Wednesday, June 25, 2014

“Agonizingly Slow”

3 kidnapped teen boys Israel 6-14-2014
The days move on, and still no word on recovery of the kidnapped students, Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shayer and Naftali Frenkel.  The IDF continues to operate on the assumption that they are alive and hidden somewhere in Judea and Samaria (most likely but not necessarily in the Hevron area) - although Chief of Staff Benny Gantz confessed yesterday to growing worry.  We’ve got hundreds of soldiers combing the area, but what an incredible task it is.  I wrote recently about the huge number of hiding places – caves, dry wells, underground tunnels, etc. etc. – that have been discovered and searched.  But all it takes is one hidden place that has not been uncovered. 
The part of the IDF operation that has focused on weakening Hamas will be slowing down, in accordance with a Security Cabinet decision.  This is said to be because the bulk of what could be achieved with this operation has already been “exhausted”: monies confiscated, terrorists taken into custody, weapons factories dismantled, over 60 Hamas institutions in Judea and Samaria shut down, etc. 
But I also have the impression, from several media sources, that the fact that Ramadan begins this Saturday has something to do with the slowdown.  During this Islamic month, devout Muslims fast from sunup to sundown.  There was apparently a feeling in the Cabinet that major disruptions in PA areas during this time would be particularly resented – with spiraling violence that might get out of control, and that it would not play well internationally. 
We might have a discussion about whether these factors should be relevant, but we’ll leave this for the moment.  One senior IDF official cited by Israel National News insists that Ramadan is not an issue. 
No matter the slow down that may be implemented in a couple of days, things were still hopping last night, when 17 more terrorists were apprehended. Two of them were Palestinian Authority parliamentarians, apparently Hamas-associated.  There are conflicting reports on their names.
The search for the boys will continue unabated – both in terms of combing the area and on-going intelligence efforts.
IDF forces in Operation Brother's Keeper
Credit: Flash90
Yesterday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said:  “...this continues to be the No. 1 mission, in which we are investing the best of our resources...[it is] only a matter of time until we get to the kidnappers and the kidnapped youth.  We are in the right direction. We will eventually solve the mystery...”  (Emphasis added)
My own sense of this situation, my friends, tells me that praying for the boys is a matter of greatest importance.  Please, don’t stop.
Yesterday, the mothers of the three boys went to Geneva, to testify before the UN Human Rights Council, to plea for action on behalf of their sons and to raise world consciousness about the situation.  They were invited by UN Watch, which surrendered time for them.  Rachel Frankel – mother of Naftali - spoke, and what a brave woman she is:
“Mr. President, it is wrong to take children, innocent boys or girls, and use them as instruments of any struggle. It is cruel. This council is charged with protecting human rights. I wish to ask: Doesn’t every child have the right to come home safely from school?
“We just want them back in our homes, in their beds. We just want to hug them again.  Thank you, Mr. President.”
Iris Yifrach – mother of Eyal, and Bat-Galim Shayar – mother of Gilad, sat with her.
Human Rights Voices has put together a video that begins with Rachel Frankel’s testimony, and then moves to UN attitudes towards the kidnapping and towards Israel.  Not an easy thing to see.  But watch it, please!
You will note that one individual after another refers to the boys as “settlers.”  That somehow justifies crimes against them. But in point of fact – while they study in Judea and were abducted there - they are not “settlers.” 
On Monday, the Security Council had discussed, but failed to come to an agreement on, condemning Israel for operations in Judea and Samaria, as had been proposed by Russia. The US balked at language that named Israel directly, while Jordan wanted language stronger than “deploring.” 
Jordan: I am very mindful of the exceedingly precarious position of the king, who undoubtedly doesn’t sleep well at night.  And I know that he has to demonstrate a tough line against Israel, as radicals are breathing down his neck.  Yet, at a purely visceral level, sometimes it’s difficult not to feel impatient with Jordan’s stances.
Compare the Jordanian “tough” position in the UN with this new item:
“Jordanian sources say kingdom's cooperation with Israel has only increased as situation in Iraq has deteriorated amid ISIS offensive.”
But this, of course, is supposed to be done quietly.
More about ISIS below.
Netanyahu, relying on intelligence that has not been made public, is very certain indeed that Hamas is responsible for the abductions.  But there has still been no public declaration of responsibility, and no public demands have been released.
Breaking silence for the first time, Khaled Mashaal, head of the Hamas politburo, gave an interview with Al-Jazeera in Gaza, in which he claimed that he has no information on the boys.  He refers to as soldiers, because kidnapping soldiers is presumed to be less reprehensible.  He explained that the political and military wings of Hamas are separate, and that the military wing does not wait for word from the politburo before deciding to act.  This comment was made in response to Israeli security speculation that a speech he gave recently might have been a coded approval for the kidnapping.
But whether Mashaal and the politburo gave orders or not, it is difficult for me to believe that they have no idea if their people are the ones who acted. 
All Mashaal would say was: “...if there will be a confirmation that a Palestinian group is behind the kidnapping – we should applaud and take off our hats to them." If the kidnappers were listening, they might have interpreted this as praise for their efforts and caution to stay strong.
He "blesses the hands of those who kidnapped them, since the Palestinian prisoners should be released from the Israeli prisons," he further said – thereby attributing motive to that about which he claims to know nothing. 
Just days ago I referred to the fact that over 50 terrorists released from prison in the Gilad Shalit trade have been rearrested in on-going IDF operations.  Now it seems this was specifically at the order of Prime Minister Netanyahu.  This was his response to the May arrest of Ziad Awad for the terrorist murder of Baruch Mizrachi on the eve of Pesach, outside of Hevron. 
Awad’s home is scheduled for demolition (pending court approval) as an additional form of punishment. The government hopes to reinstate this practice as a matter of course, as was done from 2001 to 2004. The goal was not simply reprisals, but deterrence: If terrorists knew their entire family would suffer, it was thought, it might make them think twice before carrying out their attacks.
“One government official explained that Israel ‘hopes to level the playing field’ and provide economic deterrents to counteract the economic inducements the PA has put into place for those carrying out terrorist acts. (Emphasis added)
“’On the Palestinian side you have a whole package of incentives to carry out terrorist attacks, such as if we arrest the terrorist, their families get a generous allowance from the PA.’ the official said.
“He added that this created an absurdity whereby as much as PA President Mahmoud Abbas may have condemned the recent kidnappings of the three teens, if their kidnappers are imprisoned their families will get a generous benefit package form the Palestinian Authority.”
Other actions against Hamas are to be put in place as well, such as limiting visits to Hamas prisoners to the minimum required by international regulations.
Turning back briefly to the situation in Iraq:
The lightning movement of ISIS across large swaths of Iraq has generated some serious concern in the Israeli government.  For there are some specific implications:
“Israel’s national security leadership watched as Iraqi security forces, trained over the course of five years by the US military, ‘literally left their shirts on the ground and fled’ when faced with a fight,’” a senior security officer told the JPost.
The Israelis are extrapolating from this situation to offers made by the US last year, to train Arab troops who would replace the IDF in the Jordan Valley.  How can we trust this? is the question being asked.  If Iraqi troops cannot defend Iraq, how can we expect Arabs to defend Israel against other Arabs.  Well, it would be preposterous.
It seems incredible to me that the government should refer to this disastrous situation in order to make the point about the need for us to stay in the Jordan Valley.  Our position should be that we are not leaving because it’s ours, and that our policy is that we defend ourselves.  Period.  Even if the Iraqi forces trained by the US had conducted themselves well, these principles would still adhere.
I’d like to come back to issues of Arab motivations in fighting – a complex issue – at some other time.  But I mention here that there are PA security forces that have been trained and armed by the US as part of a most foolish and short-sighted policy. And we here are mindful of the fact that they may yet turn this expertise, and the weapons that were supplied to them (to fight terrorism, you should understand), against us. There are precedents for this.
Reader Robert S. questioned my recent statement that in the current situation in Iraq, as in Syria, there are no good guys. What about the Kurds? he asked.  I told him that indeed, the Kurds were good guys, but that they were not competing for the takeover of Iraq, or Syria. They seek, rather, to establish Kurdistan, which requires slicing off one small portion of northern Iraq, as well as sections of Turkey (most substantially), Iran, and Syria. 
Credit: axisoflogic 
Kurdistan is going to happen. And it will be good for Israel. See here:
One more issue to return to in greater depth.
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