Wednesday, January 04, 2006


From Israel: Arlene Kushner, January 3, 2006

From Israel

Arlene Kushner

January 3, 2006

[] Channel 10 carried a report today (subsequently picked up by all major online news sources here) that the police have evidence that the Sharon family took $3 million in bribes from Austrian businessman Martin Schlaff. The case has been under investigation for two years -- it is in connection with this that Sharon's son Omri was convicted -- but now reportedly evidence has been confiscated from a Schlaff home in Israel (although Martin Schlaff himself has studiously avoiding entering Israel).

Having learned some of the sordid details of this truly convoluted affair several months ago, I have been waiting for it to come together. If it is truly the case that evidence has been secured, it should spell the end of Sharon's free ride. Our nation deserves better than this. Political opponents are already calling for Sharon's resignation. He's slipped away without repercussions before, however, and we will have to see how this plays out.

Omri has already resigned from the Knesset.

[] IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, testifying before the Knesset Foreign Affairs ad Defense Committee today admitted that the "no go" zone was designed to keep Kassams from hitting strategic sites in the Ashkelon area, but that it would not prevent them from hitting Sderot, which is not protected.

The conclusion of Committee Chair Yuval Steinitz is that a ground operation would ultimately be necessary.

Also testifying for the Committee was Yuval Diskin, head of Shin Bet, Israeli security. According to Arutz Sheva, he said that it would be difficult for Israel if Hamas won the PA elections because once they had influence in the government the PA would make no effort at all to stop terrorist attacks. I found that a rather strange comment, for to the best of my knowledge the attempt the PA is currently making to stop terrorist attacks against us is close to non-existent anyway.

Diskin said that Fatah already has Kassams with a range of 30 km.

[] As of Sunday Likud will be an opposition party and no longer part of the government. That means that the Likud members who remain part of the Cabinet will resign by then -- Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom; Education Minister Limor Livnat; Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz; and Health Minister Danny Naveh.

It's a strange set of circumstances, having a switch in party by the head of the gov't. There is the possibility that Shimon Peres, who has joined Sharon at Kadima, will be appointed interim Foreign Minister. Sharon is said to be wavering because he does not want to commit to giving Peres this position after the election (assuming Kadima wins the election and Sharon isn't indicted, of course).

Netanyahu would have called the party into the role of opposition sooner, but wanted to wait until Sharon had his heart catherization, scheduled for Thursday.

[] The National Union and National Religious Party will not be running as a right-wing bloc designed to cull more votes. After off again/on again negotiations the parties went their own ways with mutual recriminations. I find this deeply saddening. Information from persons I trust implicitly from within National Union lead me to believe the fault does not lie with them; wherever the fault does lie, I wish it had been different.

[] I have wondered how it is that terrorist Marwan Barghouti, in jail for several life sentences because of his direct role in killing Israelis, has been able from his cell to negotiate all sorts of election deals with Fatah. The answer comes clear with the news that restrictions on him will be eased even further by order of "the political echelon." He is going to be allowed to hold meetings in prison, and is permitted to make phone calls. I find this rather disgusting. This is the man who helped engineer the second Intifada. In 2002, as head of the Tanzim, he gave his blessings to their attack at a bar mitzvah party in Hadera.

[] The IDF is going to be patrolling the northern Sinai border with Egypt in an effort to stop smuggling of arms and terrorists across the border, and then across the Negev into Judea and Samaria. The smuggling is done by Bedouins, skilled at maneuvering in the desert.

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