December 17, 2012
Can't cover it all; that would be an impossibility. But it's essential to report sufficiently so that my readers understand what's going on here, and have the facts to speak on Israel's behalf.
The Shin Bet, working with the police, have uncovered a Hamas cell in northern Jerusalem -- in the Arab neighborhoods of Shuafat and Ras Hamis. They have been indicted in a Jerusalem court, charged with arson and aggravated assault that includes attacks with firebombs.
A different (and perhaps realistic) take on the situation in Syria:
Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa has given an interview to the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, in which he says that:
“...with every passing day, the military and political solutions get further away.Al-Sharaa's perception is that neither side can win decisively and the country is being torn apart:
“The way events are heading will lead to an uncomfortable place where things will definitely go from bad to worse.
“We must be in the position of defending Syria’s existence. We are not in a battle for the survival of an individual or a regime.”
“The opposition forces combined cannot decide the battle militarily, meanwhile what the security forces and the army units are doing will not reach a conclusive end.”
He calls for the intervention of outside forces, cessation of all violence, and a broad-based unity government.
For the sake of Syria, this makes sense. But I don't see this happening. The Islamists are hell-bent on winning and their first concern is definitely not a stable Syria.
Abed Shihadeh, aka Abu Muhammad al-Tahawi, head of the jihadist Salafist movement in Jordan, which supports the Syrian rebels, made a statement last week:
"We tell Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, get ready. The army of the Prophet Mohammad is coming your way.
"Those carrying explosives in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan will find you, Allah willing .The next fight is between us and you."
Al-Tahawi pledged to
"Take over Damascus and then head to Tel Aviv… As far as we are concerned, Palestine stretches from river to sea...We will not rest until Palestine is liberated."
Note of clarification: jihadi Salafists are radical Sunni Muslims who believe that only they correctly interpret the Koran; they espouse violent jihad and seek to dominate the world.
A situation of enormous confusion reigns in the UNRWA refugee camp of Yarmouk, where somewhere between 20 and 50 Palestinian Arabs have been killed. Yarmouk is the largest of the UNRWA refugee camps in Syria, where there are almost 500,000 Palestinian Arabs. Inside the city boundaries of Damascus, it is home to about 150,000 people.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine -- General Command, based in the camp, has been fighting on the side of Assad forces. On the other hand, Free Syria Army forces have captured parts of the camp.
The primary accusation is that the Assad regime launched attacked an air attack on the camp because of the rebel forces in the vicinity, who were clashing with local militants.
All I can report with any degree of certainty is that about half the residents of Yarmouk have fled their homes.
According to a report in the Times of Israel, Benedetta Berti, a research fellow at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies specializing in Lebanon and Syria, has said that:
“The myth of Palestinian neutrality crumbled early on in the war The more the conflict intensifies the more pressure there is on Palestinians to take sides.”
I will digress just briefly here to note that while I talk about the "Palestinian refugees" in Syria, this is an artificially created population. Because UNRWA has maintained these people separately for four generations now, and they are still talking about their "right of return" to Israel, they have not been absorbed into the larger Syrian population.
Please note what Khaled Abu Toameh now has to say about Palestinian Arabs closer to home (emphasis added):
"By allowing Hamas to celebrate its 25th anniversary in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority leadership is paving the way for a third intifada against Israel.
"In fact, in the past few days, the third intifada has already begun, as violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers have increased in various parts of the West Bank.
"...Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has apparently decided to endorse a new strategy towards Hamas. He now considers Hamas a political ally rather than an enemy.
"The change came immediately after the Israeli military offensive against Hamas in mid-November.
"The rapprochement between Abbas and Hamas reached its peak before and after the UN General Assembly vote in favor of upgrading the Palestinians' status to non-member observer state in late November.
"Both Abbas and Hamas see the two events -- the war in the Gaza Strip and the UN vote — as 'historic achievements' and military and political victories over Israel.
"Emboldened by the 'victories,' Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal recently reached a secret agreement on the need to launch a 'popular intifada' against Israel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources in Ramallah revealed.
The two men believe that such an intifada at this stage would further isolate Israel and earn the Palestinians even more sympathy in the international arena, the sources said.
Abbas and Mashaal are aware, the sources noted, that the Palestinians are now not ready for another military confrontation with Israel -- neither in the West Bank nor in the Gaza Strip.
That is why the two men agreed that the best and only option facing the Palestinians these days is a 'popular intifada' that would see Palestinian youths engage in daily confrontations with Israeli soldiers and settlers, especially in the West Bank.
Israel can handle this, but it's not pretty. And it's a harbinger of worse to come.
The good news I share today is the decision by the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee to construct 1,500 apartment units in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood.
Two and a half years ago, VP Biden was here when there a routine announcement about building in this neighborhood, which is over the Green Line. All hell broke loose. This was an international incident because we "embarrassed" Biden. Hillary Clinton called Netanyahu and chewed him out on the phone for 45 minutes.
From that time until the present there has been no new construction in this neighborhood. Now it will begin again. Although even with this announcement, it's not going to happen over night. There's a long bureaucratic process.
Brace yourselves for more hysteria from the international community.
There are a couple of significant points to be made here. One is the simple fact that the Ramat Shlomo population, which is ultra-Orthodox and has large families, needs more housing. This is not a political football for them, it's a very basic requirement. This tends to be overlooked.
And then, Ramat Shlomo is solidly part of unified Jerusalem under full Israeli sovereignty. There is no chance it will ever be anything else. It is not a "settlement" and is not an area that might some day belong to the Arabs in a negotiated agreement (which is moot, in any event). Building here changes absolutely nothing -- although you'll be told otherwise.
Let me close by announcing the Third Annual Conference on the Application of Israeli Sovereignty Over Judea and Samaria,sponsored by the Women in Green.
This one will be in Jerusalem, at the Bible Lands Museum. Tuesday, January 1, 2013. Starting 6:00 PM.
Speakers include Minister of Public Diplomacy Yuli Edelstein; Dr. Mordecai Kedar, expert on Islamic Affairs, Bar Ilan University; Adv. Alan Baker, expert on international law and member of the Levy Committee; Coalition Chair MK Ze'ev Elkins (Likud); Caroline Glick, senior editor Jerusalem Post; and many more excellent presenters.
Reservations required: email@example.com . Program will be in Hebrew. When reserving a place include full name, address, email, cellphone and whether you will need earphones for simultaneous translation into English. Or call Renee at 0523-294-194.
Transportation from various areas of the country can be reserved as well.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
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