Friday, July 25, 2014

“A Bit Better”

Kerry has left Israel, for consultations in Cairo.  He’ll be back, undoubtedly.  But it’s nice to know he’s not here.
The FAA ban on US airlines flying in and out of Ben Gurion has been lifted.  They say it’s because they have been “working with its US government counterparts to assess the security situation in Israel and carefully reviewing both significant new information and measures the Government of Israel is taking to mitigate potential risks to civil aviation,"
Yea, right. They were simply called out on this decision and backed off.
And I suspect that the forthright and public response of Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) may have had something to do with it.  The Senator wanted to know whether the decision to ban flights amounted to an economic boycott of Israel, expressed himself dubious about the exact timing of that decision, and posed five specific questions.  Among those questions: Why, if the issue is safety, was Israel singled out when flights are permitted into Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen? 
When a state department spokesperson called the questions “offensive and ridiculous,” he countered that, “Serious questions were asked about the nature of a decision that handed Hamas a public relations victory...the only thing ‘ridiculous’ is the state department’s response to basic questions.”
In his full statement – which you can see here: - he declared that “Ben Gurion has rightly earned the reputation as one of the safest airports in the world due to the aggressive security measures implemented by the Israeli government.”  (Emphasis added)
He then said he would hold up the approval of state department diplomatic nominees until he got answers to his questions.
It’s important to recognize that we do have good friends in the American government (if not in the executive branch). 
Ted Cruz is pictured. | AP Photo
Credit: AP
As to the need to take out all of Hamas’s tunnels...
Chief of Staff Benny Gantz made a statement yesterday when he visited soldiers on the front lines:
"we must stick to the targets for which we entered [Gaza] and continue our maneuvers as long as it takes." 
And then there was an interview late in the day yesterday given by member of the Security Cabinet Finance Minister Yair Lapid (head of Yesh Atid).  It perhaps has added significance because he’s center-left and until recent days talked a great deal about “peace.”  Said Lapid (emphasis added):
“...the objectives of the operation needed to be met ‘before they talk to us about a ceasefire.’
Lapid defined the objectives as cleansing ‘Gaza of its terrorist tunnels and delivering a significant blow to Hamas’s rocket infrastructure.’
“Even amid all the talk of a ceasefire, Lapid said the government was telling IDF to ‘go, achieve your objectives.’”
While Communications Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) who is a member of the Security Cabinet, said today that we are not seeking a ceasefire at present – we must complete our ground offensive first, something he estimates will take another week or two.  After that, he said, if Hamas is still launching rockets, we may have to go further, and find Hamas leadership “hiding in their holes.”
As I wrote yesterday, “Hold on, hold on!”  If this remains the policy of the government, we will be OK.
I share here an article put out from The Investigative Project on Terrorism, headed by Steve Emerson.
It raises some serious questions regarding the identification of all of Hamas’s tunnels.  It’s pointless to talk about taking them all out if they haven’t all been identified.  Additionally, it raises troubling questions about whether the US necessarily shares all of its information on the tunnels with Israel and whether Israel is utilizing all possible hi tech equipment for identifying tunnels deep underground.  (Please be assured, Israel is aware of this equipment.)
According to Emerson, US officials believe that Israel is underestimating the number of tunnels.  American information on this has been acquired via satellites equipped with special high resolution infrared detection technology.
And then we have this information:
“It is believed that the construction of the more advanced Palestinian tunnels began right after the 2012 cease-fire agreement, when Israel agreed to lift restrictions for humanitarian aid, including large quantities of steel and concrete," he [Emerson] said, adding that the agreement to lift the blockade was overseen by Hillary Clinton.
“...the tunnels are quite sophisticated, with water, sewage, and lighting allowing for months-long stays.” (Emphasis added)
Much is being made these days of a shift in international opinion that reflects a greater acknowledgement of the nature of Hamas. There is some shift, true (and I’ll explore this further in a coming post), but I think it would be foolish to rely upon this in any significant way.
The EU Foreign Affairs Council released a statement with regard to the Gaza war two days ago.  And it has been pointed out that the EU foreign ministers for the first time said: ”All terrorist groups in Gaza must disarm.” (Emphasis added)
Yes, good. But it also said:
”The EU condemns the loss of hundreds of civilian lives, among them many women and children. While recognizing Israel's legitimate right to defend itself against any attacks, the EU underlines that the Israeli military operation must be proportionate and in line with international humanitarian law.”  (Emphasis added)
So there we are.  A “balanced” assessment that levels fallacious charges against Israel.
Here, as elsewhere, the concept of “proportionate” is either misunderstood or deliberately distorted.
International law defines proportionality in the context of legitimate military goals. 
If there is a military necessity – e.g., striking a launcher – then it is considered legitimate to act even if there may be civilians injured or killed. 
As Col. Richard Kemp - former commander of British forces in Afghanistan - explained in a talk he delivered here in Jerusalem just this evening, the question of proportionality comes in with regard to how much is force is required to achieve that legitimate goal.  If the force used is not excessive, then even if there are civilians hit, it is proportionate.
What would be “disproportionate” would be an intentional attack directed against civilians or an attack launched on a military objective in the knowledge that the incidental civilian injuries would be clearly excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage. 
Ambassador Alan Baker, an international lawyer, in a new piece for JCPA, also addresses these issues.  He writes (emphasis added):
“International law recognizes Israel’s right to defend itself, whether by the conventional international right of self-defense as set out in the UN Charter or by the international customary right to self-defense.
“Accusations that Israel is collectively punishing the Palestinian population of the Gaza Strip have no basis. Israel’s military actions are solely directed to one strategic and tactical purpose, not to punish the population, but to halt the indiscriminate rocket fire and terror infiltration into Israel’s sovereign territory.
“The allegation leveled against Israel that it uses disproportionate force, is a misreading of the international rules of proportionality in armed conflict which are intended to regulate the extent of force needed in relation to the military challenge anticipated.”
Speaking of proportionate force...
A topic that I must mention here (and will return to in considerably more detail soon) is the prospect of a “Goldstone II,” which we are now facing.  Remember the Goldstone Report? Libelous accusations regarding Israel’s “war crimes” committed during Operation Cast Lead (at the beginning of 2009) were leveled at us in this major report.  It followed an “investigation” that was headed by Justice Richard Goldstone, as mandated by the UN Human Relations Council.
I mention it here because that same UN Human Rights Council, which is consistently and notoriously anti-Israel, has now voted to appoint an “international commission of inquiry” to look at Israeli actions in “the Palestinian territories” and most specifically Gaza.
Only the US voted against this.  While 29 countries approved it and 17 nations – including those considered allies, such as the UK, Germany and France - abstained.
Israel has called this action a “travesty.” A statement from the prime minister’s office said, “This investigation by a kangaroo court is a foregone conclusion.”
Indeed.  UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has already come out with a statement that, “There seems a strong possibility that international humanitarian law has been violated in a manner that could amount to war crimes.”
This is not at all unexpected.  It was at a seminar discussing this issue that I heard Col. Kemp speak tonight.
The battle with Hamas inside of Gaza continues.  The count of young soldiers we have lost is now 32. 
In a ceremony in the Knesset that was very low key because of the war, Ruby (Reuven) Rivlin was sworn in as president of Israel today, succeeding Shimon Peres  His term of office is seven years.
After reciting the Shehechiyanu prayer, he said: “With this prayer, in awe and humility, on your behalf and at your command, I come to faithfully fulfill my role as tenth president of the State of Israel.”
Reuven Rivlin to take Shimon Peres´ post.

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