Now that the school year has safely opened (much to the surprise of many of us) and the war is behind us for the moment, it would be a good time to sit back and take stock of the state of the nation and the region at the present turbulent moment.
First, returning to Operation Protective Edge, very sadly 2 more people died over the weekend from their wounds. The first was a soldier on leave, who had come through the fighting in Gaza unscathed but was critically wounded as a civilian while on leave in Ashkelon. Tragically, Netanel Maman from Gan Yavne succumbed to his wounds on Friday morning.
This brings the number of soldiers killed in Operation Protective Edge to 72.
May their memories be for a blessing.
Another casualty of the war – or at least one that has been wounded in battle – has been the US-Israel relationship. For example, those missiles whose delivery was held up during the war will be released soon – Whatever the Hellfire that means:
WASHINGTON — Exactly how bad are Israel-US relations today? Who the Hellfire knows.
What is clear is that two weeks after the revelation that the US had added an additional level of scrutiny to resupplying the IDF with weapons, business was anything but usual regarding the military-to-military relationship upon which Israel relies.
It has been two weeks since The Wall Street Journal first reported that the White House had been caught off-guard by transfers of military equipment from the Pentagon to the IDF in the course of Operation Protective Edge.
According to that report, the administration responded to the surprise by tying up further arms transfers in an additional multi-agency review process. Some transfers requested by the IDF have since been released, but a request for additional Hellfire missiles remains unfulfilled.
Asked about the Hellfires almost two weeks ago, State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said that “we generally don’t talk about specific deliveries after they’re requested and before they’re delivered, but I will say that things are being — things that have been requested from Israel are — we’re taking a little bit of additional care now given the situation, and if there were requests for such missiles, that would fall under that.”
The report of the “additional care” emerged after a much-reported dust-up between Washington and Jerusalem over Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempts to broker an Israel-Hamas ceasefire, in consultation with Qatar and Turkey. The timing reinforced perceptions that political — and even personal — considerations may be involved in the decision to freeze the transfer.
Instead, in repeated statements, the State Department emphasized that the additional scrutiny was tied to the ongoing military in Gaza.
With a ceasefire in its third day on Friday, however, there was still no word from the administration regarding a timeline for the missiles’ delivery.
In fact, on Wednesday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that the ceasefire had not impacted the additional level of scrutiny that the transfer of weapons to Israel has faced in recent weeks.
Such delays are not unprecedented. Previous administrations — and this administration — have put a temporary kibosh on weapons transfers to Israel in the past when relationships between Washington and Jerusalem have soured.
at least publicly — there has been little explanation as to why the precision missiles have been singled out for extra, protracted scrutiny.
It is, ultimately, a scrutiny that, according to all sources, will be over “soon.” But how long “soon” means, and what steps Israel is meant to take in the meantime, are anything but clear.
“Soon” means “when the current Administration is out on its ear”. That’s my own personal feeling anyway.
For an interesting take on the state of Israel-US relations read Haviv Rettig Gur’s article “the root causes of Israel-US mistrust“.
It’s not just Israel’s self-defence that offends American sensibilities. It’s Jewish houses too, as the US objects to Israel’s declaration of 4,000 dunams (1,000 hectares) of land in Gush Etzion as State Land:
The IDF on Sunday conferred the status of state land on 4,000 dunams in the Gush Etzion region, thus ending the civil administration’s investigation into the possibility that parcels were private Palestinian property.
The new designation for an area known as Gevaot opens the door for settlers to advance plans to build a fifth city in the West Bank on those dunams.
“We have long made clear our opposition to continued settlement activity,” a State Department official said. “This announcement, like every other settlement announcement Israel makes, planning step they approve and construction tender they issue, is counterproductive to Israel’s stated goal of a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians.”
“We urge the government of Israel to reverse this decision,” the US official said in Washington.
The land had previously been listed as survey land, a designation that prevented settlers and the army from moving building plans through the planning system. The Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said that it had acted under guidelines from the upper political echelon issued after the end of the IDF’s mission to return the bodies of three teenagers which Hamas terrorists kidnapped and killed in June.
The 4,000 dunams are located just outside the Alon Shvut settlement in an area of Gush Etzion, that Israel believes will be included within its final borders in any final status solution.
This is not to blame the US entirely. The Palestinians and Israeli extreme leftists too object to this expropriation:
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said that this status change must be reversed.
“This decision will lead to more instability. This will only inflame the situation after the war in Gaza,” Abu Rudaineh said.
Don’t forget the Holy Olive Trees which accompany every Palestinian narrative:
A local Palestinian mayor said Palestinians owned the tracts and harvested olive trees on them.
I’m actually not holding my breath waiting for actual Jewish homes to be built on that land, because there’s a history there, one not to Israel’s advantage, one that clearly illustrates Israel’s spinelessness in the face of diplomatic pressure:
The area of Gva’ot was first developed as an IDF Nahal community in 1984, following a 1982 cabinet decision. The military closed it in 1996. For the next decade, the Shvut Yisrael Yeshiva made use of the site with small modular homes.
Since 1998 the Gush Etzion Regional Council has consistently pushed to build a city in that area. Initial plans for 6,000 homes in Gva’ot were abandoned in 2000 because the diplomatic climate was not supportive.
The plans were picked up again in 2008 and moved forward in 2009 after the Annapolis peace process fell apart.
In 2012, the Defense Ministry gave initial authorization to build 523 homes there but then froze the project.
In June of this year, the Gush Etzion Regional Council reissued its call for work to move forward on Gva’ot as a response to the deaths of Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah.
The three teens were kidnapped at a bus stop near the Gva’ot site.
What are the odds that this building scheme will once again be put off? The blog Israelstreet (which I just discovered) gives a more detailed history of the aborted building plans and talks about the Farce at Gva’ot. More importantly, the writer reminds us that Gush Etzion in its entirety forms the southern gateway to Jerusalem. No other country would abdicate the entrance to its capital to an enemy entity. Why is Israel demanded to do so? (Answers on a postcard please).
Of course it’s not only the Americans or the Palestinians who are objecting vociferously to the building proposals in Gva’ot. Egypt, the UK and the UN have piled on, as expected. Will the government withstand their pressure?
It’s not as if Israel has been expanding massively in Judea and Samaria. Sadly, the opposite is true, as there has been a massive drop in building in Judea and Samaria over the last year (but don’t expect Israel to be congratulated for this fall):
There was a 72 percent drop in settler housing starts during the first half of 2014, compared to the same time last year, according to data published on Sunday by the Central Bureau of Statistics.
Similarly, there was a 7.2% decrease in the number of finished homes in West Bank settlements, according to the CBS. This matched the 7% decline in finished homes country wide.
The 10.8% decrease in housing starts across the nation, was markedly different from the steep decline in West Bank settlements.
According to the CBS, work began on 1,807 settler homes through June 2013, compared with 507 in the same period this year.
The dip sounds dramatic, but construction in Judea and Samaria settlements was unusually high in 2013 in comparison to the last few years.
The conflict with the Palestinians in the West Bank remains as tense and volatile as ever. Security forces were hunting for suspects involved in 3 explosive attacks in Samaria on Sunday, while a toddler and a bus driver were hurt in separate incidents when Palestinians attacked buses with rocks. There were several other violent incidents recently too:
A three-year-old toddler was lightly wounded on Monday night by Arab terrorists that hurled rocks through the window of the bus she was riding in, as it passed through Uzi Narkis Street in the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat.
The toddler was wounded while riding on the Egged 143 bus line from Tel Tzion, located north of Jerusalem in the Binyamin area of Samaria, to the Israeli capital.
Just shortly afterwards a bus driver was also lightly wounded on the road between Migdalim and Kfar Tapuah in Samaria, after Arab terrorists threw two molotov cocktails at him.
One of the firebombs struck the bus’s windshield, shattering the glass and wounding the driver who was treated on the scene and did not require further medical attention.
Arab terrorists on Saturday night threw a molotov cocktail at “Beit Meyuhas,” an historical Jewish home from the 19th century CE in Jerusalem’s City of David area just south of the Old City. A 45-year-old Jewish man was wounded lightly in the attack, suffering first and second-degree burns to his head.
Another baby girl, this time 11-months-old, was victim last Wednesday of an Arab rock attack on the car she was in at Yitzhar junction in Samaria. The baby suffered light wounds, which medics called a “miracle” given the fact the rock that hit her was the size of a fist.
Likewise last Saturday night Yedaya Sharchaton was critically wounded while driving with his wife Hadasah and one-year-old daughter Nitzan in Judea north of Hevron, after Arab terrorists threw rocks through the windshield, hitting him and causing the car to flip.
The rise in attacks comes as senior officials in Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction have recently said they reached a “political decision” to support Arab terrorists “slaughtering” Jews living in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem.
In response to Palestinian violence and incitement, which has been influenced by Hamas and in turn encourages the terrorists, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has demanded that Arab MKs who took part in a Hamas “victory” rally should be jailed:
MKs who attended a victory rally for Hamas are traitors who support terrorism and must go to prison, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Sunday.
Liberman’s comments came after Balad MKs Jamal Zahalka and Haneen Zoabi and UAL leader Ibrahim Sarsour participated in an event on Friday at the Kabul Regional Council near Acre, organized by the Monitoring Committee of the Israeli-Arab leadership under the banner “Gaza Won.”
… they expressed open support for the enemy that fought against Israel for two months.”
As such, Liberman wrote, all of the participants should be seen as traitors and supporters of terrorism, be put on trial and be sent to prison. …
The foreign minister described the Monitoring Committee as “extremists who support enemies of the state. Talking to them sends a negative message to Israeli Arabs who are loyal to the state, and strengthens the extremists who support terrorism,” he said.
Speaking of support for terrorism, Mahmoud Abbas is back to old blackmail games – threatening Israel with a Hobbs Choice of withdrawal to the 1967 borders or going to the ICC.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told a Fatah conference in Ramallah that if Israel did not agree to negotiate over a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, he would join international bodies, including the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Israel Radio reported.
On Friday, the International Criminal Court prosecutor said that Palestine was now eligible to join the Rome Statute and file war crimes charges against Israel.
Let him try. I can’t wait for him to go to the ICC. Because if “Palestine” is eligible to join, Palestine is also “eligible” to be sued by Israel for war crimes committed against it. Pass the popcorn…
Some good news from the Palestinians: The PA said the budget for the unity government with Hamas was “below zero”:
The budget trouble was a result of a failure among donors to send funds as scheduled to the PA, which functions largely based on international aid.
“The US has not provided a single penny since January 1, and Europe and Arab states only provided a third of what they were scheduled to give,” al-Ayasa told the Palestinian news agency Ma’an.
“The government’s budget is below zero, and it’s starting to borrow from banks to move forward, because only less than third of donor funds that were scheduled to be received this year arrived,” he said.
The PA refused to pay the officials in June because they were appointed after Hamas ousted bitter rivals Fatah — which dominates the PLO — from Gaza in 2007 and therefore were not registered as its employees.
The pay row was the first challenge to the new Palestinian unity government, formed to try to end years of Palestinian rivalry, and Qatar stepped in to cover the costs to former Hamas employees.
A Palestinian official speaking on condition of anonymity said the PA will have to ensure the payments do not jeopardize international aid.
“Hamas is regarded as a terrorist organization by many abroad,” the source said. “The government wants to obtain guarantees that it is allowed to pay these wages.”
It’s about time international aid to the Palestinains was curtailed – perhaps then they would start to create something constructive rather than working solely towards the destruction of Israel.
Meanwhile there has been renewed fighting on Golan spilling over from the multi-front war in Syria between Assad’s forces, Syrian rebels and ISIS terrorists:
Two mortar shells fired from Syria exploded in Israeli territory on Monday as fighting between rebels and the Assad regime’s military raged in the Quneitra area.
Both explosions are likely the result of stray fire. On Monday morning, a mortar shell fell in the region of Ein Zivan on the Golan Heights, and in the afternoon a second shell exploded in Israel close to the international border near Quneitra.
The IDF also shot down an Iranian drone fired from Syria, again, not certain if it was fired intentionally or “strayed” into Israeli territory.
The IDF is now bolstering its forces in the Quneitra area to counter any cross-fire or possible attack.
The fighting in the Quneitra area led to the capture by Syrian rebels of 44 Fijian UN peacekeepers and the lucky escape of 70 Phillipino peacekeepers who were brought to safety; according to some rumours they are in Israel.
As if we haven’t got enough tzuris (troubles) in our region, Iran unveiled its latest surface-to-air missile.
However, I can’t leave this post with all this depressing news. Some good news which flew under my radar last week was that Adelle Biton, the little 3 year old who had been so terribly injured in a rock-throwing attack near Ariel last year, is being released home. She is now 4 years old and has a long arduous road ahead of her, but she is progressing slowly:
After a year and a half of intensive operations and treatment, four-and-a-half-year-old Adelle Biton will be returning to her home in the town of Yakir, in Samaria, tomorrow (Thursday).
But along with her family’s joy at her return, there are also fears for the long road to recovery which lies ahead for the infant victim of terror.
On March 2013, as she was travelling in a car with her siblings and mother Adva close to the city of Ariel, their car was ambushed by Arabs, who hurled rocks at the car, causing it to veer off the road and crash headfirst into a truck.
Adelle, who was just three years old at the time, was left critically injured and fighting for her life; investigators say she was struck directly in the head by fist-sized rock thrown by her attackers.
Adding to the sense of celebration, Adva is currently in her ninth month of pregnancy – and will soon give birth to her first son after four daughters.
“Thank God, there will be happiness and joy… God is helping us,” she said.
We wish Adelle continued refuah shlema, and besha’ah tova to her mother on her imminent good news.