Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Tonight begins Shavuot

Arlene Kushner

Tonight begins Shavuot -- the celebration of the Jewish people having received the Torah at Sinai 50 days after Pesach.

It lasts for one day here, and two days outside of the Land. Because of its association with Torah, the night of Shavuot is spent in study. I usually make it to about 3 AM. And here is where we can see one of the special joys of living in Yerushalayim: I've been in a quandary as to which shiurim (study sessions) to attend because there is so much available. Such problems! Such blessings!

Traditionally, as well, dairy foods are eaten on Shavuot. Not a bad combination: religious study and cheesecake. At the end of the day, on Sunday, at the Syrian border in the Golan -- across from the Druse village of Majdal Shams and at the abandoned Syrian town of Kuneitra -- the IDF held off those hundreds attempting to breach our border. Lessons had been learned from May and effective techniques were in place; high level commanders were on the scene, as well.

The Syrians are claiming 20 dead, Israel is saying it was fewer but I don't have an official number -- the Northern Command is saying eight to 10. At any rate, Israel is holding Syria, which encouraged the rioters for its own purposes, responsible for deaths. Whether there were 20 dead or eight, the number pales in comparison with the number of protesters killed by the Assad regime inside of Syria.

The point is being made by multiple commentators that the Syrians are using the Palestinian Arabs as ploys to their own end. And the question is how long Palestinian Arabs will consent to play this role.


But by no means does the relative IDF success on Sunday signal that we are home free. What we've dealt with until now is merely the beginning. Sunday marked the start of the Six Day War in 1967. Friday marks the day on which Jerusalem was reunited in the course of that war. Calling it Al-Quds day, the Arabs are planning riots at our borders and in Judea and Samaria. Needless to say, Israel is preparing diligently.


Netanyahu envoy Yitzhak Molcho and PA negotiator Saeb Erekat have reportedly both been in the US in the last couple of days for separate secret consultations -- in the case of Erekat, at least, with David Hale, acting US Middle East envoy (acting, now that Mitchell has resigned).

The goal, clearly enunciated by a State Department official, was "to work on getting both sides back to the table." Obama wants to "jump start" negotiations to preclude that UN vote in September. The betting is that he will veto anything that comes before the Security Council with regard to a Palestinian state. But he will do it most reluctantly, as this places him in opposition to Arab or Muslim elements that he regularly courts and allies him publicly with Israel. And so, if there's a way around it, by bringing the parties to the table (in which case Abbas will withdraw efforts at the UN), he's all for it.

The fact that it is an impossible situation, and that "negotiations" cannot possible lead to a peace agreement is irrelevant. This is about politics, and the Obama image, not about peace.


It is imperative, of course, that Netanyahu hold that tough line in consultations with the US now. No being a "nice guy" and making it easier for Obama by conceding on certain issues in order to bring Abbas back to the table.


As to Abbas, I offer a purely speculative thought. A couple of reports have surfaced lately regarding the fact that Abbas really knows that the UN ploy is not going to succeeded in bringing a Palestinian state into existence. With this recognition, if indeed it exists, might come a restructuring of Abbas tactics.

He had been courting Hamas for a unity government in order to be able to go to the UN and say that the PA represented all Palestinian Arabs who would constitute the population of the state. But now it is the PA/Fatah that is the stumbling block to the formation of that unity government, which was supposed to have been in place by now. Abbas is holding tight to his promotion of Fayyad as prime minister, in the face of furious Hamas objections, and the PA is still holding Hamas prisoners in Judea and Samaria. Is Abbas sabotaging the unity agreement? Is he back to playing both ends against the middle? Hoping to mollify Obama sufficiently so that the president might lean harder on Israel?

I don't have answers, only questions.


What I will say is that secret negotiations on what each side will do to re-start peace talks makes me nervous. I find this potentially more unsettling than that UN vote. Although I still strongly suspect that at the end of the day Abbas's demands will make it impossible to proceed.

No, let me alter that comment: It is Obama's proposals (I won't call them "demands" although they sure come close) that may make it impossible. According to Haaretz (which may be seriously inaccurate, as it promotes a decidedly leftist position) the US is trying to get both parties to agree to come to the table based on the Obama outlines from his recent State Department and AIPAC speeches. After what Netanyahu said in his press conference with the president and then in Congress? Could this be?

No worry, if it is the case. Netanyahu is not about to agree to start negotiations with pre-'67 lines as the starting point, and issues such as Jerusalem and refugees to be tabled until we've conceded Judea and Samaria.


The Freedom and Justice Party, created by the Muslim Brotherhood, and chaired by Mohamed Morsi, has been officially approved by the Egyptian Committee of Parties' Affairs. It is the first party to officially declare since Mubarak's fall. Not a good sign.

Carolyn Glick wrote about "The Real Egyptian Revolution" the other day:

"...As for the military, its actions to date make clear that its commanders do not see themselves as guardians of secular rule in Egypt. Instead, they see themselves as engines for a transition from Mubarak’s authoritarian secularism to the Brotherhood’s populist Islamism.

"Since forcing Mubarak to resign, the military junta has embraced Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. They engineered the Palestinian unity government which will pave the way for Hamas’s victory in the Palestinian Authority’s legislative and presidential elections scheduled for the fall.

"Then there is Sinai. Since the revolution, the military has allowed Sinai to become a major base not only for Hamas but for the global jihad. As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned on Monday, Egyptian authorities are not asserting their sovereignty in Sinai and jihadists from Hamas, al-Qaida and other groups are inundating the peninsula.

"Last week’s move to open Egypt’s border with Gaza at the Rafah passage is further proof that the military has made its peace with the Islamic takeover of Egypt..."



Not a good scene: According to the Iranian news agency FARS, Iranian submarines, accompanied by Iranian warships, are in international waters in the Red Sea, on an intelligence gathering mission.


I'll end today with a link to a video with Andrew Klavan, on a solution to the crisis in the Middle East. A bit different from what I usually share: brilliant and funny.



© 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.

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