Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has offered a major aid package for Gaza, if Hamas suspends its military build-up against the Jewish State. Lieberman sent the surprising message in an interview with the Palestinian newspaper El Kuds. It is not clear at this time if Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and the Israeli government have approved Lieberman’s proposal. If so it would be a major step, otherwise Lieberman was just blowing hot air.
So to the nuts and bolts of his proposal, in his words:
‘Israel will be the first to rebuild the Gaza Strip by investing in a seaport, an airport and two industrial zones at Karni and Erez. But there were several conditions: Hamas must stop digging attack tunnels from Gaza into Israel, launching rockets into Israel and smuggling in weapons’.
For its part, Israel had no intention of occupying Gaza or starting another war. But he warned:
‘If war is forced on Israel again, it will be the last war for Hamas, we will totally destroy Hamas!’
The Israeli Defense Minister disclosed that Hamas, rather than improving the lot of the nearly two million Palestinians in Gaza, has spent more than $500 million dollars in a military build-up recently. Lieberman appeared to be offering a big carrot and a big stick to Hamas after the bitter summer war of 2014 that left Gaza in a shambles.
At the same time, Lieberman had harsh words for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who was expelled from Gaza by a bloody coup carried out by Hamas in 2007. Lieberman charged that Abbas was incapable of making tough decisions or of signing a permanent peace treaty with Israel. In fact, if a Palestinian election were held today Lieberman was certain Abbas would lose.
For his part, Lieberman expressed support for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians. He insisted that it include land and population swaps, adding that Israel has no use for the large Arab city of Umm al-Fahm that is located inside Israel proper. In other words, the border would be redrawn to include Umm al-Fahm on the Palestine side. The Arab residents would not lose their homes – they would simply stop being citizens of Israel and become citizens of the new state of Palestine. However, when Lieberman raised this idea in the past the Palestinians of the city vehemently opposed it preferring to remain inside Israel which they often criticize bitterly. They can be expected to do so again. At present, they enjoy a higher standard of living and social benefits inside the democratic state of Israel.
On the other hand, in return for transferring part of Israel to the Palestinians, Lieberman wants something in return – the Israeli settlement blocs on the West Bank. These include Ma’ale Edumim and Gush Edumim that are just outside of Jerusalem. And a fourth settlement bloc around the town of Ariel also built on the West Bank. Lieberman apparently made no reference to the other numerous settlements strewn around the West Bank and this infers that he would be ready to hand them over to a Palestinian state. If so, Lieberman would be splitting the mainstream ‘Land of Israel’ movement that is opposed to giving them up. In fact, these settlement hard-liners have long been blasting Netanyahu for not building any new settlements in recent years. Lieberman despite all the hulla-bloo over settlement building made an interesting disclosure. He declared categorically that ‘Israel has restricted all building in Judea & Samaria (West Bank) to within the confines of existing settlements which have not been increased by one inch!’ In fact, settlers have long contended that Prime Minister Netanyahu has not approved any new settlements but only built new housing units within existing settlements.
What can be said about Lieberman’s statement? If Hamas was really interested in improving the lot of their people, then Lieberman dropped a bombshell. But since they are busy preparing for another clash with Israel, little is likely to happen. The Palestinians will simply shoot the deal down for one reason or another. Lieberman’s far Right coalition partners including Likud will also play it down by saying it’s only Lieberman’s day-dreaming and it has not been officially discussed. But at least Lieberman, in contrast to Bibi, has put some ideas up for discussion and tried to get things moving along the Palestinian track. Surely this is what Israel’s Prime Minister should be doing. But Netanyahu prefers to keep repeating the same old slogans – the captain of Israel’s ship of state may turn out to be another captain of the Titanic.
UNESCO’s anti-Israeli resolution backfires…
Three states who voted in favor of the UNESCO resolution negating Israel’s link to the Temple Mount now say they made a big mistake. In the recent vote, 24 voted in favor, 6 opposed while another 24 abstained. Three countries that either abstained or voted in favor have changed their stand.
Italy – While on a trip abroad, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was surprised to learn that the Italy’s representative to UNESCO had abstained in the vote – he described the resolution as ‘shocking’. The Italian leader said he would summon his Foreign Minister to find out why Rome had abstained and not voted against the ‘outrageous’ resolution.
‘The resolution was unacceptable and wrong… to say the Jewish people have no connection to Jerusalem is like saying the sun produces darkness… even the theatre of the absurd has its limits… it is not possible to continue with these resolutions at the UN and UNESCO whose sole purpose is to attack Israel’.
Mexico – did not abstain but actually voted in favor; better late than never. The Mexican government has now issued a statement saying its Foreign Minister would investigate why the Mexican delegate voted in favor rather than at least abstaining. The statement called the resolution offensive and unbalanced toward the Jewish people and its historic connection to Jerusalem.
Brazil – its delegate also voted in favor. The Brazilian government also issued a statement saying its position should have been to abstain.
Summing up: The Palestinians overdid it by trying to push through a ludicrous resolution, which only recognized the Muslim connection to Temple Mount. Most of the countries who voted in favor were from the Afro-Islamic bloc. That was to be expected, the question is: how did states like Mexico and Brazil vote for the resolution or abstain on such an embarrassing resolution? It is most likely that they vote automatically at the UN due to Israel’s settlement building, even if it is restricted to existing communities, it has created a built-in criticism against the Jewish state. On the other hand, consider the 54 members on UNESCO’s executive board who participated in the vote: the revised count is 33 either abstained or voted against while only 22 voted in favor. No European state voted for it, except Russia. But that’s the least of Israel’s worries with President Vladimir Putin sending an aircraft carrier near Israeli waters with the mission to step up the obliteration of the Syrian city of Aleppo and the Syrian rebels.
Driving Daesh from Mosul may lead to a bloody ‘free for all’ in Iraq…
At long last, the U.S. has managed to put together a coalition to drive Daesh from their stronghold in the Iraqi city of Mosul. Kurdish forces, American trained Iraqi Shiite Army units and additional Shiite militias controlled by Iran are pounding Daesh inside the city. American aircraft are also participating in coalition air strikes. An estimated 5,000 American servicemen and advisors are involved but there are ‘no combat boots on the ground’. A ‘Johnny come lately’ is Turkey’s President Erdogan. By sending tanks into Iraq, Turkey also wants a piece of the pie (no pun intended). But Turkey is a Sunnite Muslim state and this has aroused the ire of the Iraq’s Shiite government. It appears to be only a matter of time before Daesh is routed from Mosul and subsequently from Iraq. But this could open another can of worms. Will the state of Iraq survive as it is today?
The Kurds, who have played a major combat role against Daesh, have made very clear they want to emerge from this war with a state of their own. This will mean taking a hefty chunk of northern Iraq where they already enjoy a degree of autonomy. Enter Turkey – Erdogan is dead set against the emergence of a Kurdish state that could lead to an uprising by Turkish Kurds who will want to join their kinsmen. Kurds in northern Syria may also want to link up with an emerging Kurdish state. That leaves Shiite Iran which has its forces in place to thwart the Kurds. Tehran is strengthening its ties with the Shiite regime in Iraq which opposes the founding of an independent Kurdish state in Northern Iraq.
Time to take a deep breath.
After the defeat of Daesh we could be looking up at a break-up of not only Syria but also Iraq. Both of these artificial states were carved out by the Big Powers after World War I and have been torn asunder by blood feuds between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Iraq for example remained in one piece only because Sunni tyrant Saddam Hussein kept Iraq’s Shiites in line. In Syria, a similar sort of brutal dictatorship by Shiite Alawite Assad also ruled the Sunnis with an iron fist. After the Sunni revolt, the Assads control less than half the country and only with vast military support from Russia and Iran.
No one can say what will emerge from the current carnage raging throughout the Fertile Crescent. It could even get worse with Iraq, Syria, Iran, Turkey, Kurds, Sunni and Shiite Muslims, even the Russians are involved in what one Israeli expert sees as a ‘free for all’.
Meanwhile Israel sits on the sidelines, keeping its powder dry and trying to stay out of trouble. So far, the understanding that Netanyahu worked out with Putin on Russian and Israeli air operations over Syria has held up. Israel fires back when one of the Arab disputants on the Golan Heights fires a shell, deliberately or accidentally, into Israel. In addition, the IDF will intercept any game-changing weapons being transported via Syria to Hezbollah in south Lebanon. But the deployment of advanced Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missiles inside Syria that cover a considerable part of Israel must be a serious cause for concern for the Israeli Air Force and Defense Minister Lieberman. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why the Defense Minister is interested in keeping the Gaza Front as quiet as possible. One way to do that was by presenting both a generous offer and a harsh warning to Hamas.