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GAZA & POST WINOGRAD

Cabinet Minister Ben Eliezer: 'I Doubt If Any Country In the World Would Supply Electricity To Neighbor Which Uses It To Produce Rockets For Attacks'

Hamas Official To Israeli Parents In Sderot: 'Pack Up And Leave For Sake Of Your Children' As Terrorists Fire Over 25 Rockets At Town'

Prof. Dror's Interview Sabotages Winograd Findings

Palestinians smuggling weapons through tunnels

The aftermath of the Winograd findings into the Second Lebanon War and Gaza dominated the headlines in Israel this week. The fireworks are still popping after Prof. Yehezkel Dror's controversial interview that appeared to favor the Olmert-Barak leadership rather than the Likud's Bibi Netanyahu. Dror argues that he acted impartially on the Winograd panel but IsraCast says the highly esteemed political scientist has virtually sabotaged the Winograd enquiry. Meanwhile, Israel is starting to cut its power supply to Gaza in retaliation for the Palestinian firing of Qassam rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot and other communities in the Negev. And in a new twist, A Palestinian official has warned Israeli parents in Sderot to evacuate their homes for the sake of their children.

What grade would Prof. Yehezkel Dror have given a student who wrote an essay recommending what Dror himself has just done? Most likely an 'F'! Dror has succeeded in sabotaging the Winograd enquiry that he sat on after it spent over a year intensively investigating the Second Lebanon War which it branded a 'missed opportunity'. An Israel Radio poll has found the public's credibility in the findings have plummeted from 68% to 28% after Dror told the Maariv newspaper: 'Would you rather have an Olmert-Barak leadership or an early election and then getting the Likud's Bibi Netanyahu' and 'It's a serious consideration if Olmert has embarked on a peace process with the Palestinians that could save many lives'. The country has been flabbergasted by Dror's revelations less than a week after the Winograd findings severely criticized Israel's political leadership but on the systemic level after the supreme court barred Winograd from holding the prime minister personally responsible. In fact, the findings let Olmert off the hook on what became the salient issue - the Saluki ground operation during the last sixty hours that cost the lives of 33 IDF soldiers.

Israeli Soldiers during the Second Lebanon War

Why did the eighty-year old Dror, a brilliant political scientist, apparently put his foot in his mouth? He now says his comments had nothing to do with his impartiality on the Winograd panel and he acted strictly on the merits of the testimony. It may be that in his own mind this is the case - but he has undermined the veracity of the enquiry whose members were appointed by the prime minister. Moreover, how did he not realize that by apparently expressing his political preferences he would taint the Winograd findings. Not only has he devastated the entire panel, he has done a grave disservice to his four colleagues who may hold political views opposed to Dror's yet did not make them public. Obviously the panel's final report was the result of a panel consensus which all members should have respected by refraining from many personal comments after its publication.

The Dror affair will now move to the State Comptroller's Committee in the Knesset where opposition members are preparing to tar and feather both the professor and the prime minister for 'fixing' the Winograd enquiry. Olmert rejected an official state commission of enquiry that would have acted as a court with the legal power to call for the prime minister's resignation. Whatever Dror's motivation in giving the newspaper interview, it may illustrate a 'saviour tendency' in Israel's political life. In expressing his preference for Olmert-Barak over Netanyahu, Dror has left himself open to charges that he was not impartial and therefore violated his mandate to use his expertise to examine objectively what went wrong during the war - he certainly did not have a mandate to decide who should be prime minister. And rightly or wrongly, this is the perception he has created. It's as if from his ivory tower, Dror has handed down his theory on which leader is best for the national interest and that this surpasses Olmert's blunders in the Second Lebanon War. Certainly if Dror had made public his political views before the enquiry he could never have appointed to serve on the panel. The outcome is that the Dror affair will be as famous or infamous as the Winograd examination. And if the Winograd castigated the faulty conduct of the war by Israel's political and military echelons as a 'missed opportunity', Dror's sorry interview was a 'missed opportunity' to set the record straight for the Israeli people.

It recalls another position expressed by Attorney General Menahem Mazuz in the plea bargain case of President Yaacov Katzav. Mazuz decided on the plea bargain rather than sending Katzav to trial for numerous alleged sex offenses because 'this would save the state from the public disgrace of the presidency'. Again the Attorney General assumed a prerogative that was not his in supposedly acting in the state's interest failing in the view of many Israelis to uphold the rule of law.

GAZA: Is the Israeli refusal to launch a major ground operation into Gaza to halt the rocketing of Israeli civilians a direct result of the failure in the Second Lebanon War? This is now being discussed more and more after the intense bombardment of Sderot and other Israeli communities from Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces are conducting a relentless but limited campaign of local counter-strikes by land and air to hit the terrorists who launch the home - made rockets from inside populated areas of Gaza, even near near schools and hospitals. This as Palestinian civilians cheer them on. So far, the government has held off from launching a major ground offensive to reconquer Gaza in order to end the rocketing. Israel totally evacuated the Gaza Strip over two years ago and since then the Palestinians have fired thousands of rockets and mortars into Israel trying to indiscriminately kill and wound Israeli civilians.

Dan Meridor, a former Likud cabinet minister who has made a study of Israel's security situation, says Hamas may be trying to copy the Hezbollah tactics in the Second Lebanon believing this the way to beat Israel. This week IDF patrols inside Gaza discovered underground bunkers for firing the Qassams by remote control in order to avoid being hit by Israeli helicopters. Hezbollah advisors from Lebanon are believed to have trained Hamas in these tactics. Meridor stressed that the Israeli campaign must be directed not only against suppressing the Qassams but also to prevent a Hamas military buildup in Gaza similar to the Hezbollah example in south Lebanon before the war.

Hamas welcomes Israeli milk supply to Gaza (Ishai Nerel)

The primitive Qassams are actually produced in secret work shops throughout the towns and refugee camps in Gaza. In fact, some of the electricity used to make them is actually supplied by Israel. At present, Israel supplies most of the Gaza Strip's power, the remainder by Egypt and the Palestinians. So, it can be said the Palestinians are receiving Israeli electricity which they send back as rockets aimed at Israeli children. This has been going on for seven years now. In at least one case, the terrorists even tried to target the Israeli power station that supplies electricity to Gaza. After the approval of the Supreme Court, the IDF cut 1% of Israel's power to Gaza - this will be done weekly if the Qassams are not stopped. However, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnayie will comply with the court ruling not to create a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The Palestinians have responded by accusing Israel of a war crime - in other words they demand that Israel supply the power they need to produce rockets to fire at the Jewish state. When asked why they don't stop launching the rockets to lift the sanctions, Palestinian spokesmen retort that this is their inherent right of resistance to the occupation. But didn't Israel end the occupation and evacuate the Gaza Strip over two years ago? The Palestinians reply there is still the West Bank. But the democratically Hamas government, which threatens to wipe Israel off the map, declares it will never accept the existence of the Jewish state and expelled Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas from Gaza because he is at least ready to negotiate with Israel.

Commenting on the power sanctions, Israeli cabinet minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer Says: 'I doubt there is one country in the world which would agree to supply power to a neighbor who converts it into rockets that it fires back to hit civilians! For their part the Palestinians launched launched over 30 Qassams at Sderot on Friday alone. This as a Palestinian official warned Israeli parents in the town: 'To pack up and leave for the sake of their children'. Sderot mayor Eli Moyal again appealed to the government to take stiffer action saying his residents are being terrorized day and night by the rocketing - some 10% had fled their homes. Moyal charges that Ismail Haniyeh the Palestinian leader in Gaza is orchestrating is an outright terrorist and should be targeted by Israel. At the same time, Sderot's mayor opposed a major offensive into Gaza that could result in high casualties on both sides. In other words, Israel is imposing economic sanctions such as the power cut in order to try and protect its citizens from the rocketing rather than launching a bloody ground offensive inside the Gaza Strip. Israel has also protested to the U.N. Secretary-General and the Security Council over the rocketing - but no one expects anything to happen there.

In a new development there has been an angry response from Cairo after Palestinians from Gaza recently burst through Egyptian forces into Sinai when Israel finally closed its border in light of the rocket attacks. The Palestinians clashed with Egyptian border guards and have threatened to kidnap some of them to secure the release of fifteen or so Hamas members who have been arrested by the Egyptians. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abdul Gheit warned: 'Any Palestinians who violate Egypt's border will get his legs broken!' Egyptian snipers have been deployed along the border with Gaza apparently with orders to shoot at Palestinians who may try to cross the border. For the first time, Israeli officials say the Egyptians are really serious about closing the border indicating they are also fed up with Palestinian provocations. In any case, the possibility that terrorists from Gaza can slip across the Egyptian border and then infiltrate Israel has been taken very seriously after the double suicide bombing attempt in Dimona. Jerusalem has moved swiftly to start constructing a security fence along the Israeli-Egyptian border.

The latest developments swirling around the Hamas control of Gaza illustrate a major shift that has been going on for some time now. Iran, which is also bent on Israel's destruction, has been relentlessly recruiting proxies with money and the training of Palestinian terrorists not only in Gaza but on the West Bank. Intelligence experts say it is only the Israeli counter - terror operations on the West Bank which prevents a Hamas take-over there as well. The radical Islamist campaign found full expression in the war with Hezbollah in the summer of 2006. This at a time that many Arab countries, Egypt included, are concerned about the Iranian sponsored Islamist threat to their regimes. Despite the recent warming of relations between Cairo and Tehran, a senior Egyptian official was quoted as saying the Muslim Brotherhood threatens to topple the Mubarak government and install an Islamist regime. In Lebanon, Hezbollah also serves the interests of both Iran and Syria.

After the recent Annapolis conference, attended representatives from the Arab world, it appears that the composition of the historic Arab - Israeli conflict may be shifting - today it tends more to an Iranian - Palestinian mix on the other side with the Arab world, except for Syria, sitting more on the sidelines.

David Essing

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