Monday, December 19, 2005


From Israel: Arlene Kushner, December 18, 2005

From Israel

Arlene Kushner

December 18, 2005

[] As I write there is breaking news here that Sharon has been taken to the hospital. It appears he has had a mild stroke. He reportedly was having a meeting with Peres when he blacked out and was rushed to Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital; he has regained consciousness.

[] The Likud primary is tomorrow. Benyamin Netanyahu and Silvan Shalom are still the frontrunners with Netanyahu ahead in the polls, anywhere from 20% to 1.2% depending on which poll you accept. (This teaches us something about the reliability of polls.) Accusations are flying hot and heavy. Netanyahu charges Shalom with planning to turn Likud into an extension of Sharon's Kadima party; my understanding of the situation is that he's not wrong on this. Reportedly Shalom, relying on the old Sharon machinery, has better mechanisms for getting out the vote.

In order to win the primary, the frontrunner must receive at least 40% of the vote; if he does not there will be a run-off. The fact that there are two other candidates -- MK Yisrael Katz, Agriculture Minister, and Moshe Feiglin, head of the Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) faction -- trailing behind, but nonetheless drawing votes from the frontrunners, makes it more likely that this will be the scenario.

130,000 Likud party members will vote. Ynet reports that Netanyahu is requesting Likud members who do come to vote to sign a loyalty pledge that they will not vote for another party. This seems a strange thing to do. You can belong to one party and vote in that party's primary, and then vote for another party in an election. The impetus for this action is clear, however: There are people registered in Likud who are Sharon loyalists and fully intend to support Kadima, but are planning to vote in the Likud primary to support Sharon's candidate.

[] There is news of renewed negotiations between National Union and National Religious Party regarding unification for elections. One of the major issues of contention has been the question of who would head the combined list, Benny Elon of NU or Zevulun Olev of NRP; apparently there is now talk of a compromise figure being brought in.

[] Military Intelligence Chief Aharon Ze'evi Farkash, cited by Ynet, believes we may be looking at the establishment of a Hamastan and a Fatahstan. That is, a separation of what is today considered PA territory into an area controlled by Hamas in Gaza and another controlled by Fatah in Judea and Samaria. Not implausible, when you consider the current situation.

[] A Kassam rocket fired from nothern Gaza has landed in an industrial zone south of Ashkelon, for the second time in just days. There were no casualties, but potential targets in the area include a major oil pipeline, a power plant, and a desalination plant. IDF response has been to bomb the routes in Gaza taken by the terrorists en route to launching the rockets.

Reportedly this evening Defense Minister Mofaz is meeting with security officials to discuss how to deal with the growing threat to Israeli cities of Kassam rockets.Are they surprised that this is happening? There was ample warning that it was coming, in spite of Sharon's declarations that the "disengagement" would improve our security situation.

I wonder if people see it yet: That the brave residents of Gush Katif took the hits that the rest of Israel is now starting to get worried about. They weren't 'parasites,' getting perks and causing expenses, they were a first line of defense and protected the rest of us from a great deal.

[] In my book it's an unacceptable outrage: Azmi Bishara is an Israeli Arab and a member of the Knesset; he is the founder of the National Democratic Assembly party. This past week, not for the first time, he travelled out of the country and made inflammatory and hostile (if not technically treasonous) remarks about Israel. In Lebanon without having received official permission to visit a hostile country, he gave talks and made a statement for the Lebanense newspaper Al-Safir. Among the things he said:

"[The] 1.2 million Palestinians living in Israel...are like all Arabs, only with Israeli citizenship forced upon them. We are the original residents of Palestine, not those who came from Poland and Russia." "Return Palestine to us and take your democracy with you. We Arabs are not interested in it."

Democratic principles that permit freedom of speech are critically important. But how does a nation allow someone who does not subscribe to the principles of democracy, but rather uses those principles for his own subversive ends, to remain a member of the parliament? His suggestion that Israeli Arabs had citizenship "forced" upon them rankles, as well.

[] You may have picked this up. I believe it to be of more than passing interest:

Last week former IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon, gave an interview with the NY Sun, in which he said that he believes that Iraq moved its chemical weapons to Syria six weeks before the Iraqi war started. I have long been under this impression because of various intelligence reports I've seen. And you don't find military men much straighter than Moshe Ya'alon. (He was fired by Sharon for refusing to play the game and speaking about the disaster that would follow the "disengagement.") This statement comes in the face of President Bush's declaration that he functioned on erronious information regarding Iraq's WMD. Says Ya'alon, no one has gone to Syria to look for these weapons.

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