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The Day In Israel: Sun Feb 8th, 2009

Click refresh to see new updates during the day.

For other liveblogging see The Muqata.

A deal to secure the release of the Gilad Shalit may be close because Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni have softened their positions and are now willing to release more and “higher quality” (i.e. “bloodier hands”) security prisoners in a swap than they were before Operation Cast Lead. I guess this is what Olmert meant when he said the following:

“The operation created a number of levers that can aid in the expedition of [Shalit’s] return. This is what I said and I will not add to this, because this will not benefit his return. After Gilad returns home, it will be possible to tell the whole story, and then we will know who supported which position, who put pressure, and who asked what.”

Wasn’t the operation supposed to soften Hamas’ position?

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

10:18PM: The condition of Hussein Shamya, the Palestinian Resistance Committees terrorist who carried out the attack which killed an IDF soldier near the Gaza-Israel border about two weeks ago, has improved from seriously injured to dead as a doornail.

Well, improved from our point of view.

8:22PM: A good piece written by a former law course teacher of mine.

Daily Telegraph (London) correspondent Tim Butcher recently reported from Gaza after the war, stating: “Targets had been selected and then hit… but almost always with precision munitions… I was struck by how cosmetically unchanged Gaza appeared to be. It has been a tatty, poorly-maintained mess for decades and the presence of fresh bombsites… did not make any great difference…” Butcher continued, “[O]ne thing was clear. Gaza City 2009 is not Stalingrad 1944.”

Despite this, as far back as 1996 the NGO Human Rights Watch has been predicting an “imminent humanitarian crisis/disaster” in Gaza. Indeed, various NGOs have lodged annual claims that the Jewish state is responsible for the “imminent humanitarian crisis” in the Gaza Strip. Might they have stopped to ask: How has the Gaza Strip been “on the verge” of a humanitarian crisis in excess of 10 years?

In actuality, Israel has gone to extraordinary lengths, including the creation of the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration (CLA) where representatives of the IDF and government ministries work day and night, to prevent a humanitarian crisis. CLA commander Col. Nir Press spoke candidly of Hamas’s “well-oiled media and propaganda machine which has succeeded in creating humanitarian ‘crises’ out of thin air.” He gave as an example Israel’s decision to suspend fuel supplies in early 2008 after a Palestinian attack on the Nahal Oz fuel depot. Before restricting the supply, Israel filled all gas tanks in Gaza to their maximum. Yet, “taking advantage of this as a PR opportunity,” Hamas refused to draw on the fuel and “sent hundreds of people to gas stations in Gaza to stand with buckets in a long line.”

Tony Blair, former British prime minister and current Quartet peace envoy, explained that “most people don’t understand – that we’re trying to urge Israel to get fuel into Gaza, and then the extremists come and kill the people bringing the fuel in. It’s a crazy situation.” Thus, time and time again, the aid that Israel has allowed to enter Gaza fails to reach the intended recipients: Palestinian civilians in need.

The “imminent humanitarian crisis” chorus is not only exaggerated, it is also entirely specious. In the words of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, the critics “should point their criticism toward the Hamas terrorist organization that controls the Gaza Strip.” A ministry spokesman also stated that “Israel allows shipments of food, medicine, fuel and electricity to Gaza because it doesn’t want a humanitarian crisis, but… there is ‘foolproof’ evidence that Hamas diverts supplies for ‘terrorist use.’ If only the Palestinians choose to cease their pointless and indiscriminate firing of rockets against hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens, the entire region would return to normal.”

Let’s look at the facts.

According to the World Bank, the Palestinians are the largest per capita recipients of foreign aid worldwide. Regrettably, over the past 60 years, tens of billions of dollars have been mismanaged by the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) due to the organization’s lax oversight and faulty accountability mechanisms. Last year, James Lindsay, former legal adviser to UNRWA, wrote a highly critical report calling on the organization to “ensure the agency is not employing or providing benefits to terrorists and criminals.” Moreover, a member of the US Congress recently declared “there is absolutely no reason why the United Nations cannot take aggressive action to ensure that not one penny of US dollars is being redistributed to terrorists.”

In the aftermath of the recent Gaza war, the immediacy of their criticism has never been greater, as nations with the best of intentions line up to donate millions for the so-called reconstruction of Gaza.

Several other relatively unknown facts regarding Gaza’s potential are worthy of mention. First, Gaza’s offshore gas deposits are worth an estimated $4 billion. This natural resource could be accessed to improve the lives of residents of Gaza once the anarchy and violence of Hamas is curtailed. Second, the population of Gaza is comparatively healthy and well educated. Life expectancy in the Gaza Strip is more than 72 years, which is higher than in Russia, the Bahamas, India, Ukraine and Glasgow East (Scotland).

Third, Gaza has a much lower infant mortality rate than Angola, Iran, India, Egypt and Brazil. Perhaps the most astonishing fact, is that literacy in Gaza stands at a staggering 92 percent.

Likewise, despite the ceaseless repetition by journalists that “the Gaza Strip is the most densely populated place on Earth,” it is in fact markedly less densely populated than an array of other locales, including a number of economic success stories such as Monaco, Hong Kong, Singapore and Gibraltar. Additionally, Macau has nearly ten times the population density of Gaza. This is not intended to compare life in Gaza with Manhattan’s Park Avenue or Beverly Hills. Neither should it be denigrated as a disaster zone.

An additional myth popularized by the media, NGOs and certain governments accuses Israel of violating international law by engaging in “collective punishment”‘ However, exercising legal countermeasures against a hostile entity (such as Gaza) does not constitute collective punishment under international law. Furthermore, there is nothing in international law that requires Israel to maintain open borders with a hostile entity. Examples abound of countries that elect not to trade with hostile neighbors for a variety of reasons: military, religious, economic and political. Thus in the past apartheid South Africa and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq were subject to economic sanctions. Recently, others have sanctioned Cuba, Iran and even Israel.

Some provisions of international law impose upon Israel duties to act against Gaza and the Palestinian terrorists who are based there. First, Israel has the duty to prevent and punish Palestinian acts of genocide covered by the Genocide Convention (1948). Second, Israel has the duty, under UN Security Council Resolution 1373, to take various steps against Palestinian terrorists. Among the required steps, states must “refrain from providing any form of support, active or passive, to entities or persons involved in terrorist acts.”

Thus, arguably, Israel is forbidden to supply aid to the Palestinian Authority, knowing that part of it will be diverted to Hamas and other terrorist groups and will, therefore, become passive support for terrorist acts. Additionally, Israel is required by Resolution 1373 to “[p]revent the movement of terrorists or terrorist groups by effective border controls.” This means that Israel is required to continue maintaining strict controls on the passage of persons from Gaza to Israel.

The conflated message of the NGOs and the Hamas authorities in Gaza has long manipulated a complex reality to reap political and financial gains. In reality, the Palestinian-Israeli fighting in Gaza has been characterized by the extensive commission of war crimes, acts of terrorism and acts of genocide by Palestinian fighters. On the other hand, Israeli countermeasures have conformed to the requirements of international law. International law requires that Israel and other states take measures to bring Palestinian war criminals and terrorists to justice, to prevent and punish Palestinian genocidal efforts and, most importantly, to block would-be humanitarian donations from being misappropriated by Hamas. If you pay the piper, you get to call the tune.

In conclusion, there should be no free lunch. Why should the Hamas leadership, responsible for destroying what existed, be entrusted to dole out reconstruction financing? Simply put, terrorists and those complicit with them should not be handed the purse strings that will finance a new war.

5:20PM: On Thursday evening, there was a Likud Anglo Campaign Rally in Jerusalem. I was asked to come along to hear what Netanyahu and company had to say, but was not able to make it. However, a friend of mine in PR did send me the following Press Release of the event (note: I am not necessaily a Likud supporter, and do not post the following as an endorsement. Nevetheless, I am considering voting for Likud).

Outlining Specific Initiatives Likud Party Chairman

Netanyahu Addresses Anglo Campaign Rally in Jerusalem

Over 500 People Attend Evening Highlighting Political Importance of the Israel’s English-Speakers

Just five days before Israel would be heading to the polls for Knesset elections, the Likud Anglos, a division of the national party catering largely to the country’s English-speaking population held a rally in Jerusalem attracting a crowd of some 500 of the party’s faithful.

According to Shalom Helman, Director of Likud Anglos, who introduced the evening, the rally displayed how the more than 250,000 strong community of Anglos living in Israel had an important voice in the country’s political process.

Carolyn Glick, a well-known Israeli columnist who has been closely associated with Benjamin Netanyahu in the past served as the master of ceremonies for the evening . She kicked off the evening by saying that those who claimed Israel was a tired nation were underestimating the will of the people.  “The leaders of the past few years claim that we are tired and our only hope is to give up our land to people sworn on our destruction.  We need to say that the people of Israel are not tired but rather that we know that are is no more brave people on earth than the people of Israel,” she said and concluded her introductory remarks by saying that “This great nation needs leaders who match us in greatness and in the Likud there are the people who can lead us where we have to go.”

Likud Candidate and former Israeli Army Chief of Staff Moshe “Bogie” Yaalon received a huge applause from the crowd when he was introduced and largely focused his remarks on the need for a new direction on security matters.  “As Western minded like people, we were taught to believe that the conflict is about a small piece of territory.  But I have learned that when we tried the formula of land for peace we got land for terror.  When we tried to do it unilaterally we got land for rockets,” he said.

Likud Party Chairman and Prime Ministerial candidate Benjamin Netanyahu gave the evening’s final address and was warmly received by the audience who had come from points around the country to hear him give campaign remarks in English.  Combating fears of complacency that the Likud victory was a sure thing, Netanyahu began by urging every Likud supporter to make sure they came out on February 10th to vote for the party driving home a central message that in order for him to most effectively govern he needs a strong Likud showing in the election results.

Enthusiastically saluting the recent accomplishments of the IDF in their military campaign against Hamas in Gaza, the party chairman said “The only way to stop the firing of rockets into Israel is to dismantle the Hamas leadership.”  Yet he said that the most pressing security challenge facing Israel came from Iran.  “This is a peculiar threat that we haven’t seen the likes of since the dawn of the nuclear age.  To have these fanatics maintaining a nuclear weapon is a danger like the world has never seen.  We cannot imagine the consequence of this threat to the entire world but first and foremost a threat to us.”

The man who was referred to throughout the evening as “the past and future prime minister” pledged that confronting Iran and turning back the tide of terror “would be the first challenges that we will confront as a government.”

With the minds of many in the audience on the increasingly troubling economic crisis, Mr. Netanyahu laid out specific initiatives that he would implement to best protect Israel.  Pledging to cut taxes as a means to encourage spending, he also spoke of a plan to break up the hold of the Israel Lands Authority and thus enable people to more freely purchase land for the purpose of building their homes as means to further encourage economic growth.  He also spoke of the need to hold onto the country’s important human capital that has been fleeing in recent years through the infamous “brain drain” to places like SiliconValley.

Concluding with comments on education, Mr. Netanyahu lamented how far the nation had fallen in international rankings but proposed that success required raising the bar on who could become a teacher and making teaching a “profession of prestige.”  He received a loud applause when he said that there was a desperate need to return, Zionism to the country’s schools, “because this is our heritage and no nation that teaches its heritage would ever consider dividing its capital.”

4:45PM: From the Department of Potentially Misleading Headlines: Netanyahu: We are rooted in Golan

4:37PM: Hamashole Mohamed “Spray” Nazzal said that “there has been no progress or breakthrough in regards to a prisoner exchange deal with Israel.”

2:31PM: A short time ago, a grad rocket landed in an open area of southern Ashkelon.

11:58AM: 27,522 tons of aid was transferred to Gaza last week.

10:55AM: Israel has reportedly agreed to free jailed Fatah terrorist Marwan Barghouti, 350 of the 372 prisoners on a list presented by Hamas, and another 600+ terrorists as part of a deal to secure the release of Gilad Shalit.

9:52AM: The Jerusalem stabbing victim was an American Jew on his way to the Hebrew University campus. The palestinian attackers stabbed him in his neck and face.

9:35AM: Stab happy: A Jewish youth has claimed he was stabbed by Arabs near a gas station in Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, Israeli police are hunting the assailant who tried to stab a soldier in Jaffa.

9:20AM: Earlier this morning, terrorists fired a rocket into Israel, this one landing in a parking lot in a kibbutz in Sha’ar Hanegev, causing several cars to catch fire. I feel some disproportionate force on smuggling tunnels and abandoned Hamas outposts coming on..

6:06AM: Ha’aretz reports that Swedish blogger Lennart Eriksson – a Swedish government employee who last year won a wrongful dismissal suit after being fired for supporting Israel – was recently fired again – for “insufficient performance,” and is suing again.

6:00AM: I think you can safely say that Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is not a fan of Israeli political party Yisrael Beiteinu:

“They are people with no Torah, people who want civil marriage, pork stores and drafting yeshiva students. My heart is heavy. They must not support them, it is forbidden. Whoever does so, his sin is too great to bear. Whoever does so supports the devil.”

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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