Friday, March 16, 2012


Arlene Kushner

Very ugly, really. An Arab man boarded a train on the Jerusalem light rail near the Arab neighborhood of Shuafat, knifed a nineteen-year old woman soldier multiple times in the chest, and ran off the train.

The soldier is in moderate condition in the hospital, and is being treated for lung injuries; doctors say the knife just missed her heart. The attacker has been caught and confessed.


Ceasefire? What ceasefire? This morning a rocket landed near a school in Netivot where classes were going on; parents rushed to bring their children home. Not long after, a Grad rocket landed near a Be'ersheva school; the Be'ersheva municipality has closed its schools. Another Grad aimed at Be'ersheva was stopped by the Iron Dome.

Representatives of the Israeli government have declared the situation "unacceptable." Said Minister of Security Affairs Moshe Ya'alon:

"As long as they fire, it isn’t over. Anyone threatening us is risking his life. We will retaliate until they beg us to stop. They have to realize that the consequences of the rocket fire are not worth it."


Overnight, the IDF targeted a launching site in the north of Gaza and a tunnel in the south, in response to rockets fired earlier.

However, I have secured no specific information regarding other operations today, and it is not clear to me that they have taken place.

In fact, YNet cites "a political source," who said that "at this time Israel will not respond to rockets fired at the south since the ceasefire took effect...After each round of escalations we see what is known as the 'tail' (defined as a few hours during which there is still some fire, as if to show that they have the last word). The situation is still within Israel's containment. We're following the situation closely."

This is not a satisfactory state of affairs for Eshkol Regional Council Head Haim Yelin, who insisted:

"There is no calm, no ceasefire. These concepts do not exist when rockets are flying over Israel...they aim to make this the norm… there are no word to describe this situation. Certainly not words like 'calm' or 'lull'…"

He is very much on the mark here, and it is disconcerting to realize that the Israeli government -- declarations of what is "unacceptable" aside -- might turn a blind eye to a rocket here and a rocket there, as long as there is no major barrage. There should be zero tolerance for attacks on Israeli civilians.


In any event, a handful of attacks on launching sites and tunnels are not exactly going to make them beg us to stop. Precisely what did Ya'alon have in mind?


Prime Minister Netanyahu, in statements to the Knesset yesterday (about which more below), mentioned Gaza, where, he said, Hamas and Islamic Jihad work under Iran's umbrella. "Sooner or later," he declared, "the Iranian terrorist base in Gaza will be uprooted." That expresses ultimate intent but provides no real information with regard to how Israel will be responding now.


It is, or has been, Israeli policy, to hold Hamas responsible for whatever happens in Gaza. Now Hamas has blamed Islamic Jihad for breaking the ceasefire. Opinion in many quarters is that Hamas turns a blind eye and lets Islamic Jihad do the dirty work. But at this point -- as I've been indicating -- I believe that Hamas truly has lost control of the situation to some degree.


During his comments to the Knesset yesterday, Netanyahu's focus was on Israel's right to act in self-defense even if the US objects: "Israel has never left its fate in the hands of others, not even in the hands of our best friends." He then recounted a number of times in the past when Israeli leaders have moved in a direction that US leaders opposed: When Ben-Gurion declared the State in 1948; when Israel took pre-emptive military action in 1967; when Menachem Begin ordered a hit on the Iraqi nuclear reactor.

Begin, said Netanyahu, "fulfilled his obligation and acted." Now a nuclear Iran would pose an "existential threat" to Israel and so he has an "obligation" to maintain Israel's "independent ability" to defend herself.

This echoes his AIPAC speech. There is no hint here of backing down, even in the face of Obama's statements regarding the fact that acting military too soon would be a mistake. But neither is there anything definitive -- nor should we expect there to be.


Here is an interesting twist on Obama's position on Iran. He seems to be playing the "good cop" to Israel's "bad cop." I am not suggesting that Israel conspired with him to lend this impression, but rather that the president chooses to let it be seen this way -- that he's manipulating the situation.

Several news sources have now reported that the Obama administration (specifically Hillary Clinton) has asked Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to relay a message to Teheran: That is this the last opportunity for resolving issues via negotiations. Why the last opportunity? Implied if not said directly -- because if this goes on too long Israel will attack militarily: Maybe the US would have sustained negotiations longer, but, gee, Israel won't let that happen.

Said Obama during a press conference: "I have sent a message very directly to them publicly that they need to seize this opportunity of negotiations with the PS+1 to avert even worse consequences for Iran in the future."


Netanyahu said recently that the best way to insure that there does not have to be a military strike is to make it clear that the possibility of such a strike is very real. And here Obama is, proving Netanyahu correct. This does not mean that a strike won't ultimately be necessary, but rather, that the specter of such a strike is the only thing that might possibly make Iran respond.

Obama has never made the threat of a US strike credible enough so that Iran might take it seriously. So he's utilizing the threat of Israel instead.

According to Reuters, citing the Russian paper Kommersant, a Russian diplomat has complained that "The Israelis are de facto blackmailing Obama. They put him in an interesting position. Either he backs the war of loses the support [of the American Jewish lobby]."

If Obama truly sees it this way, how delightful, and how delightfully ironic.


Many of you, especially in the US, may have heard the interview on TV with former head of the Mossad, Meir Dagan, who spoke against Israeli military action on Iran -- raising much ire here, I will say.

Please see this piece by another former head of Mossad, Efraim Halevy, who offers a different take and explains why it is inappropriate for intelligence people to be involved in the decision making:


Last night I attended an excellent conference on Islam's connection to Jerusalem. I hope to provide a summary of information from this conference very soon.


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