Thursday, June 19, 2008

Israel-Hamas truce and politics.

By Ami Isseroff

For better or worse, today marks the start of a new era in Israeli-Palestinian relations. A truce has de facto legitimized the Hamas government in Gaza. Israel has, it appears, somehow lost the Gaza Monopoly game, landing in the green "Legitimize Hamas Rule" square. There is no doubt that Israel negotiated a very poor and hasty agreement, which does not prevent arms smuggling through the Rafah crossing, and doesn't even get captured soldier Gilad Shalit back.

Objectively, Israel appeared to be winning the war of attrition against Hamas, since Gaza residents were increasingly dissatisfied. On the other hand, Americans and others were expressing increasing dissatisfaction over the bogus "human rights crisis," and there were signs that the international coalition that has more or less isolated the Hamas would crack, or that the Palestinians would conclude a unity deal, which would render the Hamas government "kosher" in the eyes of the world, and give the Hamas control over the West Bank as well. A military operation in Gaza was risky and might put the Hamas in the catbird seat rather than eliminating the problem. A deal with Hamas was needed at least temporarily in order to satisfy the Egyptians and possibly the Americans.

Still, this deal seems to be very bad. If the Egyptians are not going to be active in suppressing smuggling, then their role in the negotiations was totally unjustified from the Israeli point of view - they won no real advantages for Israel, and simply acted as a legitimate front for the demands of the Hamas. Its one "advantage" is that it does not include the West Bank, where Israel is free to operate. But the bottom line of that reckoning is that the relatively moderate Palestinian Authority will be "rewarded" with strikes against wanted terrorists, while more vicious Islamic Jihad and Hamas terrorists are protected in the Gaza Strip. Very likely a way will be found for some of these West Bank terrorists to reach Gaza and find shelter there. It is not impossible either that Gilad Shalit will be smuggled out through the porous Rafah border to meet an anonymous end in some Iranian jail.

What drives the decisions that the Israeli government has taken in the past few weeks? I have believed, and want to believe, that they are based on strategic, military and technical concerns. It is still too early to give up on a successful conclusion. The road to a successful military operation that eliminates the Hamas may indeed run through a cease fire, as Ehud Barak claims. But the Hamas would have to be incredibly stupid to give Israel a reason to break a cease fire that offers them overwhelming advantages. Since the rocket fire was earning them the disapproval not only of the Western world, but of Palestinians and Arabs as well, they give up nothing by stopping it, and gain everything by appearing to be reasonable and opening the way for the good life in the Gaza strip. A woefully mistimed editorial by Ziad Assali, head of the American Task Force for Palestine, scores the Hamas for their "miscalculation" in continuing the rocket fire, which has brought misery to Gaza. Now the Hamas can demonstrate that "steadfastness" and "resistance" have led to real gains for them. The inappropriate appearance of the editorial underscores the victory of the Hamas.

The noted analysts Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff reach some of the same conclusions regarding the drawbacks of the truce. They claim that nonetheless, the truce was viewed as a lesser evil than a military operation at this point, because Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert believed they didn't have the political backing needed to carry out a military operation in Gaza.

On the face of it, this is a very problematic claim. A recent poll found that Israelis are very dissatisfied with the security situation. Even though the poll asked a leading question designed to elicit support for lifting the closure of the Gaza strip, the results indicated that Israelis overwhelmingly oppose lifting the closure:

11. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "The closure creates hardships for the residents and drives them to desperation, which is likely to cause increased violence against Israel. Therefore, Israel should ease the closure of Gaza."

Strongly agree: 16%
Somewhat agree: 18%
Somewhat disagree: 22%
Strongly disagree: 41%
Total agree: 34%
Total disagree: 63%

A poll published June 12 by the "Hakol Diburim" radio program found that the Israeli public favored a military operation over a truce with Hamas. But examination of the June 12 poll may provide the light of understanding. The crucial question and the responses:

Do you today support signing a ceasefire agreement with Hamas or a large military operation in Gaza?
Total: Ceasefire 33% Operation 44% Other 23%
Kadima voters: Ceasefire 33% Operation 38% Other 29%
Likud voters: Ceasefire 17% Operation 81% Other 2%
Labor voters: Ceasefire 64% Operation 21% Other 15%

Support for a military operation among Kadima voters was lukewarm, while Labor voters overwhelmingly favored a ceasefire. Of course, they didn't necessarily favor a ceasefire like the one that was actually achieved. However, one is led to the unpleasant suspicion that Olmert and Barak based their decision on political pressures within their own parties. Olmert's leadership is challenged by the more dovish Tzippi Livni and Barak's leadership is contested by dovish Ami Ayalon and Amir Peretz. If the decision was based on considerations of political survival, it is not an exemplary case of statesmanship to say the least.

A poll conducted one day before the "calm" went into effect yielded these results:

Do you support or oppose the calm agreement with Hamas?
Total: Support 40.6% Oppose 32.9% No position 26.5%
Kadima voters: Support 38.1% Oppose 31.8% No position 30.1%
Likud voters: Support 22.3% Oppose 60.4% No position 17.3%
Labor voters: Support 69.2% Oppose 10.1% No position 20.7%

You think that the calm will continue for a short time (days) or a long time (months)?
Total: Short 74.8% Long 17.1% Don't know 8.1%
Kadima voters: Short 81.5% Long 5.3% DK 13.2%
Likud voters:: Short 91.4% Long 2.2% DK 6.4%
Labor voters: Short 59.6% Long 12.8% DK 27.6%

A plurality of Israelis support the truce, but solid majorities of the entire political spectrum thing it won't last very long. In other words, many people buy into the argument that "we have to give peace a chance." It is also apparent that Ehud Barak was representing the sentiment of his party in supporting the truce over a military operation.

This deal should not have divided right and left in Israel. The legitimation of Hamas comes at the expense of the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas, as we have seen above. Those who believe that the Palestinian Authority is a viable peace partner must understand that the truce with Hamas has scuttled any real chance of making a peace deal with the Palestinians, because Hamas will never acquiesce in a real peace deal. They can't.

We cannot ignore the question of the release of Gilad Shalit. The ethic of "leaving noone behind" is in itself admirable. It is enforced, in kidnapping cases, by the lobbying efforts organized by families of kidnapped soldiers and their attorneys. The desire to "bring our boys home" is a strong motivation for the prospective disastrous swap of murderer Samir Kuntar for captured Israeli soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, and the captivity of Gilad Shalit figured heavily in the Hamas truce negotiations. It was not an illegitimate concern, especially since a large scale military operation would probably mean death for Gilad Shalit. Ehud Olmert promised that the Shalit swap was part of the deal, while the Hamas insisted that it is not. For the moment, Hamas seems to be telling the truth. To redeem his "honor," Olmert is now committed to getting back Shalit at any price. The Shalit family is threatening to bring their case to the Israel Supreme Court in order to force the government not to open the Gaza crossings until their son is freed.

Israel and the Palestinians have entered on a new era with this truce, a brave new world in which the game is apparently being played according to rules written in Tehran. In a few months, it should be apparent whether the Israeli government made a wise decision based on considerations of state or a foolish one based on political considerations and emotional sentiment, which can lead to disaster.

Ami Isseroff

Original content is Copyright by the author 2008.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Murder of Jewish Toddlers! What HEZBOLLAH is "ALL ABOUT!"

On July 12, 2006 Lebanese Hezbollah militants crossed the border with Israel in an operation dubbed "Operation Truthful Promise," which was aimed at nabbing Israeli soldiers in exchange for Lebanese prisoners. Hezbollah succeeded in the operation and successfully took hostage two Israeli soldiers, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. During the operation, eight Israeli soldiers were killed. This ignited the sequence of events which led to the Israel/Lebanon summer war.

The story goes further back than July of 2006. It really began in April 1979! On Sabbath day, April 22, 1979, Danny and Smadar Haran met up with a monster named Samir Kuntar.
Danny and Smadar were a loving Israeli couple. They had everything they could ever hope for... love, marriage and two precious daughters, Einat, 4 and Yael, 2. That day Smadar was home anticipating Danny's return from work and preparing for the Sabbath. She had just picked up their two toddlers from day care. Danny, on the other hand, was looking forward to nothing more than getting home and spending time with his wife and his two young daughters.

Traditionally, the Sabbath is the most special day of the week, the day the family gets to spend time together and celebrate their bond to Judaism. It was especially important for Danny who, as a young father, had to work extra hard in order to provide for his wife and young children. Little did Smadar know that this would be the last Sabbath she would celebrate with her family because of a man named Samir Kuntar. Around midnight the nightmare began!

(Samir Kuntar; also spelled: Sameer Kuntar, Kantar, Qantar, Kintar, Quntar, Qintar, Cantar)

What's the deal with Samir Kuntar?

Since April 22, 1979 Samir Kuntar has been incarcerated in an Israeli prison. Samir Kuntar, a Druze from the Lebanese mountain village of Aabey , who currently holds the dubious distinction of being the longest held Lebanese prisoner in Israeli jails. Kuntar is currently ONE of THREE Lebanese prisoners still serving time in Israeli jails. Kuntar was convicted and sentenced to a 542 years prison sentence by the state of Israel . Israel even almost tried to pass a bill to have him executed! What did he do? What was his crime? The crime Kuntar committed was one of the most sickest, heinous, barbaric crime ever committed on Israeli soil.

The crime took place on April 22, 1979 when Kuntar led a group of 3 other terrorists, all members of Abu Abbas PLF (Palestinian Liberation Front), infiltrated the Israeli coastal city of Naharya and broke into the Haran family apartment and took Danny Haran and his 4 year old daughter Einat Haran hostage. When Kuntar and his gang broke into the apartment, the wife, Smadar Haran and her 2 year old daughter Yael, were also present in the apartment. Smadar managed to find a crawl space into which she, her younger daughter, 2 year old Yael, and a neighbor all hid. To prevent Yael from crying and giving away their hiding place, Smadar covered the child's mouth with her hand.

Kuntar and his group took Danny and little Einat down to the beach. At the beach Kuntar shot Danny in the back. Danny survived the gun shot but moments later was drowned personally by Kuntar. All this was witnessed by the young daughter. Kuntar forced her to watch her father's murder so that [in Kuntar's words] "his death would be the last sight she would ever see." Kuntar then laid the little toddler down on a rock and smashed her head with the butt of his rifle. She didn’t die right away, so Kuntar beat her with his rifle repeatedly, over and over again (all this done, while she was screaming and crying), to ensure that she was dead.

Meanwhile in the apartment, Smadar's attempt to muffle her daughter's whimpering proved fatal. Yael was accidentally suffocated and died within the hiding space.
And on July 12, 2006, the ONLY reason why Ehud Goldawasser and Eldad Regev were kidnapped by Hezbollah, was to force Israel to release/surrender Samir Kuntar.
Now the dilemma is, should Israel release Samir Kuntar in order to gain the release of Goldwasser and Regev? Unfortunately Kuntar might be freed in the next couple of days in exchange for these two soldiers, or their caskets, since there hasn’t been even one sign of life since their kidnapping on July 12th. For those who didn’t know, Samir Kuntar was the only reason that’s been holding back the release of Goldwasser and Regev, for almost a year and a half.

According to Smadar Haran, her last memories of Danny and Einat, that day, were when they were being led away at gun point by Kuntar. She could hear from her closet space Danny telling Einat, "Don't be scared, my baby, it will be alright" and Einat replied to him in her little voice, "Dad, where is Mommy? I want Mommy." Smadar's last memory of her 2-year-old daughter, Yael, was when her little daughter was taken to the apartment hiding space. Right before Yael had her mouth covered by her mother, she asked her mother "Where is my little pacifier." There was no time to search for the pacifier. Minutes later Smadar covered Yael's mouth to keep her from revealing the hiding space. Smadar soon felt her daughter's tiny tongue licks and lip sucking on the palm of her hand. She didn't know what to make of it at first but hours later was told by doctors and paramedics that the reason Yael was licking her palm while she covered her mouth was because she was gasping for air.

A Sad Gruesome Reality

After drowning Danny in the sea in front of little Einat, Kuntar, the brave Lebanese freedom fighter, then turned his attention towards the frightened little 4-year old. He took his rifle and then swung it across the little toddler's head, knocking her to the ground. As little Einat was knocked to the ground, she was screaming and crying hysterically "mommy daddy help me," while thrashing her little legs around in the sand. But unfortunately Einat was alone, and no one was there to save her. Kuntar then dragged the little toddler a couple of feet to the closest rock he could find, this was while she was begging him not to hurt her. Kuntar, then laid her head down on a rock, with the intention of crushing it with the butt of his rifle. Einat, instinctively covered her head with her little arms, Kuntar struggled with the little toddler until he finally managed to clear her arms out of the way so that he could aim for her head. Once her arms were out of the way, Kuntar proceeded on beating her on the head over and over with the butt of his rifle, and repeatedly stomping on her little body as hard as he could as well, until blood rushed out of her ears and mouth, and her little cries faded away as she was knocked into unconsciousness. Then, to ensure she was dead, Kuntar continued on beating her over the head, as hard as he could, several more times until her skull was crushed and she was dead.

The nerve of Hezbollah to honor a child killer like Kuntar. The nerve of Hezbollah to kidnap two Israeli soldiers in order to force Israel to release a child murderer from jail! This is what Hezbollah is all about.

The July 12, 2006 abduction was originally named "Operation Freedom Samir Kuntar," by Hezbollah. But days before the kidnapping Hezbollah changed the name of the operation to "Operation Truthful Promise," due to the fact that Nasrallah made a true promise to the family of Samir Kuntar to have him freed from jail.

In September 2000, three Israeli soldiers were kidnapped by Hizbollah, along with an Israeli businessman, Elhanan Tennenbaum. Nasrallah immediately demanded Israel release all its Lebanese prisoners INCLUDING Samir Kuntar. In 2004 Israel was holding a TOTAL of 26 Lebanese prisoners. That same year, 23 out of those 26 prisoners were released, in order to secure the release of those 3 IDF (Israeli Defense Force) soldiers as well and Elhanan Tennenbaum. This prisoner exchange also had a second phase, which involved Hezbollah providing solid evidence on the fate of Ron Arad (the Israeli pilot who went missing in Lebanon in 1986) and in exchange, Israel would release the 24th Lebanese prisoner, Samir Kuntar! Hezbollah failed to deliver the information on Arad, and the deal was off.

In 2006, when Goldwasser and Regev were kidnapped Israel was out of bargain chips, its only choice in order to gain information on the fate of these two soldiers is the release Samir Kuntar. Who even knows if Goldwasser and Regev are alive! Let’s not forget, the four years prior to the "infamous Israel-Hezbollah prisoner exchange of 2004," Israel had no idea on the fate of their soldiers until the day of the exchange. Only on the day of the exchange Israel found out, they would receive 3 caskets instead of 3 soldiers.

It is beyond sickening, a man who beat to death a little toddler is celebrated for his glorious deed. Kuntar has been dubbed by some parts of the Arab world as the "Dean of World Prisoners." Who would imagine? Hezbollah crossing the border into Israel, killing four Israeli soldiers and kidnapping 2 more, going through all this trouble, JUST to free a child killer!

There is another point worth mentioning. Hezbollah has never claimed that Kuntar was innocent or that he may have been framed. They only demand his release as if he were being held unlawfully and that Israel had no right to imprison him.

Kuntar is probably the most hated person by the Israeli public. He is known as the "killer of Nahrya" instead of "terrorist of Nahrya." And to think that this person is being released under the context of threat, extortion, and blackmail! If it wasn’t for kidnapping of soldiers, Kuntar would have continued to serve out his sentence.

Israel has an extensive history of releasing prisoner with blood on their hands, it has been done in the past and most expect that, it would happen again. This time with Kuntar. It is important to keep in mind that prisoners who are in Israeli jails are serving time for something. Israel is not a "gangster" or "lawless" state that imprisons people based solely on a whim. Every prisoner was charged, stood trail, convicted and properly sentenced. They were not kidnapped simply because they were Arabs. Hence, there is no justification in comparing the kidnapped Israeli soldiers to Samir Kuntar.

There is a fine line between a humanitarian release of prisoners or releasing prisoners for the sake of peace AND knuckling under to unadulterated extortion. There is also a huge difference between someone with hatred in his head and he who has blood on his hands! Nobody expects that someone like Kuntar who is released will become Lovers of Israel! But someone and others like Kuntar who have committed murder or collaborated in the planning of that murder should be considered an unacceptable risk. It goes beyond forgiving terrorism. It becomes an abetting in any future terrorism carried out by those released. Israel will viewed as a weak state that can be brought to its knees by extortion.

If Israel was to release Kuntar it would be the biggest thing they ever surrendered! The Sinai Peninsula, Israel gave back under negotiations, the West Bank and Gaza Israel also gave back under negotiations of the Oslo Accords. In 1985 during the famous "Ahmed Jibril Exchange" Israel released 1200 prisoners for the release of 3 IDF soldiers, some of those prisoners who were released had blood on their hands including Kozo Okamoto who killed 22 Israelis. BUT even all those 1200 prisoners put together, cannot compare to the savage murderous act committed by Samir Kuntar. Israel also currently holds 10,000 Palestinian prisoners, some of which have been incarcerated for conspiring, carrying out, and masterminding murderous terrorist attacks (suicide bombings, shootings, etc…), which targeted Jewish civilians in Israel. BUT even all those 10,000 prisoners put together cannot compare to Kuntar.

Kuntar could have shot little Einat or blown her up, but instead he took his loaded gun and just bludgeoned her on the head repeatedly for several minutes until she was dead! Lets not also forget, the fact, that several minutes prior to murdering Einat, Kuntar drowned her father in front of her, and forced her to watch.

Anyone, who reads this article and does not shed a tear, is not a human being.
What kind of country is this to release a child murderer from jail under the context of threat and extortion? If we release Kuntar, we know what message it sends to Hezbollah and other terror groups like Hamas, etc… But what obscene messages does it send to the families of those Israeli murdered, especially Smadar Haran whose daughter was beaten to death by a man who hates Jews. What Kuntar did was not only a terrorist act but should also be considered a criminal act. And what demoralizing message does it send to the Israeli troops and security services who risked their lives in order to capture and arrest the terrorists?
There is no doubt that Goldwasser and Regev need to be unconditionally released from Lebanon, Syria, Iran or from wherever they are now being held. Olmert's "good will gesture" has disaster written all over it. Appeasement didn't work with Hitler and it will not work with Hezbollah. "Negotiations" will not work either for over what exactly is there to negotiate? How far will Israel go to assure its own disappearance?

There will be nothing positive coming out of the release of Kuntar. There is no worst context of releasing prisoners than under the context of threat. But today October 15, 2007 there is chatter within Israel to drop the demand for Ron Arad for the exchange of Kuntar.

The Official Website of Samir Kuntar
Israel moots Kuntar prisoner swap
(AL-JAZEERA 9/17/2006)
Free the monster Samir Kuntar
(Haaretz article 09/04/2006)
Plot to free terrorist (Kuntar) may have led to fight
(Washington Times 8/8/2006)
Nasrallah says no deal without Samir
(9/12/2006 BBC article "Nasrallah Demands Militant Free")
"Hizballah Wants Israel to Free Child-Killer"
(Cybercast News Service, 7/18/2006)
More than 25 years later, militant still atop Hezbollah's list for swap
(Seattle Times 8/16/2006)
Why Hezbollah Attacked Israel
(Mens News Daily 8/09/2006)
Samir Kuntar to be released very soon
The Jerusalem Post 1/6/2007
Video of an interview with Smadar Haran on CBC
(RealPlayer required)

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