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The Day In Israel: Thurs June 25th, 2009

Click refresh to see new updates during the day

GettyWith today marking 3 years since IDF soldier Gilad Shalit was captured, Ha’aretz reports that the IDF was warned of the kidnap plans a day before he was captured.

A Ynet poll reveals that 69% of Jewish adult Israelis support the release of palestinian prisoners with “blood on their hands” in exchange for Gilad, as opposed to 23% who oppose such a move.

Meanwhile, here are a number of initiatives and website to raise awareness about Gilad’s plight and help bring him home:

Gilad Is Still Alive

Gilad1095

Twitter – use #Gilad in your tweets today to make it a trending topic

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

10:55PM: The Free Gaza tools are simply incapable of being honest.

As I reported earlier today, they were stopped in Cyprus from sailing to Gaza due to “inspection requirements.” More specifically:

Department chief Sergios Sergiou said that a fishing boat and a small ferry that the Free Gaza Group were to use for the trip from Cyprus to Gaza had not undergone safety inspections which would take at least a few days to complete.

“It’s a dangerous trip,” Sergiou told the Associated Press. “The vessels must undergo a general inspection before they are allowed to go.”

Clearly, when the Cypriot official says it is a “dangerous trip”, he is referring to the conditions at sea. But the Free Gazans have decided to twist the meaning of these words.

From the Free Gaza mailing list.

PUBLIC ADVISORY

(25 June 2009, LARNACA) – This is not the statement we in the Free Gaza Movement intended to release today. We had hoped to announce that our two ships, the Free Gaza and the Spirit of Humanity, departed from Larnaca Port on a 30-hour voyage to besieged Gaza, carrying human rights activists who have travelled to Cyprus from all across the world for this journey, 3 tons of medical supplies, and 15 tons of badly needed concrete and reconstruction supplies.

Nobel peace laureate Mairead Maguire, returning for her second trip to Gaza aboard one of our ships, said “[The people of Gaza] must know that we have not and will not forget them.”

That was our hope, but that is not what happened.

Instead, our ships were not given permission to leave today due to concerns about our welfare and safety. Our friends in Cyprus tell us that the voyage to Gaza is too dangerous, and they are worried we will be harmed at sea.

Cyprus has been a wonderful home for the Free Gaza Movement over these last 10 months. Cypriots know first hand the terrible consequences of occupation. They too know what it is to suffer from violence, injustice, and exile. Since our first voyage to break through the siege of Gaza, the Cypriot authorities have been extremely helpful and understanding of our goals and intentions.

The journey to Gaza is dangerous. The Israeli navy rammed our flagship, the Dignity, when we attempted to deliver medical supplies to Gaza during their vicious assault in December/January. Israel has previously threatened to open fire on our unarmed ships, rather than allow us to deliver humanitarian and reconstruction supplies to the people of Gaza.

The risks we take on these trips are tiny compared to the risks imposed every day upon the people of Gaza.

Given they have no qualms about lying, are we really expected to believe their other claims, including that they support only “non-violent resistance”?

9:02PM: Regarding my last update, my spidey senses do not seem to have betrayed me.

Unfortunately.

“Netanyahu’s only chance to free the soldier is through a serious prisoner exchange agreement,” said Mashaal. “So far Israel’s stubbornness has derailed the indirect negotiations and most of the other efforts in past years. We will continue to do everything to free the prisoners. Hamas is committed to freeing all 12,000 prisoners.”

7:40PM: European diplomatic sources have said that Gilad Shalit will be transferred to Egypt in the coming hours or  days.

While I hope it is true, I’m filing this in the Treat With Extreme Skepticism folder, since we heard a similar thing just last week.

6:25PM: Former senior advisor to the Bush administration Elliot Abrams has validated Israel’s claim of an agreement on the “settlements.”

Despite fervent denials by Obama administration officials, there were indeed agreements between Israel and the United States regarding the growth of Israeli settlements on the West Bank. As the Obama administration has made the settlements issue a major bone of contention between Israel and the U.S., it is necessary that we review the recent history.

In the spring of 2003, U.S. officials (including me) held wide-ranging discussions with then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem. The “Roadmap for Peace” between Israel and the Palestinians had been written. President George W. Bush had endorsed Palestinian statehood, but only if the Palestinians eliminated terror. He had broken with Yasser Arafat, but Arafat still ruled in the Palestinian territories. Israel had defeated the intifada, so what was next?

We asked Mr. Sharon about freezing the West Bank settlements. I recall him asking, by way of reply, what did that mean for the settlers? They live there, he said, they serve in elite army units, and they marry. Should he tell them to have no more children, or move?

We discussed some approaches: Could he agree there would be no additional settlements? New construction only inside settlements, without expanding them physically? Could he agree there would be no additional land taken for settlements?

As we talked several principles emerged. The father of the settlements now agreed that limits must be placed on the settlements; more fundamentally, the old foe of the Palestinians could — under certain conditions — now agree to Palestinian statehood.

In June 2003, Mr. Sharon stood alongside Mr. Bush, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas at Aqaba, Jordan, and endorsed Palestinian statehood publicly: “It is in Israel’s interest not to govern the Palestinians but for the Palestinians to govern themselves in their own state. A democratic Palestinian state fully at peace with Israel will promote the long-term security and well-being of Israel as a Jewish state.” At the end of that year he announced his intention to pull out of the Gaza Strip.

The U.S. government supported all this, but asked Mr. Sharon for two more things. First, that he remove some West Bank settlements; we wanted Israel to show that removing them was not impossible. Second, we wanted him to pull out of Gaza totally — including every single settlement and the “Philadelphi Strip” separating Gaza from Egypt, even though holding on to this strip would have prevented the smuggling of weapons to Hamas that was feared and has now come to pass. Mr. Sharon agreed on both counts.

These decisions were political dynamite, as Mr. Sharon had long predicted to us. In May 2004, his Likud Party rejected his plan in a referendum, handing him a resounding political defeat. In June, the Cabinet approved the withdrawal from Gaza, but only after Mr. Sharon fired two ministers and allowed two others to resign. His majority in the Knesset was now shaky.

After completing the Gaza withdrawal in August 2005, he called in November for a dissolution of the Knesset and for early elections. He also said he would leave Likud to form a new centrist party. The political and personal strain was very great. Four weeks later he suffered the first of two strokes that have left him in a coma.

Throughout, the Bush administration gave Mr. Sharon full support for his actions against terror and on final status issues. On April 14, 2004, Mr. Bush handed Mr. Sharon a letter saying that there would be no “right of return” for Palestinian refugees. Instead, the president said, “a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel.”

On the major settlement blocs, Mr. Bush said, “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.” Several previous administrations had declared all Israeli settlements beyond the “1967 borders” to be illegal. Here Mr. Bush dropped such language, referring to the 1967 borders — correctly — as merely the lines where the fighting stopped in 1949, and saying that in any realistic peace agreement Israel would be able to negotiate keeping those major settlements.

On settlements we also agreed on principles that would permit some continuing growth. Mr. Sharon stated these clearly in a major policy speech in December 2003: “Israel will meet all its obligations with regard to construction in the settlements. There will be no construction beyond the existing construction line, no expropriation of land for construction, no special economic incentives and no construction of new settlements.”

Ariel Sharon did not invent those four principles. They emerged from discussions with American officials and were discussed by Messrs. Sharon and Bush at their Aqaba meeting in June 2003.

They were not secret, either. Four days after the president’s letter, Mr. Sharon’s Chief of Staff Dov Weissglas wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that “I wish to reconfirm the following understanding, which had been reached between us: 1. Restrictions on settlement growth: within the agreed principles of settlement activities, an effort will be made in the next few days to have a better definition of the construction line of settlements in Judea & Samaria.”

Stories in the press also made it clear that there were indeed “agreed principles.” On Aug. 21, 2004 the New York Times reported that “the Bush administration . . . now supports construction of new apartments in areas already built up in some settlements, as long as the expansion does not extend outward.”

In recent weeks, American officials have denied that any agreement on settlements existed. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated on June 17 that “in looking at the history of the Bush administration, there were no informal or oral enforceable agreements. That has been verified by the official record of the administration and by the personnel in the positions of responsibility.”

These statements are incorrect. Not only were there agreements, but the prime minister of Israel relied on them in undertaking a wrenching political reorientation — the dissolution of his government, the removal of every single Israeli citizen, settlement and military position in Gaza, and the removal of four small settlements in the West Bank. This was the first time Israel had ever removed settlements outside the context of a peace treaty, and it was a major step.

It is true that there was no U.S.-Israel “memorandum of understanding,” which is presumably what Mrs. Clinton means when she suggests that the “official record of the administration” contains none. But she would do well to consult documents like the Weissglas letter, or the notes of the Aqaba meeting, before suggesting that there was no meeting of the minds.

Mrs. Clinton also said there were no “enforceable” agreements. This is a strange phrase. How exactly would Israel enforce any agreement against an American decision to renege on it? Take it to the International Court in The Hague?

Regardless of what Mrs. Clinton has said, there was a bargained-for exchange. Mr. Sharon was determined to break the deadlock, withdraw from Gaza, remove settlements — and confront his former allies on Israel’s right by abandoning the “Greater Israel” position to endorse Palestinian statehood and limits on settlement growth. He asked for our support and got it, including the agreement that we would not demand a total settlement freeze.

For reasons that remain unclear, the Obama administration has decided to abandon the understandings about settlements reached by the previous administration with the Israeli government. We may be abandoning the deal now, but we cannot rewrite history and make believe it did not exist.

5:53PM: If you are on Twitter, please include #Gilad in your tweets today.

If you are not on Twitter, sign up, follow me, and then do as above.

5:40PM: As I reported last week, Hollywood actors Naomi Watts & Liev Schreiber are in Israel doing something most of the Hollywood set would not dare do: showing support for Israel.

Here they are showing solidarity with Sderot by giving an exclusive tour of JNF’s secure indoor recreation center there.

By the way, Naomi Watts is an Aussie. Just saying.

(You can see her in her younger days here).

5:33PM: Palestinian Media Watch has yet more evidence of Fatah’s real intentions towards Israel:

As PMW reported earlier this week, PA (Fatah) TV marked the second anniversary of the Hamas takeover of Gaza by broadcasting a public Fatah event that focuses on vilifying Hamas. One part of this performance features a graphic video of Hamas members brutally beating a Fatah member in Gaza.

Another part criticizes and mocks Hamas for the decrease in its terror operations against Israel, glorifies Fatah terror, and ends with Fatah boasting that they “arrested two soldiers in Ramallah,” a reference to the October 2000 lynching of two Israeli reservists.

In this scene actors portray a Hamas teacher and student supporters of Fatah and Hamas, debating which movement is greater. Significantly, the competition between Fatah and Hamas supporters is based not on who has built more Palestinian infrastructures, nor on who has promoted peace, but rather on who can take credit for more terror.

The debate ends when a Fatah student trumps Hamas’s boast of having kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit by mentioning the “arrest of two Israeli soldiers in Ramallah” by the PA-Fatah. This alludes to the lynching and gruesome murder of two Israeli reservist soldiers who accidentally entered the Palestinian Authority-controlled city in October 2000. While the picture of a Palestinian celebrating the killing by waving his bloody hands to the mob horrified the world, the murder remains a source of pride for Fatah.

[Note: Seated in the front row at the event are Fatah leaders, including Muhammad Dahlan, former head of PA security; Kadura Faras, head of the PA Prisoners’ Association; Nasser Al-Qidwa, former PA Minister of Foreign Affairs;  Samir Al-Mashharawi, senior Fatah official; and others.]

Meanwhile, like the bunch of idiots we are, we’ve agreed to largely keep our forces out of four West Bank cities to try to boost a palestinian security campaign.

This palestinian security belongs to the PA=Fatah.

5:20PM: France 24 on the third-year anniversary of Gilad Shalit’s capture.

2:22PM: Cyprus has stopped two Free Gaza boats planning to carry aid to Gaza, due to inspection requirements. Given that the boats are carrying cement, a material banned by Israel since it can be used by terrorists, it is unlikely they will be allowed to continue on.

Which I suspect is the point. The Free Gazans are less concerned with actually helping anyone and more concerned with scoring propaganda points against Israel. How else do you explain the fact they are bringing materials well known to be banned from entering Gaza?

6:08AM: Ambiguous headline of the day: The Jerusalem Post would have us believe that the Jews really do plan to take over the world.

paris settlements

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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