Very often mid-summer is a quiet time. But that’s sure not the case this year. I find myself prioritizing news events in order to decide what to write about in the time I have…
Prime Minister Netanyahu is very busy these days “preparing” for “peace negotiations,” which, given the dubious status of the situation, leaves me scratching my head in confusion.
But that’s just figuratively — a way of saying that it seems strange. Because I think I have it (i.e., him) figured out.
We might say that he knows something we don’t and thus is preparing. What I see as far more likely is that he’s grandstanding — playing his game. The PA leadership is still balking, demanding Israeli concessions. But Netanyahu is saying (ad nauseum) that he’s ready to come to the table. (See: I’m the good guy here.)
Netanyahu has announced that on Sunday he is going to seek the approval of the Cabinet for renewed negotiations, and arrange for a special ministerial committee to oversee those negotiations (this to put the brake on Livni who would be a very eager negotiator).
He’s also promoting the upgrading of the extant referendum law to the status of Basic Law, and expects the full coalition to be behind it. If it ever becomes relevant, I will address the details of this more extensively.
For now, suffice it to say that a Basic Law is more difficult to overturn than a regular law, which is presumably what this is about. The idea here is that the nation would decide whether to accept it, were a peace agreement to be reached. (I’ve consulted a lawyer and have learned that the specifics of what would be covered by the law depend on the wording of the referendum; it is not as simple as I had imagined. )
Naftali Bennett and his Habayit Hayehudi party have been vigorously promoting the referendum law.
Just in case anyone missed his dedication to peace, Netanyahu, at a press conference yesterday with visiting Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, declared, “I hope that soon we will be able to see the beginning of peace talks. Our team is ready – we’ve always been ready.”
The talk about talks is supposed to begin on Tuesday, or so it is being said. But according to PA spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh, Abbas is waiting for an invitation to Washington.
While PA negotiator Saeb Erekat has made it clear that if he does go to Washington, his agenda will be to “first set a framework for future negotiations.
“If agreement is reached on these details in line with the Palestinian demands,” then there can be negotiations.
The EU — in spite of a campaign aimed at convincing it to do so — has not agreed to pull back on its new Judea and Samaria “boycott” guidelines.
And this week Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkins indicated that if products from Judea and Samaria are labeled as the new guidelines require, 20,000 Palestinian Arab families will lose their livelihood.
At a meeting with the chair of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Elmar Brok, Elkin said:
“You are asking us to approve European projects and operations in Area C, but you are trying to hurt Israeli enterprises that already exist and provide a respectable livelihood for tens of thousands of Palestinian families. This is simply bizarre.”
But the EU has just agreed to come part-way on something else: Finally,it has designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
However, only the military wing of Hezbollah, not the political wing, is being targeted. In reality the two are interconnected. Months ago, Hezbollah’s second-in-command, Naim Qassem, said flatly: “We don’t have a military wing and a political one.”
It’s half a loaf, but a very welcome step in the right direction, at long last. One explanation for the half-way designation is that it was the only way to get certain EU states on board.
See Matthew Levitt — director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at The Washington Institute — on the implications of the EU’s move:
“Despite the formal focus on asset freezing, the most significant impact of the EU ban will be felt on other fronts. First, it will enable EU governments to initiate preemptive intelligence investigations into activities that can be tied in any way to Hezbollah’s military wing… This alone is a tremendous change that should make Europe a far less attractive place for Hezbollah operatives.
“Second, the ban is a strong means of communicating to Hezbollah that its current activities are beyond the pale, and that continuing them will exact a high cost.”
Israel is going to start supplying intelligence on Hezbollah to the EU now as a result of the new designation.
The IDF is convinced that, with the new military regime in Egypt. there is a new seriousness of intent with regard to taking on jihadists in the Sinai. Not only is the military gearing up for a major action, at present, 80% of the tunnels between the Sinai and Gaza have been closed. This is in order to prevent Hamas people from joining Muslim radicals already in the Sinai.
In all the years that Israel sought closure of those tunnels to prevent weaponry from being brought in to Gaza to be utilized against us, there was scant cooperation. But now it is being done. Hamas is hurting badly.
I note here that because of the unrest in Egypt, a decision has been made by Obama to halt the planned delivery of four F-16 fighter jets.
Syria is a very different story with regard to jihadists:
Aviv Kochavi, head of IDF military research, this week warned that Syria is becoming a global jihad center as radicals flood into Syria. This is no longer simply a civil war.
“In front of our eyes, right in our backyard, a global center for jihad is developing, which can affect not only Syria and Israel but also Lebanon, Jordan, and the Sinai Peninsula, and can radiate to the entire region…
“The extremist Muslims and jihad fighters being drawn there are no longer merely trying to overthrow [Syrian President Bashar] Assad but to set up a religious Islamic state.”
Any notions of supporting the rebels fighting against Assad are ill-advised, in my opinion. Assad is vile, but he’s not looking to establish a new caliphate. What we might see if he were defeated could be a good deal worse.
There’s more, much more, to report. Next posting…
In closing, a correction: I alluded to the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as Robert Mendez, leaving out a syllable. It is, correctly, Menendez. (Thanks, Roberta)
And, if you’re tired of hearing Judea and Samaria referred to as “occupied territories” (they are most certainly not!), you might like to see this article which documents several genuinely occupied territories about which the world does nothing: