thursday that the group would never surrender and vowed to fight house to house against Israeli troops in Gaza.Hamas wants a chance to fight house to house where they do best. The Israeli response of course is to lay siege to the major cities and let hunger and thirst do their work for them. That takes a while depending on the amount of stored food and water. Which would argue for another week or two of fighting given that pumped water supplies were cut off at the start of the dust up.
A joint statement issued by Palestinian groups based in Syria's capital
Thursday rejected the Egyptian-French initiative, saying it would undermine Gazans' resistance and give Israel a free hand to continue aggression.
Hamas is normally a member of the coalition, but it wasn't clear if it signed the statement. Hamas officials in Syria were not available for comment. Osama Hamdan, the Hamas representative in Lebanon who is close to the group's top leader, said he was not aware of the statement.
The fact that one top Hamas guy was not willing to sign on to a blood and guts statement may indicate their resolve is weakening. No matter what happens though the Hamas guys can point to one statement or another and say "that was our position all along." Because Arabs never lose wars and they are always right.
Now there is a headline I bet you thought you would never see. And I bet you can't guess who is supporting them at the UN. It is not just the USA.
The United Nations Security Council met overnight Thursday on a resolution designed to bring a speedy halt to Israel's 13-day-old offensive against Hamas in Gaza. The vote over a resolution was apparently postponed due to Israeli pressure.That is diplo speak by the Ababs for "Thump Hamas as hard as you want. We don't mind. In fact we encourage it."
Key Arab nations and Western powers reached agreement on the main elements of a resolution, the head of the Arab League said.
The resolution was supported by the United States and Arab nations that have close ties to Hamas. But it will be up to Israel and Hamas to decide to stop their military activities.
"Peace will be made in the region, not in New York, but actions in New York can support the search for peace in the region," a senior British official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.
The "deal" starts out with the usual boilerplate.
The latest draft "stresses the urgency of and calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza." It "condemns all violence and hostilities directed against civilians and all acts of terrorism."And then it gets to the good stuff.
The draft also calls on UN member states "to intensify efforts to provide arrangements and guarantees in Gaza in order to sustain a durable cease-fire and calm, including to prevent illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition and to ensure the sustained re-opening" of border crossings.It is well known that the border crossings will not be permanently re-opened until the Philistines stop their attacks through the crossings. Which means Gaza needs a new government because Hamas is committed irrevocably to the destruction of Israel.
This is a sea change in Middle East politics. One that actually happened in 2006. And why are the Arabs so inclined? Rather simple really. They fear Iran more than they fear Israel. This fact has been obvious since the Hizballah war of 2006 when Saudi Arabia came out at the beginning of the war supporting Israel at the expense of Hizballah/Iran. At least at first until hastily retracted in solidarity with their Philistine "brothers". That would be the brothers Saudi Arabia kicked out of its territory when they started getting all militant and such. Bunch of trouble makers those Philistines.
And what about the strategic defeat Israel suffered in 2006 against Hizballah? It looks like Hizballah is in no hurry to defeat Israel again.
"Lebanon denounces and condemns the firing of rockets and the retaliatory action and believes that such action is in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701," Siniora said in a statement, according to Lebanese press reports.Of course the government of Lebanon wants no part of a repeat of 2006. But what about the "real winners" Hizballah?
"We have asked the competent authorities in cooperation with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to investigate," he said.
No group has claimed responsibility for the rocket firing, which lightly wounded two elderly residents of a retirement home in Nahariya.
Lebanese Information Minister Tarek Mitri told AFP that Hizbullah had assured the cabinet that it "remains committed to stability and Resolution 1701," which brought an end to the Second Lebanon War.Followed by the usual Hizballah chest thumping.
A Damascus-based leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, Ahmed Jibril, threatened Saturday to open up new military fronts against Israel if the conflict in Gaza were to escalate.What exactly does if the conflict in Gaza were to escalate mean? I'd say it was already fairly well escalated.
I think it may fairly well be assumed that the players in the Middle East think that Hamas deserved a thumping. And that includes their main supporter Iran. Now why the sea change? The oil is running out. Not soon. Maybe not for fifty or a hundred years. But the end is in sight. And if not the actual supply of oil then the demand. The world has gotten serious about getting off the oil standard. How serious? So serious that even China is producing a plug in hybrid.
BYD Auto's plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, the F3DM, is now on sale in China, the company announced this week at a press conference in Shenzhen, China.And who is behind BYD? Now there is an interesting story. but I will give you a hint. Who would guess that the center of the automotive world is no longer Detroit (well that is obvious) but in Omaha, Nebraska? Omaha, Nebraska? That is not so obvious.
The F3DM, which will retail for 149,800 yuan ($21,200), can travel 100 km (63 miles) on its battery before needing to be recharged, according to BYD Auto.
The car can be plugged in to any average Chinese 220-volt wall outlet to be recharged.
While there are other plug-in electric hybrid cars available for sale, BYD Auto's F3DM is the first one in China to be mass-produced and, therefore, widely available to the general public, according to both BYD and The Wall Street Journal.
BYD Auto told reporters at the press conference that it expects to sell 350,000 F3DM cars in 2009. It also plans to launch an all-electric vehicle in 2009.
In September, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet announced that MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company, a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary, had bought $230 million worth of stock in BYD, giving it a 10 percent interest in the company.The plans for an American roll out in 2010 have been delayed to at least 2011. In any case the hand writing is on the wall. The dominance of oil will come to an end. Not soon. But the end is in sight.
Average Americans may also soon have a chance to buy a piece of BYD. The company also announced that it plans to begin exporting the F3DM to the U.S. in 2010.
Many automakers, including General Motors and Toyota, have been working on plug-in electric vehicles for mass production. All have said that the battery technology for this type of vehicle has been the most challenging aspect of the development process.
It should be no surprise then, that the Shenzhen, China-based company which is now a major player in the Chinese auto industry, started out in 1995 as a cell phone battery manufacturer.
And how about those geniuses in Detroit? GM has put the Chevy Volt factory on hold.
General Motors is suspending work on the $370 million factory slated to build engines for the Chevrolet Volt, but says the plug-in hybrid will appear in showrooms by the end of 2010 as promised.Idiots.
The decision comes as GM frantically slashes costs in a desperate bid to survive while the White House dithers on a bailout. GM and Chrysler have said they could be out of money by the end of the year, but Congress failed to approve $14 billion in short-term loans to the Big Three and the Bush administration appears to be in no hurry to act.
With cash dwindling fast, GM says it has no choice but to postpone work on the the factory in Flint, Michigan, where 300 people would build the 1.4-liter engines slated for the Volt hybrid and Chevrolet Cruze compact.
"It's temporarily on hold as we assess our cash situation," GM spokeswoman Sharon Basel told the Detroit Free Press. "I don't think it's any surprise that we're studying and reviewing everything, given the position we're in."
GM is doing everything short of searching for coins under the couch cushions in Rick Wagoner's office, but the Volt program has until now been sacrosanct. Rightfully so, because the range-extended electric car is the centerpiece of GM's campaign to recast itself as a company that builds fuel-efficient vehicles. It's the one thing GM can point to and say "See? We get it. We finally get it." But things have gotten so bad even the Volt is taking a hit.
In any case new car companies will step into the breech. And some old companies like Toyota are hustling their butts to get a plug in hybrid on the market. And if you can't wait there are plug in hybrid conversion kits.
Not content to be a potential supplier of lithium ion batteries for GM's plug-in hybrid programs, A123 Systems will start selling battery packs that conversion companies can use to transform current hybrid vehicles to plug-in capability. The company has already been working with Hymotion on plug-in kits and they have a contract to convert ten Prius for the California South Coast Air Quality Management District.And if not 2008 then soon.
The kits will be completely integrated and designed to be installed in under two hours. The installed price of the 5kWh kit for a Prius is $10,000 and gives a range of 14 miles on battery. A123 CEO David Vieau testified at a recent US Senate hearing in support of tax breaks for customers buying plug-in conversions. Fleet testing of the systems is ongoing and sales are expected to start in 2008.
The lithium ion batteries are the stumbling block as evidenced by comments #30, #34, and others at the link. However, the problems will get solved. There is a lot of money at stake.
Well we are kind of far afield from the Gaza 2009 war. Which just goes to show you that everything in this world is interconnected. Some obscure guy in a lab is even now working on something that will change the world for the better in a big way. Hamas should have been paying attention. Fools. Peace in the Middle East through better battery technology.
So now you know why Israel has clout among the Arabs at the UN. Batteries.
Cross Posted at Classical Values