Friday, March 18, 2011


Bahrain declares state of emergency
Haaretz- Bahrain has declared a state of emergency following weeks of unrest on the island kingdom, state television announced on Tuesday, saying the country's security forces would take charge for the next three months.

An order by the king "authorized the commander of Bahrain's defense forces to take all necessary measures to protect the safety of the country and its citizens," said a statement read out on television.

The 13th and the 14th, two days in a row, all but one of the Israeli newspapers lead with the brutal murder in the West Bank settlement of Itamar of five members of the Fogel family: Parents Udi and Ruth, along with their three children. Haaretz (The Land) was the only paper which led with the devastating earthquake in Japan.

The coverage of the murders was very emotional. The headlines on the front pages were piercing; “Animals” and “Bloodbath, with commentators stating their outrage rather than examining the possible conquences on the political process.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s response to the attack was to approve the construction of 400 new homes in four West Bank settlements. As Netanyahu told one of the three surviving children of the Fogel family, ‘They kill, we build.’

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak took part in a meeting on Saturday night, March 12th. During the discussion, several alternatives to further settlement building were discussed, such as starting a new settlement, or expanding the settlement of Itamar, but the decision was made, supported by Barak, to continue construction in existing settlement blocs.

The United States said it is ‘deeply concerned’ over the Israeli decision to approve some 400 new homes. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement that the U.S. sees settlement building as ‘illegitimate’ and that it ‘runs counter to efforts to resume direct negotiations'' between Israel and the Palestinians. The U.S. earlier condemned the attack in Itamar in the ‘strongest possible terms.’

A senior Israeli diplomat told  Israel Hayom that in addition to the decision on settlement expansion, Israel also launched an offensive against what it referred to as “toxic Palestinian incitement against Jews”. He said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas must stop incitement against Israel in mosques, schools, textbooks, media and public events. He added that the Palestinian leader must also take steps to stop the naming of public squares and streets after terrorists. 

In an  interview with Israel Radio Abbas said the attack on Itamar was despicable, immoral and inhuman, “human beings are not capable of such a thing. These images, the murder of a baby, children and a woman cause anyone who is human to experience pain and cry”. He said the Palestinian Authority would have stopped the attack if it had received prior information, and stated that he had agreed with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to conduct a joint investigation.

President Abbas said he did not expect a new wave of attacks against Israel in the near future, and stressed that he would not allow this to happen. He rejected Israel's argument that incitement was coming from mosques and schools and said there is no incitement today. He called for the convening of an Israeli, Palestinian and American committee to investigate Israel's claims of incitement.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned that a “diplomatic tsunami” could hit Israel in six months. In an addressing at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv on March 13th, Barak said there is an international movement to recognize a Palestinian state in the pre-1967 borders by September. He said this is an attempt to delegitimize Israel and push it into the same corner that apartheid South Africa once occupied.

The defense minister went on to say that the government must come up with its own diplomatic initiative to counter such a move. He said Israel should be ready to tackle the core issues of the conflict, including security, borders, refugees and Jerusalem. And he urged the Kadima Party to join the coalition to advance a peace initiative.

Barak stated that Israel is an island of stability in a region undergoing turmoil. And he said it is important that the people of Israel and its neighbors know that terror will not dictate how we conduct ourselves. “Even at the height of pain and rage, we must have a responsible leadership”, Barak said.

Writing in Yedioth Ahronoth, Ariella Ringel-Hoffman writes that expanding settlements is not the right response to the Itamar atrocity.

Since Defense Minister Ehud Barak has not yet signed the construction permits, we need to relate to the decision by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and some of his ministers, to add several hundred homes to existing West Bank settlements, not only with a pinch of salt, but with the suspicion that it deserves. And still, it is impossible not to be surprised, to put it mildly, by the decision.

The awful murder in Itamar ,about which mere words cannot express the loathing, the grief and the disgust we feel, obligates Israel to respond in some way. But the proper response should not be another zigzag by a prime minister who specializes in zigzags and who does everything in his power to avoid having to make decisions.

The fact that Palestinian terrorists entered the home of the Fogel family and killed five of its members is not a reason to expand settlements. Massive West Bank settlement construction, just like the settlement construction freeze, is a decision that can only be taken as part of a considered government plan for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Neither decision should be part of a complex of populist gestures intended to woo potential voters, a ploy to improve approval ratings or a valve to let off steam. By deciding that the massacre is good enough reason to approve hundreds of West Bank homes, Israel is effectively saying that, if three children and their parents had not been murdered, we would not expand the settlements.

The prime minister who has committed himself to the two-state solution and who has promised us a major policy speech in the coming weeks, failed to explain to us the link between the massacre and the settlement expansion. It may seem obvious to him, but it isn’t. And, ironically, even the very people that he seeks to serve with this decision do not understand the logic behind it. And since it is not even certain that anything will happen as a result of the decision, wouldn’t it have been better not to raise it at all? Netanyahu must tell us, his people, what kind of future he envisages for us and what he is doing to turn that vision into reality. More homes in Ariel are not the answer.

But another writer in Yedioth Ahronoth, Hanch Daum says that there is no more fitting response to the Itamar attack than expanding Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria.

Whether or not one usually agrees with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, no one questions his ability to handle terrorism. This assertion can be backed up with empirical facts: During his two tenures as prime minister, the number of terror attacks has dropped to the lowest level in Israel’s history. This did not happen in a vacuum. When there was concern that there would be violent disturbances during his first term of office, Netanyahu sent tanks into the West Bank, sending a clear message, which managed to quell the violence.

Yesterday, after a terror attack that any other prime minister would merely have responded to with words, he convened the relevant ministers, met with senior members of the defense establishment and sent a firm message to the world: He decided that Israel would add 400 housing units to four settlements in the major blocs. When something as extreme as the Itamar massacre happens, Israel needs to react immediately. The approval of new homes is an immediate response which sends out a clear message to the other side: You can only lose from terrorism.

Netanyahu is about to deliver a major policy speech, in which he will outline his vision of an agreement with the Palestinians, and the international community needs to realize that Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim and Gush Etzion will be part of Israel under any future agreement.

There is something comforting about the fact that Israel has a nationalist government, which recognizes the fundamental fact that the only good that can come out of attacks like the one in Itamar is that Israelis will continue to build and to settle the land.” 

Meanwhile in Maariv, Ben Caspit says that the perpetrators of the Itamar massacre deserve to die, but that Israel’s response to the murder of five members of the Fogel family should be to redouble our efforts to reach an agreement with the Palestinians.

The murderers of the Fogel family should not be captured. There is no point in nabbing them and bringing them to justice. The animals who carried out this despicable act should be killed. The Shin Bet, the IDF and anyone else involved in the sacred task of tracking them down should be given one very simple order: Find the perpetrators and kill them on the spot. If possible, Israel should also kill all those who aided in the attack, who helped plan it, who knew about it and who supported this monstrous act.

First and foremost, because this is what they deserve. Anybody who is capable of slaughtering a four-month-old baby deserves to die. Secondly, because the alternative is too unthinkable. Imagine if the Shin Bet tracks them down and the IDF captures them and puts them on trial in Israel. Then what? They would be sentences to 30 life terms, or something like that, and they would be put in ‘jail’ – where they would enjoy cable television, air conditioning, free university studies, visits from their families and all the other perks that Israel affords the Palestinian prisoners it holds in its jails. They would put on weight – and it has been proven that Palestinian prisoners get more rotund during their incarceration in Israeli jails – and would earn academic degrees. And in the end, the worst thing of all would happen: They would be released as part of some prisoner exchange deal or other, because, in the end, we always break down and release them.

Anyone who is capable of massacring parents and their three small children in their sleep is nothing more than a dangerous animal that needs to be put down. The Palestinians must be made to recognize one basic truth: Their struggle against the occupation and their aspirations for statehood are legitimate. Palestinians, who attack what they see as the ‘occupation army’ are doing something that, while it is hard for us to accept, is legitimate in their eyes. But to kill children, to kill an entire family while they sleep, is unforgivable, inhuman and unacceptable.

For all Israelis, no matter where they reside, the murder of children in Itamar is the same as murdering children in Tel Aviv. Anyone who does so must know that his life is in danger. Just like Golda Meir ordered the Shin Bet to kill those behind the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu must order the security forces to kill those behind the Itamar massacre.

Since the IDF and the Shin Bet have an almost 100 percent success rate when it comes to tracking down the perpetrators of terror attacks, the people who carried out the Itamar atrocity must be made to understand that in killing a Jew, they are signing their own death warrant.

But there is another side to this bloody coin: Our side. Because despite the deep sense of mourning, despite the gut-wrenching pain and despite the rage, we have to remember that we are the only people in the world who believe that we have a right to settle Itamar. No matter how much we try to persuade ourselves that it is our historic birthright and that the area is the cradle of Jewish civilization (and so on), the situation in the international community is very different. According to the international community, our position is not getting any better. On the contrary: It is steadily getting worse.” 

The Jerusalem Post says that the real obstacle to peace is not the presence of Jewish settlers on the West Bank, but the Palestinians’ inability to accept the Jewish right to sovereignty over any part of the Land of Israel.

Our minds beg to avoid contemplating the Fogel family massacre. Every bit of human fiber in our being rebels against the cold-blooded viciousness. What miasma spawned a terrorist capable of crouching over the sleeping Fogels – mother Ruth, father Udi, and their three young children, including three-month-old baby Hadas – methodically knifing them to death?

Offering up the ‘occupation’ as an excuse is a vacuous insult to common sense. The restrictions on Palestinians’ freedoms and their political limbo, resulting in large part from their own unwillingness to agree on realistic compromises, cannot ‘explain’ or ‘legitimize’ this horror. Nor can the mere existence of Jewish families on land of biblical resonance that was previously controlled by Jordan and is now widely deemed to belong to Palestinians.

But Palestinian leaders would have you believe otherwise, and the Palestinian Authority’s reactions to the atrocity resonate hollow and false. ‘We reject this violence and condemn it as we have repeatedly rejected it against our people,’ the PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told reporters just hours after the Fogels were slaughtered.

The implication was clear: The Itamar atrocity could and should be compared to attempts by the IDF to defend citizens from Qassam and Grad missiles launched by Hamas from Gaza – a territory made completely Judenrein by Israel in the summer of 2005 – or to IDF attempts to protect Israelis from suicide bombings or drive-by shootings emanating from Nablus, Jenin and Hebron. PA President Mahmoud ‘Abbas’s reaction was not much different, provoking Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to criticize the PA’s ‘weak and mumbling’ statements."

Photo courtesy of Foreign Policy Magazine 

1 comment:

Ari said...

Its amazing that the Netanyahu Government can't see that there is a direct connection between Jewish deaths and settlement construction.