1 July 2006


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ISRAELIS GO BERSERK AS WORLD WATCHES

ISRAEL last night threatened to assassinate Palestinian Prime Minister
Ismael Haniyeh if Hamas militants did not release a captured Israeli
soldier unharmed.
The unprecedented warning was delivered to
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a letter as Israel debated
a deal offered by Hamas to free Corporal Gilad Shalit.


MER- MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 1 July 2006: Dreaming or Waking? Reality or Nightmare? The Israelis have lost all perspective and all credibility. Over many years they have created the situation that is today exploding. Over many years they have provoked the response they are now getting. When will the world community step in and right the wrongs the UN itself, and so many of the western nations, most especially the US and the UK, are so complicitous in creating?



Israel warns: free soldier or PM dies
Middle East correspondent Martin Chulov
01jul06

ISRAEL last night threatened to assassinate Palestinian Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh if Hamas militants did not release a captured Israeli soldier unharmed.

The unprecedented warning was delivered to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a letter as Israel debated a deal offered by Hamas to free Corporal Gilad Shalit.

It came as Israeli military officials readied a second invasion force for a huge offensive into Gaza.

Hamas's Gaza-based political leaders, including Mr Haniyeh, had already gone into hiding.

But last night's direct threat to kill Mr Haniyeh, a democratically elected head of state, sharply raised the stakes.

The bid to free Corporal Shalit was brokered by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who last night warned Hamas it faced severe consequences if it did not curb its "extreme stance" and described the growing conflict as a lightning rod for Palestinian vengeance.

Jerusalem has made no official comment, but Egyptian state media said Israel had found the offer unacceptable. Israel has not spelt out the terms demanded by Hamas, but earlier this week it refused to buy into talk of a prisoner swap.

Thousands of Hamas supporters protested in Gaza City late on Thursday over the arrest by Israeli forces of up to 32 Hamas MPs on the West Bank that day.

A Hamas spokesman said the group would never recognise Israel, in spite of a deal its leaders signed this week offering implicit recognition of the Jewish state in return for easing an economic blockade.

Israeli fighter jets bombed 20 targets in Gaza, including the Interior Ministry, which it said had been used by militants to stage meetings, while artillery hit the northern strip with 500 shells in the 24 hours until yesterday morning.

Jewish settler Eliyahu Asheri, who was murdered by militants this week, was buried on Thursday as leaders of the Popular Resistance Committees pledged to seize more hostages in the West Bank. No further word has emerged about another suspected Jewish hostage, Noach Moskowitz, who Israeli police said was found dead hours after Mr Asheri's remains were found.

Much of Gaza, including two main hospitals, was without power and running water as a UN aid chief warned that the 1.4 million residents of the strip were three days away from a humanitarian crisis.

"They are heading for the abyss unless they get electricity and fuel restored," said emergency relief co-ordinator Jan Egeland, who urged militants to free Corporal Shalit and stop firing rockets into Israel.

Residents complain that sonic booms caused by Israeli jets traumatise children and that shelling confines families to their homes.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has vowed the military will do all it can to avoid civilian deaths if a full-scale assault is launched.

Mr Olmert said the decision to invade northern Gaza had already been delayed to allow Mr Mubarak's negotiations to continue.

The arrested Hamas legislators have been sent to security prisons and many will stand trial on terrorism offences. The detentions have hurt Hamas's already limited ability to govern and are likely to force a regime change.

Israel claims it has intelligence about the area where Corporal Shalit is held, but has been unable to pinpoint the exact location. Mr Olmert said the military would leave the strip if he was unconditionally and safely returned.

Egypt and the neighbouring Arab states of Jordan and Lebanon fear a war between Israel and the Palestinians could lead to uprisings within their own borders, which house many Palestinian refugees.



Last update - 10:14 30/06/2006

The government is losing its reason

By Haaretz Editorial

Bombing bridges that can be circumvented both by car and on foot; seizing an airport that has been in ruins for years; destroying a power station, plunging large parts of the Gaza Strip into darkness; distributing flyers suggesting that people be concerned about their fate; a menacing flight over Bashar Assad's palace; and arresting elected Hamas officials: The government wishes to convince us that all these actions are intended only to release the soldier Gilad Shalit.

But the greater the government's creativity in inventing tactics, the more it seems to reflect a loss of direction rather than an overall conception based on reason and common sense. On the face of it, Israel wishes to exert increasing pressure both on Hamas' political leadership and on the Palestinian public, in order to induce it to pressure its leadership to release the soldier. At the same time, the government claims that Syria - or at least Khaled Meshal, who is living in Syria - holds the key. If so, what is the point of pressuring the local Palestinian leadership, which did not know of the planned attack and which, when it found out, demanded that the kidnappers take good care of their victim and return him?

The tactic of pressuring civilians has been tried before, and more than once. The Lebanese, for example, are very familiar with the Israeli tactic of destroying power stations and infrastructure. Entire villages in south Lebanon have been terrorized, with the inhabitants fleeing in their thousands for Beirut. But what also happens under such extreme stress is that local divisions evaporate and a strong, united leadership is forged.

In the end, Israel was forced both to negotiate with Hezbollah and to withdraw from Lebanon. Now, the government appears to be airing out its Lebanon catalogue of tactics and implementing it, as though nothing has been learned since then. One may assume that the results will be similar this time around as well.

Israel also kidnapped people from Lebanon to serve as bargaining chips in dealings with the kidnappers of Israeli soldiers. Now, it is trying out this tactic on Hamas politicians. As the prime minister said in a closed meeting: "They want prisoners released? We'll release these detainees in exchange for Shalit." By "these detainees," he was referring to elected Hamas officials.

The prime minister is a graduate of a movement whose leaders were once exiled, only to return with their heads held high and in a stronger position than when they were deported. But he believes that with the Palestinians, things work differently.

As one who knows that all the Hamas activists deported by Yitzhak Rabin returned to leadership and command positions in the organization, Olmert should know that arresting leaders only strengthens them and their supporters. But this is not merely faulty reasoning; arresting people to use as bargaining chips is the act of a gang, not of a state.

The government was caught up too quickly in a whirlwind of prestige mixed with fatigue. It must return to its senses at once, be satisfied with the threats it has made, free the detained Hamas politicians and open negotiations. The issue is a soldier who must be brought home, not changing the face of the Middle East.

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