Thursday, January 01, 2009

"The Guessing Game"

Arlene Kushner

On this, the first day of 2009, I want to begin by thanking all of those who have written offering wishes and prayers of support for Israel. This is no small thing and is much appreciated.
I would also like to address some of the questions that have been raised. Readers wonder why we have to supply all of this humanitarian aid to an enemy, and whether it does not end up in Hamas's hands.

In response to the first part of the question: We very specifically have declared war against Hamas and not against the people of Gaza. Yes, I know there is a way in which this is an artificial distinction, as the people of Gaza voted for Hamas and in many instances sympathize with Hamas.

But this is the distinction that has been promoted, and a solid case can be made for the morality of being certain the people, at least some of whom are innocent, do not suffer unduly. It's above and beyond, but we do above and beyond -- what would be expected of no other nation. There is no cost to us for the material going in -- it is paid for/supplied internationally or by relief groups, primarily UN-affiliated. We facilitate the transfer to Gaza.

There is however, also a pragmatic reason for doing this. This literally buys us the sufferance of the world. They love to attack us by criticizing the harm we do to civilians -- that's the way the Arabs structure the fighting situation and their PR. The more we demonstrate that we're very good to the civilians, the less the basis for criticizing us and the more the world will look the other way while we deliver our blow to Hamas.


Tuesday, Turkey, praising Israeli cooperation, sent in five ambulances and 130 tons of flour.

Yesterday, 93 trucks carrying food, medicine and medical supplies donated by Jordan went into Gaza. The same amount went in again today.

Officials of the UN World Food Program contacted the IDF yesterday to say their stockpiles were full and would last for another two weeks; they were not going to be transferring any more food into Gaza for a while. (Remember this when you read about Gazans starving.)


But then we have UNRWA: Also yesterday, this agency, which attends to ostensible Palestinian refugees, severely criticized Israel. United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator Maxwell Gaylar declared that, "We desperately need Karni to open, today, to get wheat grain in. UNRWA has no wheat grain for the 750,000 people who need it. The wheat grain warehouses are empty. We need to get that wheat grain in now. This is a must."

"A must." The problem, however, is that Karni could not be opened because there were warnings that terrorists were planning to bomb there. (As I've noted before, UNRWA doesn't seem to care if IDF manning the crossing gets bombed.) Karni has conveyor belts that UNRWA prefers to use. The offer had been made to UNRWA by IDF officials to have them load the wheat grain on to trucks so it could go through Karni. Israel was not refusing to send it in.

I tell this story now because it's a familiar refrain. I've heard the same story in the past. I've been told my IDF spokespersons that UNRWA would rather lament the lack of food than go to the trouble of transferring it in a manner that is less convenient for them; then of course Israel is to blame.

As to this being an emergency: If the World Food Program has stockpiles for two weeks and Turkey sent in 130 tons of flour, what does it mean for the people that UNRWA's grain warehouse is empty?

UNRWA is the organization that loves to dramatize and then fault Israel. I know from my long-term research on this group how much they've been linked with Hamas, and I don't consider this a coincidence.


As to whether some of the material is being confiscated by Hamas, undoubtedly this is the case. And there is nothing to be done for it.

What we needn't concern ourselves about is that Hamas's securing of humanitarian aid is going to make a significant difference in our winning the war. We're not trying to starve them out, but rather bomb them to kingdom come.


As to what the result at the end of this war will be... We may speak about what would be good. I have voiced my opinion that it might be best if Hamas were on its knees but not taken all the way out. And, yes, I have received messages from some of you who speak fervently about making sure Hamas is finished. But it is in the hands of Olmert, Barak, Livni and Ashkenazi.

And this is where "The Guessing Game" comes in. We're at a crossroad and it's difficult to read what will follow:

The IDF is prepared to go in, and waiting for the go-ahead, which has not yet taken place. Weather slowed things down, and I understand that there have been other legitimate considerations as well. I've heard suggestions in several quarters that when and if we do go in, it will be something that will push Hamas off balance, and not just a matter of sending in tanks and troops to go house to house (an unpalatable prospect).

The Security Cabinet yesterday rejected France's suggestion of a 48 hour ceasefire (which message Livni officially delivered in Paris today) and it has been said by Olmert that we're going ahead until the job is done.


And yet...and yet. There have also been inklings now of intention by Livni and Olmert to go the "international route." The mere thought of this could give one pains in my stomach. Been there, done that. Remember 2006 and resolution 1701? That's what stopped the War in Lebanon and put in place that marvelously effective international force called UNIFIL, which stood by and watched while Hezbollah re-armed.

Today, Olmert said:

"We have no interest in conducting a protracted campaign. We are not longing for a wide-scale war, but we want quiet and we want the lives of southerners to change so that our children can grow up in security, without fear and nightmares."

What is more, there was a report in Haaretz that Olmert "is interested in the establishment of an
international supervision and enforcement mechanism for any cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, [and] has made that a precondition of any deal."

Precisely which international forces would effectively enforce a cease-fire with Hamas? What the presence of foreign troops would do is simply deprive us of our full sovereignty. Enforce the cease-fire? First reduce Hamas sufficiently so that they're begging for it, and then let them know that if there are rockets, we're coming after them again.


But, on the other hand, Olmert indicated that "we're not there yet," in terms of a cease-fire, and that conditions must mature.

Today he also said, "This time, as opposed to in the past, there is no feeling of caving in. There is a sense of dealing with problems and responding quickly...We don't want to use our full might, but we will if we need to."

One savvy analyst I spoke with believes Olmert is in it for the long haul.

Bush, after discussing the situation with Olmert, is talking about a "sustainable cease-fire." Olmert's message is that he won't stop until he's sure Hamas won't start again. He seems, in essence, to be saying to the international community: "These are my conditions. You want us to call a ceasefire. Can you guarantee Hamas won't start again?" Seen thus, his talk about international supervision is a sort of "put your money where your mouth is" statement that might help the international community better understand the parameters of our situation.


And so we'll wait, and watch the outcome.

What seems fairly certain to me from Olmert's statements is that he's not intending to take out Hamas completely -- the comments of Gabriella Shalev and others notwithstanding.


We achieved a major strike today when we hit the home of Sheikh Nizr Rayyan, and killed him and several others (including two of his four wives) in the process.

As the religious leader of Hamas, he was considered the successor to Sheikh Ahmed Dassin, the founder of Hamas, whom we assassinated in 2004. But it seems he was also a commander of the military wing of Hamas, Izzadin Kassam. Said to be one of the most fanatical of the commanders -- a strong advocate of suicide bombings -- he was often seen in uniform and was associated with a number of terrorist attacks. This is the sort of man who deserved to be killed war or no war.

My distinct impression is that this hits Hamas much harder psychologically then does destruction of their buildings, even headquarters and control centers. He is the fourth Hamas leader to have been targeted since the war began, but is the most senior.

Rayyan's home was also hiding a tunnel opening (tunnel openings are often concealed inside of homes) and a cache of arms, and was a communications center.


Homes of three other terrorist leaders were hit today, but their occupants were absent. Nizr Rayyan was an exception because he had sworn not to leave his home, and his family, even in spite of warnings, also refused to leave.

There was the home of Mohammad Baroud, a top Popular Resistance Committees operative, who was the head of all rocket cells in northern Gaza. The IDF reported anti-tank missiles, rockets and bombs in this house.

A second home belonged to Hasim Drili, a northern Gaza Hamas operative, who operated a manufacturing plant for rockets, mortar shells and missiles within his house.

Yet another home belonged to Tafik Abu Raf, a Hamas terror operative. The IDF reported a weapons laboratory in this house.

Altogether, 20 targets were hit today.


Hamas, which had been cited as saying it would accept the French suggestion of a cease-fire "under certain conditions," now denies having said this.


Here in Israel the rockets keep coming and there is a growing area in central Israel that is considered potentially at risk of attack. Precautions are now being put in place for Tel Aviv skyscrapers, as well as for Rishon LeTzion, Rehovot, and Ramat Beit Shemesh.

What is happening is not that we're terrorized and eager to call it quits. Rather, our national back is stiffened: our people want tough action against Hamas and no ceasefire soon.

It is at times like this that you see the best of Israelis, too. Homes are being opened for families in range of rockets to come for a respite. Some municipalities are making offers on a larger scale. Hotels are reducing prices for beleaguered families.


Polls indicate that any temporary gain Kadima had with the start of the war has already been lost. But, as before, there are discrepancies in various polls. A poll that ran in Globes gives Likud 38 and Kadima 22; a poll that ran in Haaretz gives Likud 32 and Kadima 27.


The Iranian news agency -- reporting by Internet, and carried by IMRA -- says that, "Director General of domestic media at the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry said 'Kargozaran' newspaper was shut down over a media offense on Wednesday."

Why? Because the paper "[published] an article justifying anti-human crimes of the Zionist regime and calling Palestinian resistance as terrorism and claiming that Palestinian combatants take position in kindergardens and hospitals and so cause the deaths of children and civilians."

How about that? An Iranian newspaper telling the truth. Here's an instance, I think, where making a distinction between the people and the leadership is very valid.


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