Friday, July 26, 2002

A trickle of information about the supposed Tanzim ceasefire here.

A European diplomat (elsewhere described as British) and a "peace worker" had been making rounds among militia leaders and were convinced that the militias were ready to declare a ceasefire. Meanwhile Mohammed Dahlan and associates were trying to do something similar but without success. I'm still skeptical.

According to the diplomat, the ceasefire declaration was going to be signed by Fatah's secretary-general Hussein al-Sheikh. al-Sheikh was interviewed on Israeli radio a few weeks ago and you can read a transcript here.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

I didn't make it to see the film Jenin Diary on Tuesday, but here's a description from the AP.

A Palestinian computer game (video)
This AM Palestinian gunfire killed a 43-yr. old father of 8 in Paduel (report).

The discussion here in Israel about the Shehade hit largely assumes two things people elsewhere seem to be arguing about: Is killing senior terror ringleaders like Shehade justified? Absolutely ... Is it right to kill them in a circumstance that seems likely to result in the deaths of bystanders? No.

Both these points are largely taken for granted here and (unfortunately as it were) have the status of Standard Operating Procedure.

Here's more on the IDF's planning of the Shehade killing.

13 of the 17 civilian casualties in the attack were residents of adjacent buildings. The IDF estimated that a bomb dropped from an aircraft (rather than a helicopter-fired missile) was required to destroy Shehade's building and kill those inside; but the Army and the Shin Bet (security service) disagreed regarding how much damage would be caused to the rest of the neighborhood.

In the end, Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter accepted the army's assessment - based on tests performed by the Air Force - that residents of the nearby buildings would suffer only shrapnel wounds, shock or cuts from broken glass. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer approved the operation on the basis of the army's assessment.

If the article is mostly accurate, then it's not disingenous for Sharon and Ben-Eliezer to shift blame to the IDF, which seems to have been more "enthusiastic" (and "optimistic") than the Shin-Bet.

One of the casualties in the attack on Shehade was Hamas operative Zahaar Abu-Hussein.
Notwithstanding the scary mosh pit, the concert by the Madregot at Ganei Yehoshua in Tel Aviv tonite was pretty good.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

A poll commissioned by Peace Now (who we don't here from much these days) says that only 6% of the population of the settlements would illegally obey a decision from the political echelon regarding the dismantling of settlements. One third of these (ie. 2% of the total) would be prepared to use weapons to resist evacuation.

What would actually happen would depend a lot on the circumstances of the evacuation (ie. negotiated vs. unilateral etc.) But when Prof. Irwin Wall writes in the New York Review of Books that
The problem in Israel's case is that nobody is willing to deal with the potential opposition of the settlers on the West Bank to the dismantling of settlements that has to accompany any peace agreement, and that similarly threatens to pit Jews against Jews in an orgy of violence. The problem is all the more dangerous because it runs roughly along a fault line between religious and secular Jews in Israeli society.
.. you can know for sure that he is no clue at all what he is talking about.
Fairly wide criticism from all the media here about the civilian casualties in the Shehadeh killing. Observers are saying that it reflects a desperation for new responses to last week's terror attacks, or an overenthusiasm with an long-sought opportunity to kill a senior Hamas target.

Though it's obvious, it's worth noting that in this one instance - where there is an actual basis for thinking that IDF firepower was used inappropriately - there is real concern in Israel (and hyperbolic rhetoric from the Arabs and the EU). This is in contrast to the rest of the time, when the Arab world, EU, and others throw around accusations that are motivated primarily by political considerations.

Uri Orbach on Army Radio pointed out that it wasn't really necessary to be pursuing Shehadeh for so long because we used to have him in jail. He was released as part of the Oslo prisoner release, together will a lot of other extremists who agreed to sign a form where they stated that they would abstain from violent activity.

A friend of mine once did reserve duty at a prison in the Negev which housed the proud ones who refused to sign.

Separately, the US is trying to postpone Palestinian elections scheduled for January because they fear that Arafat will win (report).
This Hebrew Yediot Ahronot article has "Palestinian and Israeli sources" claiming that the Tanzim and Fatah militia were just about the announce a unilateral ceasefire but that the Shehade killing has torpedoed it. The article also claims that an unofficial ceasefire with Hamas was being arranged. None of the sources of this information are named, and there is not a single point in the article that has the potential to be verified independently. If I'm not mistaken, author Ofer Shalah is mainly a sports writer.

So once again we hear mysterious reports that the Palestinians were just about to turn the corner, but then we provoked them (cf. the Malley/Agha version of Sharon's Temple Mount visit).

Update: The BBC quotes from the above article here, while getting some details wrong:

Yediot Aharonot, meanwhile, reports that Tanzim, Hamas and Islamic Jihad had agreed to declare a ceasefire only hours before the attack.
The Yediot article says it was the Tanzim and Fatah who were supposedly going to make the declaration. Hamas were going to assent silently. Islamic Jihad is not mentioned.
It says that Israel's political and military establishment knew of the ceasefire initiative.

The Yediot article quotes an anonymous Defense Ministry spokesperson as saying it was unaware of any ceasefire announcement. The Yediot article includes no statement that the political or military establishment knew of the supposed ceasefire.

This article has some info about the IDF's operational judgment etc. Only four of the 15 people killed (and more than 100 wounded) were actually in the house: Shehadeh, his wife, daughter and a Shehadeh aide from the Hamas. The rest of the casualties were residents of surrounding buildings.
Palestinians fired several Kassam rockets and mortars at towns in the Negev, lightly injuring 2 (report).

On the channel 2 news they were saying that Defence Minister Ben-Eliezer's remarks (blogged below) about the Shehade mission in Gaza indicate that he, unlike Sharon, is trying to deflect blame to the IDF.

I have little interest in the obvious differences between this incident and the various types of Palestinian attacks on Israelis; or pointing out the hypocrisy of Palestinian officials etc. or even Ari Fleischer . But I am disturbed by the child casualties, and as various people keep pointing out, the IDF generally holds off when there's the risk of something like this happening. Did the IDF just mess up as Ben-Eliezer seems to be saying? Did it have to do with Shehade being such an important target?

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

This article (not yet on the English Haaretz site) says that yesterday military secretary Mike Herzog called Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer who was still visiting the UK and told him that there was an opportunity to kill a senior Hamas member with an air attack and that the chance of injuring civilians was "not large". After Ben-Eliezer OK-ed the operation, Sharon went ahead with it quickly so as not to lose the "tactical opportunity".

Update: Haaretz (again in Hebrew only) says that Shehada was killed with a large bomb, rather than missiles as is usual (missiles cause less damage).
Maybe an ill-considered switch was made because Shehada was such a significant target.

There was much discussion on Army Radio today about the kids killed in the attack (I'll try to write a summary later, really...)
Here's my theory: Israel temporarily shut down al-Quds University in order to carry out a "fishing expedition" for intelligence. The Palnet shutdown is for the same reason.

T. today was told that she had received a counterfeit 10 shekel coin (flat corners instead of rounded). There have been reports about counterfeiting going on in the PA.

Blogging will remain light for a bit longer and then hopefully pick up again.

Monday, July 22, 2002

Interesting article on the current state of the IDF presence and curfew in Jenin.
This thread discussing the dying2live pro-suicide-bomber ad campaign surprised me. I guess it shouldn't have. Many people in the US and Europe believe that the Palestinians are "just like them", and find suggestions that the Pals have very basic cultural differences to be offensive.

It seems that Prof. Tony Judt thinks along those lines also .... and it seems that he is enough of a Europhile that dismissing Israeli leftists with Christ-killer rhetoric just comes naturally to him.
In this article, Security Minister Uzi Landau defends the decision to shut down al-Quds University. If this is the best he can do then I'm really not convinced.

Update: al-Quds has now been reopened (report)
Drudge (noting the flour mill strike here) says: "FEAR OF BREAD SHORTAGE CAUSES PANIC IN HOLY LAND" and provides this picture:

To clarify, scenes like the above are not happening here.

Who's actually panicking? The AP tells us that it was a 52-yr. old housewife from Moza:
"I am in a panic," said Shabat Simha, who traveled from her home outside Jerusalem to the city's main market Sunday to buy bread because her local stores had run out.

Sunday, July 21, 2002

United Arab Emirates is said to have agreed to fund rebuilding the Jenin refugee camp (report).

Isn't it a bit paradoxical to "rebuild a refugee camp"? If 800 housing units are being built at a cost of $27 million over 2 years, shouldn't that be called "building houses"?
The Jerusalem Film Festival is going on right now. T. and I were hoping to go to see something light and escapist - but no such luck. Most of the films, even the non-Israeli ones, seem to be heavy and political (and also leftist). One film that looks interesting is this one, which was filmed by a reservist who served in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield.