Monday, November 28, 2005


From Israel: Arlene Kushner, November 27, 2005

From Israel

Arlene Kushner

November 27, 2005

[] On Thursday Middle East Newline reported the following:

"Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has drafted a plan for a withdrawal from virtually all of the West Bank by 2008.
"Political sources said Sharon has begun briefing senior U.S. officials of his intention to withdraw unilaterally from more than 95 percent of the West Bank..."
Is there anyone surprised?

[] Speaking of Sharon... Media response to him at this point is mixed. There have been several reports of surveys done, all of which predict a major victory for his new party, Kadima. Yet there are frequent reminders in the press of the fact that there have been many attempts to start centrist parties, all of which have failed in short order.
This past Friday, Jerusalem Post editor, David Horowitz, himself a centrist, wrote: "If we had been hoping for clarity and stark choices, the Ariel Sharon engineered remake of Israeli politics has, so far, produced more obfuscation and confusion."
But with all this said and done, it is the straight-talking Caroline Glick whose comments ring true for me. She wrote:
"...Sharon's belief in his own infallibility has led him to bolt his own party and believe that he will win elections in a new party that lacks party machinery of any kind...
"...Sharon's campaign is based upon his pledge that he will enact no further unilateral withdrawals in Judea and Samaria. And yet his own party members like former Labor MK Haim Ramon openly indicate that Sharon is lying..."
"...The campaign against Sharon must be based on two issues: his personal corruption and his political perfidy...
"In 2003, Sharon, who was then the subject of two criminal probes, was able to neutralize the issue of corruption mainly because the legal elites overplayed their hand, making the public believe Sharon's protestations that he was being victimized. Today such arguments cannot his side stands his son, MK Omri Sharon - a convicted felon..."

[] Meanwhile, on Friday the Rafah crossing was officially opened with a flourish of ceremony to which Israel was not party -- the major participants being Arab officials from various states, members of Hamas and members of the EU.
It appears that Israel won the negotiations battle with the Palestinians with regard to Israel's right to be privvy to real time streaming video of those using the crossing -- moving between Egypt and Gaza. I have taken the time today to confirm this with several people in various gov't offices, including Mark Regev, Foreign Ministry spokesman, who stated unequivocally that we did have access.

[] There are several equivocations here, however. While we can SEE who is crossing, there is nothing we can do about it. The Palestinians, who have full control over the crossing (with the EU members serving only as monitors), have declared that any Palestinian who wants to can cross. Already a major Hamas fugitive, who has been wanted by Israel for over a decade, and has been hiding in Egypt, has crossed into Gaza.
What is more, it is important to remember that the final parameters for other issues outlined in the Rafah agreement (the crossing from Gaza to Judea/Samaria and the convoys of trucks with merchandise to enter Israel) are still being negotiated and will be for some weeks down the road. How bad the news will be for Israel is still not clear.

[] It must be mentioned, as well that the role of the EU is making many uneasy. It was supposed to be that we were on the brink of a whole new relationship with the EU, and that this lead to our granting permission for the EU presence at Rafah. Things have soured, however, with exposure of a draft of a report from the European Union that regards eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods as "illegal settlements." I hope to address this in some more detail soon.

[] While the PA is crowing about the momentous event for the Palestinians represented by the Rafah crossing opening, there is other news regarding Gaza:
Hamas has turned the former community of Neve Dekalim, which had been the largest of the Gush Katif communities, into a training camp for terrorists. They refer to it as a "martyr training camp." (WorldNewsDaily) Imagine, if you can, how this feels for the former residents of Neve Dekalim.

[] It pleases me to end here with a "good news" piece, once again medical in nature:
Here in Israel, the ten year old voluntary organization Save A Child's Heart has performed free surgery and catheritizations on 1,400 children born with life-treatening heart conditions. Children are accepted for care without regard for race, creed, color, religion or gender, and come from all over the world -- China, Romania, Vietnam, etc. etc., and yes, the Palestinian Authority. Donations cover the cost, often considerable, of expenses such as transporting the sick children to Israel. Most of the surgery is performed in the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, where there is a 96% success rate.

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