Tag Archives: Olmert

Gaza-Confusion At Border-And In UN

Egytpian troops continue establishing a semblance of order in the tumultous area around its border with Gaza. The huge crowds that tore through openings in the fence a few days ago in order to secure goods are no longer present, but Egypt is still furious that over two dozen of its soldiers were injured in the melee. The Palestinian Aurhority has made it clear to Hamas there would be no assistance until Hamas relinquishes control over Gaza that it assumed several months ago. President Abbas met with Israel Prime Minister Olmert about the issue and both are in accord there will be no compromise with Hamas.

At the United Nations, a Syrian proposal to condemn Israel for its actions in Gaza has been replaced by one which not only condemns Israel but calls for an end to Kassam rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas and other militants. Syria and Qatar refuse to go along with the new proposal even though most members of the Arab League have agreed to come out against attacks on Israel.

The interesting aspect of these developments is a new sense of realism among most members of the Arab League. They seek some form of accomodation with Israel and are tired of the ongoing refusal on the part of Hamas to end violence. This is the perfect time for the Israel government to make a dramatic announcement such as being willing to withdraw from West Bank settlements. In the meantime, there is need for a UN force to control Gaza. This blog believes the force should be drawn from Muslim nations like Turkey or Morocco or Egypt.

Gaza Rockets Fall On Israel, Israel Bombs Fall On Gaza

Israel prime Minister Ehud Olmeert vowed there will be an end to Kassam rocket fire from gaza or else. “We are not looking to fight in the Gaza Strip, we do not want to harm its residents and we have no special desire to kill any citizen. But, we will not and we cannot continue to suffere the endless Kassam rocket fire on cititizens of the st ate of Israel.” Foreign Minister Tzipi Livi argued Israel could defend its citizens not only through negotiations but by means of “uncompromising war” against Palestine attacks from Gaza. Earlier yesterday, Vice Premier Haim Ramon claimed Israel military action was beginning to have an impact and that Hamas leaders were now more interested in negotiations. A senior Hamas official was quoted by Israel radio on Wednesday as indicating a desire on the part of the Hamas government of Ismail Haniyeh to halt Kassem rocket fire.

A continual mistake on the part of Israel and other nations is failure to engage Hamas in a dialogue. The demand that all terrorist activity should cease prior to talks makes no sense. Once people are engaged in discussions they are more prone to consider the effect of ending terrorist activities. When all is said and done, Hamas does need to become part of a political process if it is to survive. The people of Gaza need some peace and that will only occur if Hamas talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Israel Retains All Options To Handle Iran

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told members of Israel’s Knesset that his government retains all options on the table for handling the threat of Iran’s nuclear program. “The threat of a nucler Iran gives context to the options that we’re putting on the table….Israel cannot reconcile itself with a nuclear Iran.” He refuted recent reports from America’s National Intellience Estimate that Iran was not engaged in developing nuclear weapons and it would be years before it could attain such capability. According to Olmert, “as far as Israel is concerned, the Iranians are continuing efofrts to produce non-conventional (weapons) and therefore we must use all of the means at our disposal to stop them.”

Olmert emphasized that “words do not stop missiles” but he ignores that military action can also result in the increase in missiles being fired. Israel has been utilizing military action in Gaza for months without being able to halt missiles and ignoring the possibility of engaging in dialogue with Hamas leaders. An Israel attack on Iran would produce catastrophic results in the Middle East and virtually end any opportunity for peace with Palestinians. It is interesting the prime minister’s comments came days after he met with President Bush. One can only wonder if the two men discussed the bellicose Israel comments about possible war with Iran.

Illegal West Bank Outposts Must Go, Says Olmert

Prime Minister Olmert of Israel emphatically told his ministers that all illegal outposts on the West Bank must be dismantled as soon as possible. He termed the outposts, which were build withoout authorization by government authorities, to be a “disgrace” which should be remedied as soon as possible in order to put Israel in accordance with the road map laid out for peace negotiations with Palestinians. His comments came days after President Bush had commented those installations “ought to go” for the future of peace. Olmert told his colleagues, that Bush, “repeated the absolute commitment of the US that no agreement between us and the Palestinians can be implemented on the ground before the full implementation of the road map both in Gaza and the West Bank.”

Israel’s government has a choice– give up a few dozen scattered outposts that mainly provide home to a few hundred people or give up possession of housing that provides homes for 250,000 Jewish settlers. It is clear the Olmert government is going to protect the existing West Bank settlements and will not pay much attention to the needs of a few hundred settlers. The question ignored by Bush and Olmert is why should Palestinian leaderes accept loss of land to settlers who initially entered territory that was not part of the original state of Israel carved out by the UN?

Bush Arrives In Israel To Hot And Cold Welcomes

President Bush arrived in Israel where he was warmly greeted by President Peres and welcomed by President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. The American president once again referred to his desire to “guarantee Israel’s security as a Jewish state” despite the fact at least ten percent of its population is not Jewish, but Muslim. In Gaza, militants marched denouncing talks between Israel and Palestine and there apparently were al-Qaeda elements among those waving weapons. Even a Fatah leader in Gaza, Zakariya al-Agha, contradicted Abbas the head of Fatah, by denouncing Bush for supporting Israel. On the other side of the ledger, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of Shas, urged his followers not to support peace talks until the Palestinians cease firing rockets onto Israel territory.

The object of having peace talks is to prevent rockets from firing since despite years of military efforts to wipe out rocket launching sites, they continue coming into Israel. It is also unfortunate that President Bush did not acknowledge the presence or importance of Israeli Arabs by making his mistaken comment that Israel was a “Jewish state.” That was never a concept one finds as a prominent point among those who forged creation of the nation of Israel.

Israel Makes Concessions On Outposts

As Israel prepares for the upcoming visit of President Bush, its government has decided to make several concessions regarding outposts on the West Bank. It is now committed to “expeditiously” evacuate unauthorized settlement outposts on the West Bank. Bush has been urging such action and apparently the government decided to give in on this point. Most of these outposts actually consist of a few trailers set up on hill tops by hard-lineers endeavoring to sabotage any peace with Palestinians. Originally, the roadmap called for Israel to halt any further housing construction, but that has long since been ignored. Israel peace activists believe there are at least a 100 of these outposts scattered throughout the West Bank.

Palestinians are waiting for what was originally promised in 2003 to actually occur– dismantling of the outposts. But, that in itself is not sufficient for peace. Israel must address the issue of its continuing policy of building more housing on the West Bank and in east Jerusalem. These must cease in the name of peace.

Tensions Remain Active In Middle East Amidst Bombings

Prime Minister Olmert made a special trip to meet Jordan’s King Abdullah to discuss the growing tensions created by rocket bomb attacks on Israel from Muslim militants and Israel bombing of Gaza Strip targets. King Abdullah urged Israel to stick to the Annapolis Conference road map and halt further building on the West Bank. He emphasized, “halt unilateral activities that may obstruct progress.” The Hamas authorities have done little to halt rocket attacks and as each side bombs, the other feels the need to retaliate. Israel is concerned that a recent rocket attack included a longer range Katyusha which landed in an Israel city. There is little doubt any further such bombings will result in a massive Israel response.

Up to this point, the Bush, Abbas, and Olmert approach has been to ignore Hamas as a peace factor. Hamas stands on the sideline creating problems by allowing rocket launches. One solution might be to involve Hamas in peace negotiations. At this point, since ignoring them has not changed anything, what is to be lost by trying another approach which actively engages the group in a peace process?

Prime Minister Olmert Pledges To Work For Peace

Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised to use talks with Palestinians that begin on Wednesday as an opportunity to achieve a lasting peace. “This is an opportunity,” he said, “that entails many uncertainties, many risks, many dangers. We cannot ignore them. But, we absolutely must not allow uncertainty and risks to prevail because an opportunity also exists. I intend to take advantage of this opportunity to wage serious, ongoing and uninterrupted negotiations in order to forge an historic path toward a new diplomatic reality.” the prime minister’s words hopefully can become translated from verbal utterances to written documents that achieve his goals of a secure Israel that can live in peace with Palestinians. However, even as he spoke, President Abbas indicated he could not attend the scheduled Wednesday meeting unless Israel ceases further construction of housing on the West Bank or in East Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Olmert is obviously taking a gamble, one that will be attacked by those in the Jewish community who prefer the certainty of uncertainty to the risk of moving toward conflict resolution. Negotiation always entails a give and take since each side must be prepared to give up some of what they possess in order to possess peace. There is no necessity of building new housing at this moment in East Jerusalem nor on the West Bank. There comes a time when in negotiation one must take a step back in order to make a giant leap forward. Reality is that East Jerusalem will become the capital of a new Palestinian nation. The issue is ensuring religious freedom and access to all religious facilities for every person living in East Jerusalem. The West Bank can not remain as presently constituted, at best, a small portion of the settlers will be allowed to remain, but most must return to Israel.

As I write these words, it is clear some who consider themselves “defenders of Israel,” are furious because in their view not an inch of land should be abandoned. It is time for those who wish Israel to live in peace, security, and prosperity to be the voices of reason that Olmert must follow. Self righteous anger and hatred toward Palestinians will only result in ending all hopes for peace and reconciliation.

Is Annapolis A Knife In The Back Of President Abbas?

According to Saleh Al-Naami, reporting from Gaza, a majority of Arab newspapers are wartning Presdient Abbas, head of Palestine, that accepting Israel-American proposals without significant changes will result in large scale opposition to his authority. Statements by Prime Minister Olmert that 2008 is not an obligatory date for Israel to complete negotiations with the PA or by his deputy, Avigdor Lieberman, who suggested that even the end of 2008 may not be an appropriate date to complete negotiations, raise fears among Palestinians about how serious is Israel to work out a compromise. Palestinians are able to draw upon concerns of Israel human rights advocates about continuing construction of housing in West Bank settlements, and the failure to take action against settlers who build without permits from army authorities.

Palestinian critics believe the Bush administration is biased toward Israel and not it has withdrawn a non-binding resolution proposal from the UN Security Council supporting the outcome of the Annapolis meeting. There apparently is increasing pressure on Abbas to resume negotiations with Hamas in order to present a unified Palestinian front. Nehad Al-Sheikhh Khalil, a Palestinian writer, argues, ‘following Annapolis, Palestinian public opinion is increasingly convinced that we are on the threshold of a new catastrophe(Nakba), granting legitimacy to Israel’s plans for mass population transfers now that Bush has characterized Palestine as the national homeland of the Jews.”

This writer argues it is time to recognize the inability of the Bush administration to serve as an objective mediator in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. We suggest that Turkey assume the role of mediator since it has excellent relations with both Israel and Arab nations. Bush has squandered any opportunity to be a neutral third party. In the end, neither the United States nor the UN Security Council can arrive at a just compromise which enables all parties to the conflict to believe they have attained a significant attainment of goals. A “compromise” means just that– each side must give up something it desires. We believe it is of paramount importance that the security of Israel as a nation must be guaranteed as well as its protection from terrorist actions. In turn, we believe Israel must withdraw from West Bank settlements and allow Palestinians to assume control of East Jerusalem. All religious centers must be respected as well as the right to pray in them. We also believe there is need for creation of education committees which would work to eliminate hate from school textbooks and pick up on the Turkish proposal for creation of a Middle Eastern Peace University which would include people of all faiths.

Prime Minister OLmert Blasts Racism Against Ethiopian Jews

A week after reports of the segregation of four Ethiopian girls in a Petah Tikva school caused an outrage, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he intended to pursue an extensive plan to deal with the growing racism in Israel against dark skinned people. “There is a problem and there is trouble. The feeling of injustice for the Ethiopian Jew is not detached from reality and it is our responsibility to change it.” Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni also noted that discrimination ‘forces Ethiopians to be concentrated into their own neighborhoods, without integration, and this situation harms the absorption process in general.”

If there is on nation in the world which must ensure the disappearance of prejudice and segregation, it is Israel. Jews have been denied equal rights and forced to live in segregated housing in most nations so it is imperative that such actions not be tolerated in Israel. My mother went to school in Poland at the beginning of the 20th century at a time when Jewish children sat in segregated areas of the classroom. It is shocking that any child in the year 2007 would be segregated in a Jewish school. Prime Minister Olmert and Foreign Minister Livni deserve praise for their immediate actions to deal with this horrible situation. Hopefully, their concern will also spread to protecting the right of Darfur refugees to remain in Israel and avoid being deported.