1. Sharon Plan Redux
In his interview with Haaretz last week Prime Minister Sharon announced plans to dismantle almost all of the Jewish communities in Gaza as well as three problematic settlements in Samaria. Those three are presumably Ganim Kadim and Homesh. Meanwhile in the New York Post Uri Dan one of Sharon’s closest confidantes wrote The ‘relocation’ of Jewish settlements won’t be limited to 17 in the Gaza Strip but will extend to the West Bank and may total 30 possibly more.
Sharon has amplified his disengagement plan as it pertains to dismantling settlements but he has not addressed its other key aspects. When he introduced his plan in December Sharon said that Israel will greatly accelerate the construction of the security fence and that Israel will strengthen its control over those same areas in the Land of Israel which will constitute an inseparable part of the State of Israel in any future agreement.
Yet while Sharon proceeds with his plan to unilaterally dismantle settlements construction of the fence has slowed amid confirmation on Sunday from Zalman Shoval a Sharon adviser that Israel will change its route. The fence will stand much closer to the Green Line than originally planned and will not encompass the Ariel bloc or according to some reports Gush Etzion.
Sharon has also offered no indication of how he intends to strengthen Israel’s control of any part of Judea or Samaria. While his office has suggested that Israel will ask for U.S. support for the resettlement of the Gaza residents in Ma’aleh Adumim Gush Etzion and Ariel a positive American response is unlikely.
It is puzzling why Sharon introduced his withdrawal plan only recently as a unilateral step rather than as a peace proposal during his negotiations last summer with Abu Mazen when Israel might have received something in return.
2. The Times on the Hizbullah Deal
The New York Times had a long piece about Israel’s deal with Hizbullah accompanied by a large heartwarming picture of Anwar Yassin – one of the terrorists who were released – being embraced by his parents. Yassin expressed his excitement in the Times article which mentioned only that he had been held since 1987.
The Times neglected to print that Yassin was held for murdering Alex Singer Ronen Weisman and Oren Kamil. The three – IDF soldiers in Lebanon – were killed while preventing a major terrorist attack on Israeli civilians. Singer the brother of Jerusalem Post editorial page editor Saul Singer and son of Suzanne Singer of Moment magazine had made aliyah two years earlier. He was killed on his 25th birthday.
The article mentioned that the fate of Ron Arad – who has been missing since bailing out of his downed plane over Lebanon in 1986 – remains unresolved but said nothing about Zachary Baumel Yehuda Katz and Zvi Feldman who were captured in 1982 just a few days into the Lebanon War and paraded through Damascus – and have never been heard from since. It’s hard to blame the Times for that though since the Israeli and Jewish media also generally ignore Baumel Katz and Feldman.
3. Ron Arad and Iran
There is some cautious optimism that information about Arad may be forthcoming and if he is still alive that he may be released in another exchange. Some of the optimism comes from the notion that Iran wants to improve its image. Israeli intelligence has determined that Mustafa Dirani – another Hizbullah terrorist released by Israel – sold Arad to Iran around 1989.
Unfortunately Iran’s desire to improve its image may render Arad’s safe return very unlikely. The last thing Iran wants is for an Israeli it held captive for nearly 15 years (and who overall has been a hostage for 18 years) to come out alive able to tell the world about the brutality with which the Iranian government treated him. Furthermore Iran has little incentive to release Arad alive given that Israel has demonstrated a willingness to release scores of terrorists for the bodies of murdered soldiers.
Perhaps sensing this and in any event quite selflessly despite their suffering Arad’s family has announced that if Ron Arad is no longer alive they do not want Israel to release any terrorists in exchange for his body. Yet Israel appears to be hell bent on doing so anyway stating only that it will take the Arad family’s wishes into consideration.
One can only hope that Arad Baumel Katz Feldman and Guy Hever – missing since 1997 – will soon return home safely.
4. Verbal Restraint
Regarding Arad Israeli President Moshe Katsav said that he would pay any price for his release. All Katsav’s statement will achieve is subject Israel to further blackmail in future negotiations with Hizbullah and provide additional incentive for terrorist groups to kidnap Israelis.
A few weeks ago in an interview with Israel Army Radio Deputy Defense Minister Ze’ev Boim announced that Hamas leader Sheik Yassin is marked for death and he should hide himself deep underground where he won’t know the difference between day and night. And we will find him in the tunnels and we will eliminate him.
The elimination of Yassin and the rest of Hamas would be welcome but empty threats do nothing to deter Hamas from targeting Israelis. Indeed since Boim’s interview 11 were murdered in the latest Jerusalem bus bombing and Yassin has called for more suicide bombings and for the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers.
Far too often Israelis ignore Teddy Roosevelt’s axiom to speak softly and carry a big stick instead doing the opposite.
5. ‘Moderate Injuries’
When word spreads about a suicide bombing discussion usually centers on those who are killed such as the 11 in the Jerusalem terror attack two week’s ago. In that attack more than 50 others were wounded. Some were described as seriously wounded which means that their injuries are life threatening or that they lost a limb were severely burnt or will otherwise suffer for their entire life. Most were described as being moderately injured.
One of those was Erik Schechter who writes for The Jerusalem Post. Bret Stephens the paper’s editor in chief wrote Erik’s wounds were described as ‘moderate.’ What that meant was that his knee-cap had been shattered and that he had sustained shrapnel wounds and vascular damage. He will spend between three and six months in recovery.
At the April 2002 pro-Israel rally in Washington Mark Sokolow who safely escaped the World Trade Center on September 11 2001 only to be wounded months later – along with his wife and two daughters – in a bombing on Jerusalem’s Jaffa Street stated:
We were all rushed to different hospitals and for several agonizing hours I didn’t know whether the rest of my family was alive. Thank G-d we all survived with what the press called ‘minor injuries.’ My wife has a severely fractured leg on which she still can’t walk. My daughter and I just had surgery to reconstruct our eardrums and my youngest daughter has lost some vision in one eye. And we all have significant shrapnel injuries and scars not to mention the mental trauma we have all suffered.
Unfortunately with so many people murdered by Arab terrorists many of us overlook those who have been injured or assume that the wounded will fully recover. Some eventually dobut many remain permanently maimed.
6. Time For Another Rally
Speaking of the DC rally it is shameful that no similar rally has taken place since and that it remains the only major pro-Israel rally since the start of the Palestinian war against Israel. Scores of Israelis have been murdered since but as the media become less interested in the continued suicide bombings and the Bush Administration fails to support the fence another major rally is desperately needed.
While the 2002 rally successfully brought as many as 200 000 to the Capitol on a weekday just after Pesach and on very short notice it was dominated by politicians and special-interest group figures. The most important speeches those by terror victims or their survivorswere relegated to the very end hours into the program.
For example Sokolow’s speech was the 21st of the day while Rabbi Seth Mandell who spoke movingly about his murdered son Koby Mandell was number 25. By then most had left probably having been bored by John Sweeney of the AFL-CIO and Hugh Price of the National Urban League each of whom offered even-handed rhetoric rather than anything pro-Israel.
If and when the next rally occurs Rabbi Avi Weiss who with no budget and to limited recognition has tirelessly led numerous smaller but feisty rallies on word of mouth and e-mail only should play a role.
1. Sharon Plan Redux