Friday, October 18, 2002

Zeev Schiff lists the "humanitarian" issues that the US is bringing up with Sharon (here). Schiff says that there will probably soon be a change in the IDF's rules of engagement in Gaza - prohibiting firing from tanks and mandating use of small forces instead.

Friday's Yediot has a very interesting long article on how the chaos at the Havat Gilad outpost this week illustrates a generation gap in the settler movement.

This article about the Hezbollah TV station al-Manar (in Lebanon) is the usual about the exhortations towards martyrdom etc. But it mentions that the Lebanese subsidiaries of Pepsi and Proctor & Gamble advertise on it.
More on Rafiah

On Channel 2 news, the announcer asked the military analyst (Moshe Nussbaum I think) "Was this a case of light fingers on the trigger? or is it an unavoidable result [of the circumstance]?". The analyst very quickly said "a bit of both I guess" and then went on to describe the IDF's initial findings: The IDF fence/tower builders were fired upon (no mention of RPGs or anything) from an area where Palestinians try to dig tunnels for smuggling arms and people in and out of Egypt.. Shooting from this area, which is directly adjacent to private homes, is commonplace.

The IDF responded with gunfire towards the source of the shooting. Additionally, the tank fired at the area next to the source of the shooting and also fired several shells rather than one. Nussbaum said that these last 2 points (ie. about the tank's behaviour) will be investigated further by the IDF.

Channel 2 also had some Palestinian spokesman saying approximately (in English): "Everytime we try to revive the peace process, Israel strikes us again with all this firepower". Oh if only the world were a place where people would see this statement for what it really is ....

Interestingly, Haaretz said from the beginning that the IDF had encountered gunfire - unlike the other papers they said nothing about an anti-tank weapon.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

Jpost reporter describes a meeting with the IDF's primary spokewoman here. He says that the "broad inoffensiveness of [the interview] dissuades me from publishing the transcript", and follows with a good description of the need for more transparency from the IDF and examples of where transparency has been employed (here). He mentions in passing that Palestinian allegations that an IDF helicopter fired into a group of people in Khan Yunis last week have been disproved.
Rafah incident:

Currently Ynet has the most details. 7 Palestinians dead from gunfire from an IDF tank. Palestinians say the tank spontaneously opened fire on houses after some rock/Molotov throwing at an under-construction lookout tower. The IDF says that they were fired on with an anti-tank missile.

Ynet quotes "sources" within the PA as saying: "this is the immediate consequence of the meeting between Ariel Sharon and Pres. Bush yesterday".

Maariv says that the tank fired 5 shells, adds that "exchanges of gunfire" are continuing.
The always maddening UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen wrote an op-ed in Today's Haaretz. Here's a partial fisking:

To understand this better, consider two competing views found on both sides of the conflict - the constructionist and the destructionist. In simple terms, the constructionists believe in a two-state solution and the destructionists do not.

Israeli and Palestinian constructionists have similar outlooks. They say the best way to foster peace, security and prosperity for both sides is through the creation of a democratic Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This state would work for the benefit of its people, and in the process control and stop violence against Israel. In this scenario, both sides win.

Israeli and Palestinian destructionists both seek total control of the land at the expense of their adversaries, and are in a kind of unholy embrace that is fueling today's downward spiral. For them, only one state can emerge west of the Jordan River: Israel or Palestine. It is a zero-sum game.

So Larsen's sees (or claims to see) two distinct groups of people: the "constructionists" and the "destructionists". Of course he then sides with the "constructionists". This is a nice, neat, view of the situation (and the basis of his whole argument). Do Europeans really see things that way?

In reality most Israelis today are - using Larsen's terms - "constructionists who realized, post-Camp David, that there's no partner for construction on the Palestinian side".

If Larsen has the opportunity to express himself in an Israeli paper, he should at least spend a few lines to try to convince Israelis that peace along the 1967 borders is possible - after all, not even the Palestinian Authority will say so.

The fourth trend is perhaps the most significant of all: Israel's continued expansion of West Bank settlements, and the land confiscation that goes with it. Even as the world repeatedly calls for a freeze to all such activity, it continues apace. The settlements, and the highways that serve them, could soon envelop East Jerusalem, cutting it off from the rest of the West Bank, which would then also be split in half. Other settlement projects will bisect the northern West Bank and encircle Bethlehem and Hebron to the south.

Larsen's alarming description conjures images of vast gov't-sponsored building projects surrounding and isolating Palestinian enclaves and snapping up all the land. On the ground however, we have settlers stealthily setting groups of mobile homes on hilltops. Yesterday the IDF cleared one "illegal outpost" called Havat Gilad which consisted of scattered mobile homes; and another one called "Nofei Nehemia" which consisted of 6 families.

Netanyahu started building Har Homa (which Israelis regard as part of Jerusalem) because Bethlehem and Arab neighbourhoods in Jerusalem are growing towards each other. When they meet it will be impossible to draw a border between them.

Why does Larsen think the settlements are "most significant of all" as a cause of the unresolvability of the situation? More significant than the PA's insistence that millions of Palestinians be permitted to move into pre-1967 Israel? More significant than the PA's acceptance of murdering Israelis as an acceptable pressure tactic? More significant than the IDF's return to the Palestinian cities?

A good question is: does the Palestinian media mostly castigate Israel for building Har Homa and permitting 6 caravan hilltop outposts? Or do they instead focus on their casualties, imagined offenses against Islam, and real and imagined humiliation?

Focusing attention on the settlements is done primarily because it facilitates blaming Israel for absolutely everything...
Why is Lebanon is drawing 10 million cubic meters/year from the little Wazzani rather than the mighty Litani? Or rather ... what's the reason given by the Lebanese? According to PM Rafic Hariri's official website, the UN and US suggested using the Litani ....:

But the Prime Minister added, from "day one," he made it clear that the Litani River hardly satisfies the demands of the region and the Wazzani waters are needed for vital projects. Mr. Hariri said while Lebanon entrusted the United Nations with the issue, the country has also been in contact with the United States, the European Union, and the international community, to counter Israeli claims.

Haririi says the Litani "hardly satisfies the demands of the region", but the Litani discharges about 700-900 million cubic meters per year into the Mediterranean Sea (source).

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Palestinians often seem to convince themselves that Israeli defensive (or retaliatory) actions are actually acts of unilateral aggression .... but they can't beat this statement from an Iranian newspaper:

"It's worth pointing out that, contrary to what the Nobel Peace Committee announced about Carter's pacifism, he launched a military attack against Iran on the pretext of liberating the U.S. hostages," the paper said.

(via Moira Breen)
The Arrow is the Israeli successor to the Patriot missile. It has been deployed in 2 secret locations in Israel and is said to work, but less than perfectly (report).

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

More on the Wazzani River Dispute

This AM on the radio, Prof. Dan Zaslavsky described the impact of the Lebanese diversion of the Wazzani River. The Wazzani provides about 10% of the inflow to Lake Kinneret, and that amount is endangered as Lebanon drains progressively more water.

Zaslavsky says: Reducing the flow of the Wazzani will increase the already-high salinity of the Kinneret by a third. The Lebanese can easily use the Litani River for their domestic needs, but they are testing us and our response. Egypt is hypothetically vulnerable to a similar move by Sudan on the Nile, and much of Syria's water comes from Turkey - so other Arab countries are largely staying quiet on this.

Here's a 1996 article from a legal journal on water disputes in the Middle East. According to it, the 1994 Draft Articles of the International Law Commission "have a significant de facto impact" on water disputes.

According to Article 7, a state must "exercise due diligence to prevent causing significant harm" to a downstream state, where "significant harm" is defined as "“real impairment of use”. I am not a lawyer, but "due diligence" in this context apparently means that the issue must be resolved through negotiations.

As an aside, it's interesting that lawyers speak of "theories" for these things rather than "proposals".

Note the way this AP article takes a few words from Zaslavsky to make him sound like a warmonger while this pious 1997 NPR report portrays him as an environmentalist.

Update: Report on the official opening of the pumping station.
People are talking about: Iraq, the civil servant strike, the Labor/Likud committee elections, and Bali.

This Hebrew article says that an Israeli woman was visiting Bali 2 months ago and alerted authorities because she was certain that she saw Osama Bin L... Right...

The IDF is planning to withdraw from Hebron by the end of the week. Due to intense American pressure?
Sherard Cowper-Coles, the British Ambassador to Israel, acknowledged that in an a private conversation with IDF official Amos Gilad he called the West Bank/Gaza the "biggest detention camp in the world" and scolded the IDF for a lack of professionalism (report), and says he is "proud" of the remarks.

It would be a cheap shot to suggest that Cowper-Coles is proud because the "detention camp" remark will get him invites to some posh dinner parties back in London - his remarks are actually mostly sane and considered, something which is exceptional and praiseworthy. But if he really thinks that the IDF is unprofessional, and that the hardships created by checkpoints etc. are broadly unnecessary, it follows that:

1) It's the details, rather than the basic fact of the IDF's presence in the PA areas that are problematic. Better training and administration is what's needed, not immediate withdrawal or other moves that constitute concessions to the PA.

2) There should be an example from somewhere in the world where a military force did a better job of maintaining order among a hostile population.

But I doubt that Cowper-Coles would actually come out and agree with what are the clear implications of his criticism.

As an aside, it's quite admirable that Cowper-Coles is learning Hebrew. Here's an op-ed where he proudly flaunts his ability to read bumper stickers.
Masters of the Obvious This Barry Rubin column presents 20 questions and concise answers about the "situation".

Monday, October 14, 2002

Gary Farber linked to this article in the UK Independent in which a number of Britons are asked:

Who have most justice on their side?
a) The Israeli people and their leaders.
b) The Palestinian people and their leaders
c) Don't know..

Most of the respondents object to the formulation of the question; the others just think that the Palestinian position is self-evident - no real explanation or justification needed. That's probably because there are some people who see a picture like this one or headlines like this one and think that's all that they need to know.
The Israeli media is talking about preparedness for a strike by Saddam after the Americans attack. Some Tel Aviv residents especially have been making plans to go elsewhere in case of war. I haven't heard much talk from the people around me though... that's probably because Saddam never fired at Jerusalem in '91.

If I had the time and energy right now, the 2 topics that I want to get a handle on are: 1) what is the IDF doing now in Gaza? 2) What's up with the various reports of secret negotiations between Israel and the PA and the informal halt on terror attacks by Fatah.

To me it seems likely that any attempt by Fatah to halt attacks is motivated by the desire to preserve whatever infrastructure that remains. Israel is continuing to hit hard nonetheless, as tonite's surgical hit on Al-Aqsa member Mohammed Abayat in Beit Jala shows. And at the same time the IDF is being very aggressive in Gaza, leaving the impression (only recently - since the Shehade hit in particular) that its desire to eliminate Hamas is leading it to endanger civilians more than it has until now. Though operations in Gaza are probably much more complex than in the West Bank.

Sunday, October 13, 2002

I suspect that this is not true.
Zeev Schiff on what's going on between the White House and PM Sharon (here)

Army, Shin Bet split over Fatah's terror strategy
The "Gaza and Bethlehem first" plan never got off the ground - just as many predicted. But Bethlehem has been mostly quiet, and the IDF has stayed out for almost 2 months.

This article describes the situation there. The local leaders of the Tanzim/Fatah militia are either dead or in Israeli jails. Visitors have returned to the Church of the Nativity. Many residents of the town, which used to have a large tourist industry, desire a return to normal. Political leaders admit the defeat of their violent struggle by the IDF but make vague suggestions that it might resume - they say if the IDF returns.
From Friday's Yediot Ahronot:

Covers from anti-semitic books from various Arab countries:

The above is called "Dialogue with a Jew".

"Mein Kampf"

Henry Ford's "The International Jew"

A children's book