Friday, December 09, 2005


From Israel: Arlene Kushner, December 8, 2005

From Israel

Arlene Kushner

December 8, 2005

[] The so-called Rafah Agreement, coerced upon us by Condoleezza Rice, involves more than terms for crossings at Rafah, between Gaza and Egypt. One key part of the agreement addresses the issue of "free passage" -- that is, the right of Palestinians to travel across sovereign Israeli territory to get back and forth between Gaza and Judea/Samaria. I knew that negotiations were going on, and I knew that the PA had demanded that their security people be used on those buses. I have been waiting for word on how those negotiations were resolved. Well, the word I am receiving now (from one source: Arutz Sheva) is that the talks have halted because Israel won't give on the terms being demanded.

There are several outstanding issues: The Palestinians want passage from Gaza to three different places -- outside of Hebron, to Ramallah, and to Nablus. Israel says one route only, to the Hebron area. The Palestinians want buses running back and forth all day long. Israel says five two-way trips a day is the limit. Most significantly, the Palestinians say that they want their buses to make the trips. Israel says nothing doing -- it must be Israeli buses. (It is hardly necessary to spell out the potential for mischief that would exist if Palestinian buses, blocked to Israeli security checks, were to drive across Israel.)

I have one report that says the US is backing the Palestinian demand for several destination points in Judea/Samaria so that people don't have to go through checkpoints there, but have not yet confirmed this. Nor do I know what the American position on the other issues is. In any event, Defense Minister Mofaz is not inclined to be conciliatory here because the PA is allowing terrorists through the Rafah crossing, and because of the current spate of Kassam attacks.

[] Last week, on November 29 (which marks the anniversary of the day in 1947 when the UN voted for partition of Palestine), "International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People" was observed at the UN.

There is no parallel day of recognition at the UN for any other people in the world.

A ceremony was attended by UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan and presidents of the Security Council and the General Assembly. Maps were displayed that showed "Palestine," but no Israel. (As Arutz Sheva commented, not even Israel within the '47 partition lines.) The master of ceremonies asked that everyone rise for "a minute of silence in memory of all those who have given their lives for the cause of the Palestinian people.” I understand full well what the UN is. But even by UN standards this is shocking: a moment of silence for suicide bombers.

Anne Bayefsky, a clear-think and articulate monitor of UN activity, has videos and photos of the event on her website Take a look.

[] I have written here before about the compromise being crafted by the International Red Cross to allow the Israeli Magen David Adom to join. The ostensible problem all these years has been a dispute over the use of symbols. Israel will not function under the sign of the cross and was told that the Jewish star was not an official symbol of the international relief organization. However, the fact that Red Crescent IS allowed as an official symbol exposes the degree of hypocrisy and bias that were at work here. Now a "neutral" diamond shape has been devised that Israel can use in international settings so that its humanitarian relief services can be provided internationally and it can participate in conferences and the like.

The final decision on this was made today in Geneva, in a vote that was not unanimous (because of the opposition of Arab states) of signatorees of the Geneva Convention.

There are those who see this as a victory of sorts, a step in the right direction, and who believe that it is important for Israel to be a participating member of the international community in this respect.

I myself have problems with the aspects of this agreement that are demeaning: Israel can put a red star inside the neutral diamond, but only if the country being visited doesn't mind and gives permission. The Magen David Adom is a sterling organization. I have the impulse to say that any nation that would rather not see our red Jewish star can do without our assistance.

The Chairman of American Friends of Magen David Adom today released a statement that in part read: "The non-acceptance of Magen David Adom has long been a stain on the international community in general and the International Red Cross in particular. The placing of narrow political interests ahead of humanitarian causes that has taken place over the last few days in Geneva, and for 60 years prior to this week, is both intolerable and dangerous..."

[] A poll released yesterday shows that Netanyahu is favored by Likud members over the other candidates for the leadership position by a solid plurality. (A majority is not possible because we are looking at five candidates and the vast likelihood of a run-off.) Likud primary is December 18; this issue will be resolved before long.

Additionally, according to the poll, the Likud headed by Natanyahu would draw more votes than the party headed by anyone else -- even though this would still represent an enormous loss in votes over what it drew last time. National election is in late March, and it's near impossible to predict what will be happening by then.

[] Now that Tsachi Hanegbi, who was filling in as Likud chair until the primary, has left to join Kadima, a committee headed by Danny Naveh will run Likud until the primary. The goal is forging of a sense of unity.

[] A twenty-year old Israeli soldier was knifed to death today at the Kaladia checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah. After it happened, the IDF closed down the checkpoint and a riot began. Said the brigade commander, Col Miki Edelstein, "Unfortunately, this incident interfers with our attempts to improve the Palestinians' way of life. We will now be forced to restrict them to afford our troops maximal protection."

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