Tuesday, May 26, 2009
"Outposts and Settlements"
The picture is unsettling -- indeed, infuriating, but it's also complex and, I believe, not grim.
There are some indications of government intentions to get tough with regard to some 20-plus "illegal outposts," with Defense Minister Barak declaring that he will take them down, one way or another. For the record, an "illegal outpost" is usually a small collection of modest buildings or caravans -- often on a hilltop -- that has been constructed without permission. The line is not all together clear, however, as to what "without permission" means, as sometimes there has been some legitimacy conferred by some department or other -- as, for example, if some electric lines have been put in. Sometimes an "outpost" is no more than a neighborhood of an existing community, and sometimes what was illegal is declared legal -- for the political aspects of this are considerable.
Many of the "illegal outposts" have had that status for some years. This is not a new development. Yet it is now that action is being taken, or threatened, more vociferously.
The news today was that nine outposts have been served with "zoning notices," informing them that they are "illegal." While there was no announcement that they will be taken down, such zoning notices often precede demolition orders. And this follows the very recent demolition of Maoz Esther.
One example serves to demonstrate how ridiculous the whole thing can become: Of the nine outposts listed, one is "Hazon David, Kiryat Arba-Hebron." This, it turns out, is not a cluster of buildings and is not an "outpost" in the general sense of that word. It is one structure -- a very temporary, tent-like structure --outside of Kiryat Arba, on the road to Hevron. A structure used as a synagogue. That's it. "Hazon David" means David's vision and is named in memory of David Cohen and Hezi Mualem who were murdered by terrorists seven years ago outside of Kiryat Arba.
Taking down this modest place of prayer and study, where no one actually lives, really advances peace, right?
This is what Barak and company need to be concerned with? They should hang their heads in shame. This makes Obama happy? What?
When we ask why this is happening now, there are general answers in terms of Netanyahu having somehow caved to Obama. But I'd like to look a bit closer at the issues (including more below).
Nahum Barnea, writing on YNet, makes the observation that the mere fact that Netanyahu refuses to even say "two state solution," never mind to agree now to negotiate such a "solution," puts the heat on the outposts and settlements. Were negotiations advancing, then Obama would be able to boast of "progress," and the issue of outposts would be minimal. But as it is, Obama has nothing to point to, unless there is "progress" on this score.
Barnea doesn't say this explicitly, but what his analysis implies is that the very strength of our prime minister for the big issues makes our government more vulnerable on the small issues. And there is the possibility -- which hardliners don't accept -- that there will be some quid pro quo here.
And then there's the upside of what's happening:
PM Netanyahu told the Cabinet yesterday that, when he was in Washington, he informed Obama that we would not stop building in Jerusalem or accommodating natural growth in settlements.
"Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty, and we do not accept limits on construction or on our activity inside of Israel."
This in the face of a State Department statement that "Jerusalem is a final-status issue. Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to resolve its status during negotiations..."
Well, Jerusalem may have been a final-status issue for Olmert, but it is not now.
In addition to this, we have a new strength within the Cabinet -- so much so that it's questionable whether support could be garnered among the ministers for dismantling all of the "illegal outposts." As Gil Hoffman has written in the Post:
"...the ministers made clear that the settlers had a strong lobby in the Cabinet."
Leaders of Shas, Yisrael Beitenu and Habyit Hayehudi "each tried to take upon themselves the mantle of the settlers' top advocate, as did Likud ministers Yuli Edelstein, Yisrael Katz, and Benny Begin..."
Most vociferous in his defense of outposts was Katz, who said, "the government agenda cannot become a witch hunt against the residents of Judea and Samaria."
Edelstein and Lieberman criticized Barak for unilateral action without sanction of the Cabinet. Edelstein indicated that "an entire team of ministers would insist on keeping Barak in check and ensuring that the Cabinet would have the final say on the outposts..."
Barak, he said, "has not internalized that a nationalist government had taken over."
Additionally we see a new strength on the part of the nationalists of Israel. A meeting of several groups has been held and plans have been put in place that call for reinforcing the numbers at existing outposts, setting up new ones, and immediately rebuilding any outpost that is demolished.
I spoke today with David Wilder, spokesman for the Hevron community. His tone was cool, as he explained that Hazon David had been destroyed about 30 times already, and would be built again if the Defense Ministry took it down.
There is the feeling, with solid reason, that determined settlers can outlast government demolition efforts.
With justification, the nationalists point to the illegal outposts put up by the Bedouin in the Negev and Arabs in the Galil that the government ignores. It is their intention to make this issue more public.
It's not entirely clear to me how extensively the US media covered the plan by home-grown Muslim terrorists to target synagogues in New York City and down planes at a military air base. The plot was foiled in a sting operation, and the concern is that the lessons to be drawn from this will not be attended to with sufficient seriousness because the disaster was averted. The attitude, unfortunately, is likely to be one of "Thank goodness nothing happened!" and done.
In point of fact, however, a major alarm should go up with regard to the circumstances surrounding this planned attack: Three of the four alleged would-be terrorists were converts to Islam who were converted in prison.
Steve Emerson, founder and executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, addresses the serious dimensions of this problem in a recent piece, "Radicals in Our Prisons." Every American needs to take heed.
"Radicalism in prisons is a problem that has been festering for years...
"Some prison libraries include the Nobel Quran, an extreme interpretation of Islam's holy book that includes a call for jihad...
"These books are not reviewed by prison officials, perhaps due to language differences or because they are perceived simply as religious texts. [The Department of Justice], which has oversight over [the Bureau of Prisons], refuses to acknowledge the problem.
"Meanwhile, federal records identified by the Investigative Project on Terrorism and available on the Internet show a number of Muslim Brotherhood-tied organizations receiving government contracts, including contracts with the Bureau of Prisons, to perform work such as chaplain services and Islamic studies...
"Wahhabist literature, Muslim Brotherhood tracts calling for Jihad, Saudi produced Qurans that exude hatred for Jews and Christians - all of this continues to flow into federal and local prisons unhampered."
Charles Krauthammer has also written an interesting article, "Obama in Bush Clothing," which I call your attention to. Says Krauthammer:
"...the flip-flops on previously denounced anti-terror measures are the homage that Barack Obama pays to George Bush. Within 125 days, Obama has adopted with only minor modifications huge swaths of the entire, allegedly lawless Bush program.
"The latest flip-flop is the restoration of military tribunals. During the 2008 campaign, Obama denounced them repeatedly, calling them an 'enormous failure.' Obama suspended them upon his swearing in. Now they're back."
The pattern is an "Obama three-step: (a) excoriate the Bush policy, (b) ostentatiously unveil cosmetic changes, (c) adopt the Bush policy...
"OBSERVERS OF ALL political stripes are stunned by how much of the Bush national security agenda is being adopted by this new Democratic government." This agenda includes wire taps, e-mail intercepts, turning over terrorists seized abroad to foreign countries, and denial of habeas corpus to certain detainees.
What has happened?
"The urgencies and necessities of the actual post-9/11 world, as opposed to the fanciful world of the opposition politician, present a rather narrow range of acceptable alternatives."
Now, if only the urgencies and necessities of the actual post-9/11 world would move Obama to shift his policy with regard to Iran.
Certainly he's getting only one slap in the face after another from the Iranians in response to his reaching out with offers of dialogue.
According to a local news agency, Iranian naval commander Admiral Habibollah Sayyari has announced the dispatch of several warships: "Iran has dispatched six ... warships to international waters and the Gulf of Aden region in an historically unprecedented move by the Iranian Navy." This, he says is, "indicative of the country's high military capability in confronting any foreign threat on the country's shores."
This war-like action comes as Ahmadinejad has rejected an offer by the US, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain to hold off on all new sanctions in exchange for a freeze on Iranian nuclear activity.
"Our talks [with major powers] will only be in the framework of cooperation for managing global issues and nothing else. We have clearly announced this," he said. "The nuclear issue is a finished issue for us."
And Obama will still try to dialogue on the nuclear issue in the face of this?
Coming full circle: PM Netanyahu injected a perspective relevant to this in his meeting with the Likud faction today. Giving in to US demands on the outposts is important to do, he says, so that there can be focus on Iran. But there are multiple way to read this.
Presumably he expects more from Obama in terms of cooperation on Iran if we give in on this. This may be the quid pro quo.
"We're not [living] in ordinary times," he declared. "The danger is gaining on us. The most dangerous threat to a living organism is not to identify danger. My role, first and foremost, is to secure the future of the State of Israel. This comes before anything else."
But he also seems to be deflating internal political dissension on the issue because he believes it weakens us:
"There must be broad national unity as much as possible, so as to stave off the danger."
A ruse simply to weaken dissent? Possible, but I do not believe so. Binyamin Netanyahu has been warning us about the dangers of Iran for years. I take him seriously here.
To attempt to severely weaken him politically over outposts -- as is being threatened by those on the far right -- just as he must make decisions involving attacking Iran would be, I concur, a mistake in judgment. Dissent should not stop but must be moderated in light of the priorities and the times within which we live. Purists see a slippery slope whereby if we surrender claim to a square meter of land we are surrendering our claim to Israel. But it will avail us naught if vociferous protection of that square meter renders us -- G-d forbid -- more likely to be blown away completely later.
Nothing is ever simple, and most certainly not where Russia is concerned.
It was very recently announced that we will be expediting the sale to Russia of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) following the cancellation by Russia of plans to sell Syria advanced MIG-31 fighter jets.
This was good news.
However...Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with Hamas's Mashaal on Saturday and has declared that continued contact with Hamas is considered "necessary."
In fact, Lavrov hopes to see a delegation from a Palestinian unity government attend the peace conference in Moscow later this year.
Oh joy. Such a unity government would have as a major component a Hamas that embraces terrorism.
"The Good News Corner"
-- Wheat, which is a staple grain in many societies, is subject to a virulent fungus disease called rust (because its spores have a rust color) that can destroy crops, causing food shortages and economic loss.
The answer to combating this lies here in Israel. For it is in Israel that a wild wheat grows, believed to be the original wheat plant before domestication. In the course of 10,000 years of domestication, the wheat was bred for certain properties considered desirable, such as higher yield, but in the course of changes lost resistance to disease.
Professor Tzion Fahima of Haifa University's Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology is working with a team that has discovered a gene in the wild wheat that provides resistance to eight strains of rust disease. The next step is to reintroduce this gene to domestic wheat, either by traditional breeding practices or genetic engineering.
Additional projects are anticipated that would involve work with the genes in wild wheat that make it more drought resistant and provide it with a higher percentage of protein and minerals.
-- According to the World Health Organization, Israel is one of the healthiest nations in the world. WHO lists Israel with Europe, and it is with European nations that comparisons are made. (Israel is way way ahead of the nations of the MidEast.)
The Israeli infant and maternal mortality rates are much lower than European averages. E.g., in Israel there are three newborn deaths per 1,000 as compared with five in Europe. Israel has 37 doctors per 10,000 people as compared to 32 in Europe. Israel has low rates of infectious diseases and high rates of immunization. And the entire Israeli population has access to improved drinking water, compared to 97% in Europe.
-- Now for the really important item: Work to be wrinkle free while you sleep (I am not making this up). An Israeli company named Cupron, in Beit Shemesh, makes pillow cases that contain copper. Perspiration from your skin as you sleep releases copper ions, which stimulate the production of collagen, which reduces fine lines and wrinkles.
see my website www.ArlenefromIsrael.info