Monday, May 09, 2011
The day of remembering all who have fallen for Israel -- both soldiers and victims of terror -- begins at sundown tonight. A solemn day that touches all Israel as a family. The number fallen is now 22,867.
Last year, Lt. General Gabi Ashkenazi, who was then Chief of Staff, opened ceremonies for the soldiers, as is traditional, by placing a flag on the grave of the one most recently fallen. Then he said:
''Here, between the thousands of gravestones and silent tombs, testimony to 62 years of struggle for our freedom as a nation and a State.''
Now it is 63 years. Those soldiers who have died have given their lives with purpose; our debt to them is beyond measure. May the Almighty help us find the way to the day when our people will have achieved that freedom and need to sacrifice lives for it no more. As to the victims of terror (the picture below is from the Fogel family funeral), may the memory of each be for a special blessing. As we recount these immeasurable losses, may we find our way, through strength and perseverance, so that here too we can finally say, "Never Again!"
A siren for the fallen will sound tonight at 8 PM. The main ceremony of the evening will then be conducted at the Kotel, with bereaved families present and the Prime Minister, the President and the Chief of Staff participating. At 9 PM, there will be a program of songs at the Knesset, dedicated to the fallen.
Tomorrow at 11 AM, a second siren will sound, marking the beginning of the ceremony for soldiers at Har Herzl (Israel's main military cemetery -- pictured above). Following this will be a ceremony for terror victims.
Please see and share my new report on the folly of US support for PA "security forces."
This is actually an update of a report done two years ago. The thrust of the message in 2009 was that it was foolish for the US to support development of PA troops. So much more so is this the case today.
It was American naivete, or pie-in-the-sky dreaming, that promoted this project, which was actually hailed as a great idea in many quarters:
Hamas had taken Gaza in a coup, actually demolishing a larger, better equipped Fatah (PA) force there. Reasoned the strategic (?) thinkers in the US, if the PA forces are better trained and equipped by the American military, they will be able to prevent a Hamas takeover of Judea and Samaria, and will fight terrorism. Then, by golly, they'll be on their way to establishing a state.
There were only a couple of problems with this, which were blithely ignored:
 Fatah will never "take out" or adequately defend against Hamas. The impression until recently was that Fatah and Hamas were separate; however, regardless of their real animosities, there always has been considerable linkage between the groups. The possibility that there would be unity gov't always existed. Not to mention that the loyalty of Palestinian Arabs is first to the clan (hamula) and not to some abstract concept of a nation; within one clan there might be Fatah and Hamas people. In Gaza, at the time of the coup, there were some Fatah troops that joined Hamas, and some that ran away.
Not a real good idea to have trained and equipped forces to fight against Hamas when it remained a lingering possibility that they might end up being controlled by Hamas. But hey, that didn't stop the progress on this great idea, or the expenditure, to date of some $370 million.
 Fatah isn't against terrorism as a matter of principle, in any event. They act against it only when it serves their purposes. There has never been a Fatah action against Al Aksa Brigades, for example, because the Brigades are a terrorist offshoot of Fatah itself and present no threat to the PA. And certainly Fatah has never acted unilaterally against Hamas simply to stop terrorism directed at Israel.
The PA forces really have strengthened and are functioning better. But what they're best at is catching car thieves and controlling crowds. They've done cooperation with the IDF in some circumstances, with regard to security. But it is the IDF that does the real work to act on intelligence and find and capture terrorists, locate weapons caches, etc. There are operations almost every night in this regard, and if the IDF were not there, there'd be major problems. And guess who would pay the price?
 There remains a potential for those better trained PA forces to turn their guns and expertise on Israelis and the IDF in particular. There's a history of this happening, and we can look for such incidents when Palestinian Arab frustration is high. There was some shooting at IDF forces by PA forces in the Tulkarem area in late April, which may be seen as a precursor to this sort of action.
As if all of the above were not enough, we now have a signed Fatah-Hamas unity agreement, which may, or may not, last. Where does that leave the US program to develop PA security forces?
One would think this was a no-brainer: That it's obvious that a halt must be called immediately. Even if the unity agreement falls apart, we now have irrefutable evidence that Fatah is willing to cooperate with an openly terrorist organization. That should disqualify Fatah forces with regard to receiving further American training and arming.
Ah, but the Secretary of State thinks otherwise. So far, says Hillary, there is no cooperation between the security forces of Fatah (the PA) and of Hamas, and so for the time being, at least, the US can continue to provide support to the PA forces. This thinking doesn't acknowledge even the minimal reality of a shift in PA policy that is likely to occur, however discreetly, to accord with Hamas policies.
A good many members of Congress appear to see it differently, although their stated position is just a tad qualified.
Twenty-nine Senators who are from the Democratic party, supported by Republican Senators, sent a letter to President Obama on Friday urging him to end US aid to the PA if Hamas joins the PA government. It was initiated by Senators Robert Menendez (NJ) and Bob Casey (PA), and has been signed by senior Senators, including Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, and Daniel Inouye, who chairs the Senate's Appropriations Committee.
At this I want to say, wait a second, you have it almost right, and that's great, but...
The unity plan at this stage, prior to elections a year from now, calls for a transitional government to be formed that consists of technocrats. That's a fig leaf, a gimmick to keep everyone happy. It's not good enough to give the PA a pass. Not in my book.
Originally it was said that Fayyad would be out of this transitional government, at the insistence of Hamas leaders, who despise him. But recent news reports indicate that Abbas is pushing to keep Fayyad as prime minister because this would enhance unity credibility and keep people happy.
How readily will people be taken in by this, in spite of the willingness of Abbas to sign an agreement with terrorists? Rhetorical question.
Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), it should be noted, is leading the fight to utilize existing US legislation to end financial aid to the PA.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.