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The Bible tells us that in the last days, perilous times shall come.
“But realize this, that in the last days perilous times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5
Book Exert: The Bible tells us that in the last days, perilous times shall come. I say not only shall they come, but they are already here and therefore we are already living in the Last Days. After having reviewed Timothy’s list of the warning signs that will be prevalent in the world in the last days, I think that you would also have to agree.
Each of the warning signs that we reviewed are connected and one leads to the other and is a byproduct of the previous. We are living in a time where the lines between good and evil has become so blurred that you can’t tell one from the other. No longer are the days where the good guys always wore white hats and the bad guys black hats, today they can wear either one or worse yet they wear a grey hat. We are living in a time where what used to be good is now called evil and what used to be considered evil is now called good and they are “proud” of it! We are living in a time where technology enables anyone to view and download any type of evil imaginable of course we don’t call it evil anymore we call it entertainment. It’s no wonder that the statistics for crime, pornography, child abuse, drug abuse, rape, teenage pregnancy, teen-suicide, domestic violence and divorce are all at their highest levels ever.
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Solana, Blair to travel to Middle East next week to discuss Gaza border crisis - www.haaretz.com
European foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Mideast Quartet envoy Tony Blair are to travel to the Middle East next week to work out a solution for better access to Gaza, EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters after a phone conference of the Middle East Quartet, Ferrero-Waldner said the Quartet was following up the suggestion by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to hand over border controls to the Palestinian Authority.
Better access had to be provided, in particular at the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, a possible solution being bringing back the EU deal, Ferrero-Waldner said.
Under a five-way-deal in 2005 between the United States, the EU, Israel, Egypt and the Palestinians the border was to be monitored by EU observers, with additional cameras to allow Israel to view those crossing.
However, all parties had to agree to a solution, Ferrero-Waldner said. The EU was ready and willing to grant full support. "If infrastructure or equipment is needed, I will help," the EU's representative said.
"It is important that Palestinians get access to humanitarian aid," she added.
Last week, Hamas militants blew huge holes in the concrete and metal border fence between Gaza and Egypt, prompting hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to flood through the breach and mostly head for al-Arish, 50 kilometers distant, to stock up with supplies made scarce by the Israeli blockade.
Egypt thwarts Hamas plan to attack Israeli tourists in Sinai - www.haaretz.com
Egypt arrested 12 Hamas militants with weapons and explosives in the Sinai Peninsula near its breached border with the Gaza Strip, Egyptian security officials said Friday.
Army Radio quoted Egyptian officials as saying the men, who belonged to two separate terror cells, were planning to attack Israeli tourists in Sinai.
The sources said the men are believed to have crossed the Gaza Strip border into Egypt a week after gunmen blew holes in the border wall allowing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to pour into the country to stock up for supplies.
Two of the militants escaped, Israel Radio reported, and Egyptian security forces were searching for them.
Egypt will close its Rafah border crossing within the next hours while the Salahaddin crossing will remain open to Palestinians who are still in the area until a total border closure is imposed, security sources told the semi-official al-Ahram newspaper.
Security forces are hurrying to fill the breaches in the border wall using high-tech equipment arriving from Cairo, the newspaper said.
Egypt allowed over 2,000 Palestinians, who entered Rafah illegally, to travel abroad via its airports.
Cairo held separate talks with officials from Hamas and the Palestinian Authority over how to restore border control. But no agreement has been reached.
Israel has imposed a blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has been controlled by Hamas since June, after a surge in rocket attacks by militants on borderline Israeli communities.
Gaza Strip will never be part of Egypt, says Mubarak - in another barbed comment against Israel – www.debka.com
DEBKAfile: Cairo and Jerusalem have each said the other is responsible for the chaotic Palestinian influx from Gaza to Egyptian Sinai and the rising terrorist threat to both in consequence.
In an interview with the Italian La Repubblica, the Egyptian president said Israel’s dream of “throwing the Strip” at Egypt was only a dream.
Despite official Israel denials, the defense ministry’s political adviser Amos Gilead did visit Cairo last week to complain about Egypt’s failure to curb the exit of three-quarters of a million Palestinians from Gaza into Sinai through the unsecured Rafah terminal. Our military sources report that Egyptian intelligence minister Gen. Omar Suleiman counter-charged that Israel shared responsibility for this development in view of its refusal to amend the 1982 peace treaty’s demilitarization clause for Sinai and permit the deployment of Egyptian troop reinforcements.
The Israeli and Egyptian official agreed that defense minister Ehud Barak would visit Cairo soon to sort out the situation. He would arrive after the Palestinian leaders Mahmoud Abbas for the Palestinian Authority and Hamas’ Khaled Meshaal and Mahmoud A-Zahar end their talks in Egypt Wednesday, Jan. 30, on the Gaza-Sinai border chaos.
Official claims to the media notwithstanding, Palestinian traffic between Gaza and Sinai continued uncontrolled Wednesday for the seventh day. DEBKAfile’s military sources assess the report in the semi-official Al-Ahram that Egyptian security forces had apprehended five Palestinians armed with bomb belts near the Taba crossing as a red herring.
Several hundred armed Palestinians are now at large near the Egyptian-Israeli border of Sinai, some with bomb vests. Neither Egyptian security nor Israeli intelligence can claim knowledge of their movements or hideouts.
CAIRO — Egypt, struggling to restore its border with the Gaza Strip, sees an emerging Palestinian threat in the Sinai Peninsula.
"Hamas has violated our sovereignty and this is totally unacceptable," Egyptian parliamentarian Hassan Issa said. "This move poses a real threat to Egypt's national security."
Egyptian security sources said Palestinian insurgency groups were using the remote Sinai desert for training, logistics and operations. They said such groups as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees were also expanding cooperation with Bedouin insurgents aligned with Al Qaida in Egypt.
On Wednesday, the Egyptian state-owned Al Ahram daily reported that five Palestinian insurgents were captured in Sinai, Middle East Newsline reported. The newspaper, quoting Egyptian sources, said the Palestinians were found with sniper rifles and explosives belts and planned to conduct suicide strikes in Israel.
"This is not a new concern," an Egyptian security officer said. "The new element is that the flow of Palestinian operatives into Sinai has grown tremendously over the last few weeks."
Security sources said Hamas, Jihad and PRC have established a logistics network of Bedouins in the Sinai. The sources said the Palestinians also relayed bribes to Egyptian officers who serve in eastern Sinai.
The sources said up to 400 Hamas, Jihad and PRC operatives were seeking to remain in Sinai for operations against neighboring Israel. They said the Palestinians were seeking refuge with Bedouin tribes in central Sinai.
The sources said the Palestinian insurgency presence in the Sinai has expanded in wake of the destruction of the Sinai-Gaza border on Jan. 23. They said up to 500 Hamas and Jihad operatives have infiltrated the peninsula and acquired weapons and advanced communications systems.
This was the second capture of Palestinian insurgents in Sinai over the last week. On Jan. 27, Egyptian security forces were said to have detained Palestinians with weapons and advanced communications equipment in central Sinai. The equipment was meant to monitor Egyptian Army and police communications.
Al Ahram said the latest Palestinian insurgency cell also contained maps with the locations of Israel Army bases near the Egyptian border. The maps also contained assessments of Israeli soldiers at each bases.
The Egyptian border guards were offered thousands of dollars to enable Palestinian insurgents to bring trucks from the Gaza Strip to Sinai. The sources said the border guards allowed at least 20 such trucks to enter Sinai within the first 24 hours of the destruction of the border wall.
Al Ahram reported that the regime of President Hosni Mubarak has decided to erect a new border security system. The system would comprise of a border fence equipped with surveillance cameras and other equipment to "absolutely prevent infiltration, in keeping with the national security of Egypt."
Egypt, which deployed 20,000 troops, has set a Feb. 3 deadline for the return of the Palestinians to the Gaza Strip. At one point, 700,000 Palestinians, most of whom were shoppers, were said to have crossed into Sinai.
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“The Lord roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem… For three transgressions of Gaza, even for four, I will not turn back my [judgment]…” (Amos 1:2, 6).
The Bizarre Expansion of Gaza
The Gaza strip is a piece of real estate 360 km2 in size sitting on latitude roughly equal with the Dead Sea. With a population of about 1.4 million residents, it is one of the most densely populated strips of land in the world. It is not currently recognized internationally as a part of any sovereign country, but it is run by a ruthless band of overlords known as Hamas. Hamas gained control of Gaza in 2006 and ever since that time Hamas members have used their power there to launch an almost daily barrage of rockets at Israeli towns and villages.
Because of the ceaseless bombardment of Sderot and other Israeli towns, the Israeli government finally decided to close the Eretz crossing and to minimize the flow of goods and supplies, including fuel, to Gaza. The electricity was never completely cut off, as far as could be ascertained, but it was curtailed. At one point it was Hamas who turned off the electricity, holding cabinet meetings by candlelight in order to deceive journalists. Outside the window behind the cabinet ministers, daylight could be seen in the staged photo. Basic supplies, including food, became scarce with Palestinians unable to cross into Israel to shop.
All of this proved too much for the seething mass of humanity living in the Gaza Strip, and on January 23, several hundred thousand of them broke through the fence that separates Gaza from Egypt and poured into the northern Sinai. (In actuality Hamas blew up several sections of the fence.) This has to be one of the most bizarre news events in recent times. The rupture in the southern part of the elongated Gaza Strip was described by one writer as a “burst appendix,” and of course a burst appendix always causes problems. The Palestinians under the leadership of Hamas effectively took control of a large section of the northern Sinai.
True, many of the Palestinians were simply bent on doing some cheap shopping, as goods in Egypt are—or at least were—cheaper than in Gaza. All of us saw pictures on TV of Palestinians taking sheep, goats, and other goods from Egypt back into Gaza. One man bought a camel and rode it all the way to Gaza City in preparation for his wedding. However, the shopping which at first glance seemed to benefit both the Palestinians and the Egyptians, turned sour when it became clear that many of the Palestinians were paying for their goods with counterfeit money, both shekels and dollars. The Egyptians then began selling the Palestinians food that was beyond its expiration date—so the story goes.
The Egyptian government has been extremely ambivalent in its attitude toward this event. At one point President Hosni Mubarak said he was going to allow the Palestinians to “come and eat.” He indicated that he wanted to help them. At the same time he saw the problems in allowing the Palestinians to occupy northern Sinai; for one thing, he would have to send a large number of troops to secure the area and that would violate Egypt’s treaty with Israel.
According to Debkafile, Egyptian intelligence sources have discovered that, far from being chaotic, the surge of humanity from Gaza into the Sinai was minutely planned by Hamas (Debkafile, January 29). Each of the 500,000 Gazans who poured into the Sinai was given $300 by Hamas, which accounts for the shopping spree they could suddenly afford. (It is not certain where the counterfeit money fits in—maybe they used it after the real money had run out.)
As of this writing, several thousand Palestinians are still in the Sinai. Some of them have been caught with weapons and other materiel for terrorist attacks. Israel now has a real problem with her largely unfenced 220-kilometer border with Egypt. Palestinian terrorists, including Al Qaeda, running around in the eastern Sinai can easily cross into Israel. There is also some fear that the Palestinians might try to take over other parts of Egypt. All in all, it is an extremely dangerous turn of events.
Hamas Gunmen Run Amok in Sinai
On January 30, the Egyptian government issued an ultimatum to Hamas to pull back dozens of its gunmen who are reported to have crossed into Egypt over the past week.
PA security officials in Ramallah said 300-500 gunmen, most of them belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, were refusing to return to the Gaza Strip, and had sought refuge with Beduin tribes and Egyptian families in a number of places in Sinai. PA officials told reporters that “the Egyptians are very serious about this ultimatum.”
In the past few days, it appears that Egyptian authorities have detained more than 100 armed Palestinians, most of whom were returned to Gaza after their weapons were confiscated. At this point the bizarre behavior of the Gazans is raising red flags everywhere. Not only have they smuggled explosives, weapons, and drugs into Gaza, they have also attempted to raise Palestinian and Hamas flags on top of several government institutions in Sinai’s Rafah and El-Arish.
The Egyptians see the attempt by Hamas to place flags as a serious “provocation.” One member of the Egyptian parliament accused Hamas of jeopardizing his country’s security. “Hamas has violated our sovereignty and this is totally unacceptable,” he said. “This move poses a real threat to Egypt’s national security.” One diplomat told the JPost that Hamas supporters were trying to create the impression that they had succeeded in “liberating” Egyptian territory. “The Hamas people apparently forgot that they had invaded Egypt and not Israel” he said. “The Egyptians are running out of patience.”
This also poses an extremely serious problem for Israel, which for the most part has no fence along its border with the Sinai. Hamas officials were due in Cairo on January 30 to talk to the Egyptians about the border crisis. PA President Abbas was also traveling to Cairo, but his aides said he had no intention of meeting with Hamas representatives.
Unpopular Israeli Government Plans Israel’s Decimation
It seems to this writer that there are a great many threats breathing down Israel’s neck right now but that the Olmert government is addressing very few of them. Prime Minister Olmert has a low approval rating, but it has just come up a bit since the release of the final Winograd Report (see below). Many Israelis have called for his resignation. Yet he holds on to the reins of government and confidently says things like “we have many more years of service in the government.”
The problem of Iran’s ongoing efforts to develop a nuclear bomb, the Sinai border crisis, Hamas’ continual bombardment of Sderot, Hizbullah leader Nasrallah’s renewed threats and boasting, and a looming water crisis (the Sea of Galilee is extremely low) are just a few of the problems facing the Israeli government. On top of this the Winograd Commission’s report has just come out, and there are increasing signs of the weakness of the Olmert government. About the only thing going well in Israel right now is the economy. And yet there is a large segment of the population that lives below the poverty line. A recent cold snap brought to light the problem of the homeless, several of whom died from hypothermia on the streets. However, a charitable organization provided shelter and food for many otherwise homeless people. The city government also handed out blankets and coats.
Recently Caroline Glick ran an article in the JPost with the title “How Olmert Defies Gravity.” She asks how it is that he is still in power. His government does not enjoy the support of most of the people, nor do his policies. And yet Glick notices an “eerie silence” in the streets, as no one is protesting the planned destruction of Israel.
Recently Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni sat with Ahmed Qurei and discussed the partition of Jerusalem, the destruction of hundreds of Israeli communities in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, the expulsion of between a hundred thousand and half a million Israelis from their homes, the borders of Israel, and the right of return of millions of hostile Palestinians to Israel.
Almost nobody is protesting. Why? Caroline Glick points out that it is because they have been intimidated. The government apparently has embarked on a policy of blocking criticism of its policies. Beyond its harassment of street protesters and activists, the government is now attempting to silence online protests of its policies (Glick’s JPost article, p. 2). Recently a bill was approved that would make website owners and editors legally responsible for comments published on their sites. As a result, the public has lost faith in its ability to influence the course of the country. “This sense of disenfranchise-ment has demoralized the public into silence” (JPost, January 15).
“Israel Will Have to Stop Iran”
On December 3, 2007, a new American National Intelligence Estimate was released, declaring that Iran had shelved its nuclear arms program in 2003. The Bush government apparently accepted this report, which astonished most intelligent people. It was almost as if the Bush government wanted out of the “stop-Iran” program and was looking for an excuse to do so. One Israeli MK called it “the most bizarre report I have ever read.”
Former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton also thought it was bizarre, and as a result he believes that if Iran’s nuclear program is stopped, it will be Israel that has to do it. Speaking at a conference in Herzliya, he said, “The United States used to have a policy on Iran and recently there was a new push to create a new policy, but sadly, due to the direction American policy is going, it seems that for the next few years the United States will be a bystander to the process.
“[There is a] close to zero percent chance that the Bush administration will authorize military action against Iran before leaving office,” he said. He also noted that Teheran had taken careful notice of Israel’s action in Syria and that they had begun preparing for similar action against Iran. “Without American policy backing anti-Iran action, Israel should be willing to see itself as a possible last resort,” he concluded.
Bolton was sharply critical of the Israeli government for keeping its citizens in the dark about the nature of the air strike on Syria. “Why shouldn’t the government of Israel want to take the credit for a stunningly successful military strike?” he wanted to know. “Due to its government censorship the people of Israel can know what it feels like to be a citizen of North Korea.” He went on to say he believed that North Korea would become a major player in the Middle East arms race. “The proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East will start with North Korea. It counterfeits money, sells narcotics, and it will do anything for hard money,” he said. He added that Iranian-North Korean cooperation was “getting more intensive” (JPost, January 22).
As for Israel, the government has stated merely that all options are still on the table. The Olmert government has not overtly threatened military action, but neither has it ruled out such action.
Ahmadinejad Still Predicting Israel’s Collapse
Speaking in the southern Iranian port of Bushehr, Iranian President Ahmadinejad on Wednesday, January 30, called on the West to acknowledge Israel’s “imminent collapse.” In a televised speech he further called on his listeners to “stop supporting the Zionists,” inasmuch as their regime “has reached its final stage…accept that the life of Zionists will sooner or later come to an end,” he said.
Ahmadinejad has further declared that Annapolis failed, and that if Israel attacks Lebanon in the coming summer she “will be uprooted.” The rhetoric, Israel is used to. The worrisome point is whether or not Iran has the means to help bring about the collapse her President is predicting. What Israel needs right now is strong leadership. Whether the current government can provide that or not is a matter of serious doubt (JPost, 30 January 2008).
“Ground Assault Was Legitimate”
As I write this News Digest, the final Winograd Report (commission of inquiry on the war with Hizbullah that occurred in the summer of 2005) has just come out. In summarizing the conclusions of the 600-page report, the head of the Winograd Committee said, “The Second Lebanon War constituted a great and dangerous missed opportunity.” Although the report criticized both the government and the army for “serious failings and flaws,” it stopped short of blaming Olmert personally for the failures.
The final report contrasted sharply with the Interim Report of last April, which strongly criticized Olmert for “severe failure” in “hastily” going to war. The final report more or less exonerated Olmert. It described the UN-brokered ceasefire as an “achievement for Israel” and said Prime Minister Olmert, in ordering a widely criticized last-minute ground offensive, acted “out of a strong and sincere perception” of what he thought was in “Israel’s interest.” The decision to start the ground operation, and its goals “were legitimate. There was no failure in that decision in itself, despite its limited achievements and its painful costs.”
However, Winograd said the committee had found some “very troubling facts,” and proceeded to give a list of areas in which “serious failings and shortcomings” were found. These failings were in the “decision-making processes,” in the “quality of preparedness…and performance in the IDF high command,” in the “lack of strategic thinking and planning,” as well as other areas.
Finally the committee recommended various improvements that should be made in all areas related to the Second Lebanon War (JPost, 30 January 2008).
Israel Gets Much Needed Moisture
During the night of January 29-30, snow began falling in Jerusalem and many other higher elevations around the country. Jerusalem was blanketed with snow Wednesday morning, and more fell in the early hours of Thursday. (As of this writing more than six inches of snow has accumulated.) Buses stopped running, schools, courts and many businesses were closed, and the city government was urging drivers to stay off the streets.
Jerusalem experienced almost every kind of winter precipitation and conditions imaginable in the past two days. There was high wind, lightning, thunder, rain, hail, sleet, and snow. This moisture is certainly an answer to prayer, because so far the winter had seen only small amount of precipitation. As I write, the Sea of Galilee is close to the bottom red line, and the government has begun to speak of a water crisis. However, I have just seen a report to the effect that the level of the Kinneret has risen five centimeters in the last 24 hours. This is good news.
Let us pray that the Lord will open the windows of heaven and shower the country with the needed rain and snow.
“He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth, and to the rain shower, be a mighty downpour’” (Job 37:6). “…lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding… (Psalm 148:8).
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Why the Olmert gang must go - By Caroline B. Glick
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | In March 2006, the Israeli people elected incompetents to lead us. It only took four months for Hizbullah to make us pay a price for our mistake. In the July and August 2006 war, Israelis came to understand that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, then defense minister Amir Peretz, and then IDF chief of general staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz were together and separately the worst leaders that Israel had ever seen.
Almost from the war's outset it was evident that Israel's leaders were in over their heads. They acted as though there was no difference between running a war and running a political campaign against their political rivals. Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah and his Syrian and Iranian overlords could, they assumed, simply be insulted out of fighting.
The brutal reality of war confounded them.
They had decided to respond harshly to Hizbullah's cross-border attack which left eight soldiers dead and two soldiers — Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser missing in action. But they never actually realized that they were leading the nation to war. Indeed, through to the bitter end, they insisted that we weren't at war at all. We were simply involved in a "campaign." They sent up fighter jets to bomb Hizbullah to Kingdom Come. But when the bombing failed to affect Hizbullah's ability to attack Israel with missiles, and when the televised footage of the bombs' destructive force squandered international support for Israel, Olmert and his colleagues lost their stomach for the fight they had never understood. They sent ground forces in willy nilly, to conduct operations with no operational logic. Then they begged America to pull their fat from the fire by negotiating a ceasefire without victory.
The public reacted to their failure with justified rage. Demoralized reservists marched on Jerusalem. The parents of soldiers killed in militarily meaningless actions took to the streets. Recognizing that their careers were on the line, Olmert and his colleagues did what any hack politicians in their positions would do. They appointed a commission and told it to take as long as it wished to decide not to call for their removal from office. The media, not wishing to see opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu and the Likud win an election, supported the maneuver. And so the protests abated and the reservists and bereaved parents sat on the sidelines and waited.
When last April the Winograd Commission issued its interim report, it seemed as though Olmert's plan was backfiring. The commission members, led by retired judge Eliyahu Winograd were dangerously close to missing his point. They actually held Olmert, Peretz and Halutz responsible for their actions. Neither Peretz nor Halutz were able to withstand the interim report which found that they — and Olmert — had failed the test of leadership. And each in turn was forced to resign.
But Olmert held on and quietly conspired against his own committee. With Olmert's backing, the IDF's solicitor general Col. Orna David repeatedly petitioned the Supreme Court and secured rulings prohibiting the Winograd Commission from recommending that Olmert or anyone else be compelled to resign for their dereliction of duty.
So it should have come as no surprise to anyone that in its final report issued Wednesday the Winograd Commission failed to point its finger directly at Olmert and call for his removal from office. It should similarly surprise no one that in its continued bid to keep the Likud from power, the media ignored the report's harsh conclusions about Olmert's mismanagement of the war, seizing instead on the commission's refusal to assign blame.
In truth, by demurring from placing a metaphorical gun to Olmert's head, the Winograd commission did the Israeli people a favor. Its members stated flatly that it is the people's responsibility — not theirs — to decide who leads the country. And now more than ever, it is the public's duty to protest the continued tenure of the Olmert government and force it from office.
This duty is not simply a matter of historical vindication for past wrongs. Olmert and his colleagues must be forced from office not because of their failed leadership in the 2006 war in Lebanon. They must be forced from office because of their mismanagement of this year's war in Gaza.
In its most devastating condemnation of Olmert and his colleagues, the Winograd commission explained that throughout the war, they never decided — and barely discussed — what sort of war they were fighting. Once the government decided to respond forcibly to Hizbullah's cross-border raid, the commission noted that it had two clear and distinct options for proceeding. "The first was a short, painful, strong and unexpected blow on Hizbullah, primarily through standoff fire-power. The second option was to bring about a significant change of the reality in the south of Lebanon with a large ground operation, including a temporary occupation of the south of Lebanon and 'cleansing' it of Hizbullah military infrastructure."
Unable to decide what sort of war it was waging, for 34 days the government moved from tactic to tactic, strategy to strategy, never following through with anything, never realizing that there were consequences for what it was doing. And today, it follows the same model of incompetence in Gaza.
For the past two and a half years Israel has taken no effective action to end the rocket and mortar offensive against the Western Negev from Gaza. And rocket and mortar attacks have quadrupled over this period.
When Hamas seized power in Gaza in June, Israel failed to develop a strategy for dealing with the fact that an Iranian armed, trained and commanded terror group was perched on its border with Gaza and threatened to destabilize its largely undefended border with Egypt.
Still led by Olmert and Livni, who are now joined by Defense Minister Ehud Barak — the engineer of the unilateral withdrawal strategy of ceding land to terrorist groups — Israel cannot figure out what it is supposed to be doing. It has no strategic goal and so it can formulate no coherent plan.
Israel changes its mode of contending with Gaza on a near-daily basis. Sometimes it threatens to launch a ground campaign in Gaza to end the Palestinians' mortar and rocket campaign against its citizens. Sometimes it attacks from the air and declares victory. Sometimes it threatens to stop supplying electricity and fuel to Gaza. Sometimes it threatens to stop its support for Gazan banks.
Then again, sometimes it renews its fuel and electricity supply to Gaza, lets trucks full of cash to enter Gaza from Israel, allows Gazans to receive free medical treatment in Israeli hospitals and permits them to work in Israel.
Internationally, sometimes Israel threatens to retake control over Gaza's border with Egypt. And sometimes it asks Egypt or the UN to take control of the border. Sometimes it criticizes Egypt for enabling weapons and terrorists to move into Gaza. Sometimes it praises Egypt for being a force of stability.
Sometimes the Olmert-Livni-Barak government supports Fatah's reassertion of control over the border between Gaza and Egypt. Sometimes it admits that Fatah terrorists are full partners in the rocket and mortar campaign against Israel from Gaza; that Fatah security forces willingly integrated into Hamas's army after Hamas seized power; and that anyway, Fatah has neither the will nor the means to defeat Hamas in Gaza or anywhere else.
In Gaza today as in Lebanon during 2006, the Olmert government's strategic incoherence has led to public relations disasters. Today in Gaza, as in Lebanon in 2006, Israel's inability to define its goals has made it unable to defend its actions. And so it is stands condemned as its citizens are held hostage to the vagaries of Palestinian mortars and rockets.
The Winograd commission properly noted the government's failure to define what it was doing in Lebanon. But it did not explain the why the government failed. The source of the government's failure in Lebanon 18 months ago and of its failure in Gaza today is its political commitment to the strategy of unilateral withdrawal from territory. Olmert's Kadima party and Barak's Labor party both have embraced this strategy. It is the centerpiece of their governing rationale.
The unilateral withdrawal strategy is predicated on a two main assumptions. First, it assumes that it is the presence of Israelis in a hostile or disputed area which causes terrorists to act. If Israel retreats, the terrorists will melt away.
Second, the unilateral withdrawal strategy assumes that Israel's interest in defeating terrorists is not unique. In the minds of Israel's leaders, all nations share Israel's goal of protecting its sovereign territory and its citizenry from attack. Consequently, the unilateral withdrawal strategy assumes that if Israel withdraws from a terror-infested area like Gaza or southern Lebanon, another authority — be it Egypt or Fatah or the European Union in Gaza, or the Lebanese army or UNIFIL forces in Lebanon — will take over where it left off and fight the terrorists for it.
During the war in Lebanon and since Israel withdrew from Gaza, the guiding assumptions of the unilateral withdrawal strategy have proven false. But Israel's leaders have refused to acknowledge reality. Rather they claim that it is reality, not their policy that is mistaken. Their daily search for new silver bullets is a manifestation of their denial of reality.
A telling episode touched on in the Winograd commission's final report, drives this point home. After meeting with the American negotiating team on July 28, 2006, Peretz held a consultation with his security brass.
According to the report, (p. 129), "At the outset of the meeting, the Defense Minister expressed his bad feeling in the aftermath of the meeting with the American team. This came after he was made to understand that a multi-national force would not enter an area [of south Lebanon] that the IDF hadn't first 'cleansed' of Hizbullah forces."