Thursday, November 29, 2007

Annapolis - still here? - Is one permitted to yawn?

“The King is in his altogether, his altogether and altogether as naked as the day when he was born,” sings Danny Kaye. The parley at Annapolis needs someone to say it as it really is.
The Arab States, having been cajoled into attending the conference are quite happy to continue with their 3 “no’s” of yesteryear and no-one is prepared to say anything. They must be laughing from kafiyah to kafiyah. The Israeli press cannot meet representarives of the Arab States, Zippi Livni is being snubbed by the same Arab States and claiming she is a “pariah”.

And why should they? Israel is quite prepared to go on giving and conceding and unless I have missed something, I haven’t read of anything Abbas is conceding. And why should he? He is not in a position to implement anything otherwise his life is in danger.

Another anology appeared in the Jerusalem Post in an Op-Ed this week by Michael Freund Why try to be inventive when, in these few words, he captures the view of 68% of Israelis according to recent opinion polls. He writes, watching the carnival unfold at Annapolis this week, I am inspired to reach for Lewis Carroll's classic Alice in Wonderland, where the main character falls down a rabbit-hole into a world far removed from our own, one where the rules of logic and common sense simply do not apply.

And how about the Mad Tea Party, where the March Hare, the Hatter and the Dormouse crowd together at the table and proceed to lambast and insult Alice to her face? With that image in mind, consider how Israel has been greeted by various Arab participants at the Annapolis gathering.
Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal declared that he would not even shake Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's hand, and on Monday, the Saudi embassy in Washington expelled Israeli journalists from its premises for seeking to attend a press conference.

The outcome of this process, like the trial presided over by the King and Queen of Hearts at the book's end, is a foregone conclusion. In the story, at the very opening of the hearings, before even a word of evidence has been presented, the King turns to the jury and declares, "Consider your verdict."

And that, quite sadly, is what Annapolis and the process it is meant to spawn, is all about. For everyone, it seems, including many members of our own government, views Israel as the party which must submit to the other side's demands, regardless of whether truth, justice and morality would dictate otherwise.

However, Alice's nightmare finally comes to an end when she can stand it no longer. Turning to the Queen and her assembled guests, the newly-assertive young girl realizes the folly of the proceedings around her, before telling them, "Who cares for you? You're nothing but a pack of cards!"

It was, after all, just a bad dream, one which fizzled away as soon as Alice came to her senses and stood up to her would-be aggressors. May Israel and its leaders finally do the same, and realize that fantasy worlds such as Peaceland exist only in their imagination.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New Reservoir inaugurated in Acco

The Water Authority in Israel announced today that last winter 2006-7 only 80% of the average annual rainfall actually fell. In the event that the forthcoming winter will be dry there will have to be cuts in water allowance for agriculture

The level of the Kinneret, as of November 14: was -212.62 metres below sea level and the red alert level: -213.00. Meanwhile, this winter, the rains have not yet arrived and indeed, next week we are expecting hot dry sharab winds

On the positive side, a new reservoir has been commissioned, which will store the effluents of the city of Acco and local villages. The new reservoir covering 415 dunam, has a three million cubic meter storage capacity. As a result, Acco sewage will no longer be dumped into the ocean, and local farmers will use the recycled water for irrigation. The Shomrat Reservoir joins 197 other reservoirs that were built by KKL-JNF throughout Israel and is the sixteenth reservoir in Western Galilee. These reservoirs add about 200 million cubic meters of water to Israel’s water system.

This reservoir solves a serious environmental problem. Until now, the sewage of Acco and local villages flowed untreated into streams and the ocean. This situation was untenable and constituted a serious environmental hazard, which endangered the health of local residents.

Local farmers are also very happy about the new reservoir. While irrigation with freshwater can cost up to NIS 1.87 per cubic meter, irrigation with recycled effluents costs no more than NIS1.00 per cubic meter, which means savings of hundreds of thousands of shekels annually, depending on the size of the irrigated fields.

An official commented: "Over 50% of water used for agriculture is recycled water, which is the highest percentage in the world. Agriculture, as the main customer of recycled water, serves the environment, and lessens the pollution of streams and water sources. Using recycled effluents instead of fresh water is part of our water policy.”

Thursday, November 22, 2007

And the Heavens Opened

This week the heavens opened finally. The picture shows a sight not often seen in Israel, taken in Zichron Yaacov. After a great two weeks of summer style weather for our visitor from the USA, Monday saw a rapid change. The extensive rains will hopefully bring some much needed water to the Lake Kinneret. The Kinneret which provides water to Israel, the Palestinians and Jordan under the terms of the peace treaty started the winter 3.75 meters below its maximum.

In a good year the winter rains can bring a further 2 meters of water to the lake so unless we have an exceptional winter, we are going to see the lake move into the next summer still well below its maximum.

The heavens also opened for the Annapolis conference. America has once again backed down from its stated position that the conference will deal with the Israel Palestinian issue only. Now it is crawling to Syria and offering them the chance to raise the Golan issue at the conference. What hypocracy.

The enemies of the West build on the certainty that with enough resolution they can get what they want without giving up on anything. Syria is just the latest example.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

More on Annapolis

It concerns me that we seem to becoming immune to the daily (yes daily reports) such as the one below received from the army spokesman’s office.

“Overnight, 3 Palestinian gunmen attempted to infiltrate into Israel through the security fence between Israel and the northern part of the Gaza Strip.

An observation force identified the three gunmen as they were attempting to cross the fence into Israel in the area of the Israeli community of Nativ Ha'asara. The gunmen exchanged fire with an IDF post near the security fence.

A Golani brigade force responded by firing at the gunmen and identified hitting two of them. There were no injuries to IDF soldiers.

Yesterday, approximately 25 Kassam rockets and mortar shells were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip. Over 135 were fired since the beginning of November.”

Yet here we are off to Annapolis in a matter of days (even though the invitations have still not been issued) and we don’t even know who is going to attend.

In today’s paper, only one commentator was expressing optimism, all others pessimism as to the outcome. Meanwhile the army is on high alert and expecting attacks as Annapolis approaches. The army reports at “least 10 high level alerts”.

Further, at a time when so many are pessimistic as to the outcome, in the Western Negev, the reactions to Annapolis are apparent day by day. Since the beginning of the month, official sources say that 110 Kassam rockets and mortars have been fired from Gaza into the Western Negev.

Almost 200,000 Israeli citizens -- including Ashkelon, Sderot and over 20 kibbutzim and Moshavim, now live under the daily bombardment of kasssam missiles fired from Gaza, while Egypt has facilitated the flow of hundreds of thousands of weapons, Ammunition since Israel's disengagement in August 2005, whole allowing Hamas to build a well trained organized army which numbers 13,000 fighters, many having had special training in Iran.

This is the surreal situation we are in.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Mohammed Al Dura tapes from France 2

Finally France 2 has produced some 18 mins of the tapes of the Mohammed Al Dura incident out of the 27 mins they pocess.

See the reactions of some of those present at the hearing in the video clip below
I don't think any further comment is nessary

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Are We Facing Another War?

Yuval Steinitz, former Chair and Current Member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee gave an interesting talk here in Haifa this week in which he stated that much of the over optimism and, to some degree, arrogance in the Israel Defense Forces has now been eliminated after the consequences of the second Lebanon war last year.

He was also advocating a much stronger role for non army personnel in security decisions; he himself came from the department of Philosophy at Haifa University.

In his view, future warfare is more likely to be carried out by lazer technology and much effort and money is being invested in this field. He pointed out that almost 90% of the cost of an attack aircraft is the defense systems installed to protect the aircraft, whilst only 10% of the cost is designated for the attack role of the aircraft. He believes much more needs to be invested in defense systems for the military infrastructure.

Steinitz was a member of Peace Now in the past, an organization dedicated to the land for peace solution to the conflict but he stated that after the experience in Lebanon and Gaza, it is now not a case of land for peace but a case of land for war and continued incitement.

With the Annapolis conference in everyone’s sights now, he felt that, the attempts to strengthen Abbas were, in his opinion, doomed to failure. The reason for this, he felt was that Abbas was not in a position to give anything in return, since, on the one hand, by not giving anything in return, he could maintain his position vis a vis the Palestinian population at large. On the other hand, by giving something in return, he would be considered weak. This is the trap facing Israel.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Where are the future water supplies coming from?

The International Water Technologies and Environmental Control exhibition - WATEC 2007 - was full of innovative ideas for the desert regions of the Middle East held in Tel Aviv recently, aiming to find solutions for the world's desperate need for new sources of fresh water.

The exhibition, which featured over 2,000 visitors from 80 countries worldwide, dealt extensively with Israeli-developed water technology in fields as diverse as desalination, waste recycling for agricultural purposes, security from pollution and water terrorism, and the joint Israeli-Jordanian Red Sea-Dead Sea Conduit (RSDSC) project.

With the Israeli water management expertise leading the way, hundreds of overseas visitors came to survey the latest developments on display. Visitors from the governments of China, Italy, France, Austria and Germany were on hand to discuss partnerships with Israel aimed at alleviating the planet's water resource problems.

Abounding with lasers, filters, pipes and other gadgets, the exhibition room was a revelation into the multi faceted dynamics of water technology. In one of the largest displays, representatives from Germany's Federal Ministry of Education and Research mingled with exhibition-goers to talk about the 11 bilateral cooperation projects currently operating between Israel and Germany.

The SMART Project – a cooperative venture between research institutions, private sector companies and government organizations in Germany, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan – aims to boost the availability of groundwater in the Lower Jordan Rift Valley.

Amongst other devices shown were:-

- a device for purifying wastewater, rendering it fit for agricultural irrigation by using bacteriological treatment. Israel currently recycles 75% of its wastewater.

- a company offering to provide water security against accidental as well as intentional chemical and biological pollution, also known as water terrorism.

- and one of 20 Israeli startups who exhibited, introduced its personal purification device- a compact 100-gram water filter that fits onto the top of most standard narrow-neck bottles, and allows its user to drink from almost any groundwater source.

Looks like after the success of the high tech industry, followed by the biomedic field, water is going to be the next “Silicon Valley” industry

Friday, November 9, 2007

Annapolis here we come??!!

So, it seems the Annapolis conference is on its way. A date of November 25th is being suggested. As one who has been involved in negotiations with the Trade Unions of the UK in their heyday before moving here, it seems to me that the “shopping list” of demands is somehow rather distorted.

On November 5th, Mahmoud Abbas spoke in Ramallah, in Arabic of course, and made clear his commitments and demands. Now, I have no experience of international negotiations but having looked at the translation, I feel that no further comment is necessary.

For the Palestinians, Abbas reiterated that he is committed to implementing and abiding by the obligations under stage one of the road map. What that really means is anyone’s guess, since stronger leaders than Abbas have said the same and not implemented a thing. So, what confidence there can be in the weak Abbas’s statement that he will implement anything?

Abbas then continued for the rest of his speech on his expectations of the commitments from Israel:-

a) Freezing settlement activity, including natural growth
b) Removal of settlements
c) Opening institutions Jerusalem that were closed prior to September 2000
d) Release of prisoners
e) Removal of checkpoints in the West Bank
f) Israel to stop its military aggressions in the West Bank and Gaza
g) Stop confiscation of land
h) Stop demolition of houses
i) Stop construction of the wall
j) Stop assassinations
k) Not to affect the humanitarian needs of the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza.

Now if negotiations were to be really serious, I would have thought that somewhere in the speech there would have been some reference to terror, the need to build a social infrastructure for the Palestinians (Israel built the hospitals, Universities, clinics, etc, in the period 1967 -1990, nothing has been built since), the need to develop a judiciary, but no. What I see is the longer shopping list of demands with no specific plan for dealing with the root of the problem.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A Humanitarian Crisis?

“If the economic sanctions that Israel has applied against the Gaza Strip in reducing fuel supplies are to be regarded as collective punishment, so should the economic sanctions that were imposed against South Africa during the apartheid years, or those against Iran today”’ writes Dan Izenberg in the Jerusalem Post.

Although there is lots of talk about cutting off supplies of electricity and fuel to Gaza and the humanitarian crisis that would result, the courts are preparing to hear this week a petitioners' request for a show-cause order to cancel the original decision.

What has actually happened thus far is that amount of gasoline allowed into Gaza had been cut from an average of 350,000-400,000 liters per week to 300,000 liters and the government is also considering a further, gradual reduction.

Diesel exports were cut from 1.4 million liters per week to 1.2 million liters. A government spokesman stated that "according to government estimates, the amount of fuel necessary to fulfill the Gaza Strip's humanitarian needs does not amount to more than 50 percent of the amount supplied today, and this is a conservative estimate which provides a significant safety margin."

The spokesman added that the export of diesel for use in Gaza's power station had been reduced from an average of 2.2 million liters to 1.75 million per week. It said that in September, the Palestinians in Gaza had added a third turbine to provide additional power. When only two turbines operate, the power station produces 55 megawatts of electricity. When the third one functions, supply goes up to 63 megawatts. The drop in diesel exports imposed by Israel last week means that the amount of electricity provided for Gaza will return to the pre-September level.

All in all, hardly a humanitarian crisis but meanwhile at least one woman was suffering from shock after three Kassam rockets were fired at Sderot late Sunday morning, Israel Radio reported. One of the rockets hit a house and another hit an electrical line, causing a complete blackout in the western Negev town.

The siren system and 106 emergency hotline were offline following the attack, leaving the town's residents without even the means to prepare in case another rocket salvo would follow later in the day.

And so the deliberate targeting of the Israeli civilians goes on.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Same Story

Having just returned from a lecture tour in the UK coupled with a bit of holiday, it seems nothing has changed here in Israel the 2.1/2 weeks I have been away. Three reports below from the local press seem to confirm that nothing will change unless some action is taken.

The military option may be exercised after the Annapolis "peace" conference. another option is that of of cutting off supplies of fuel and electricity. The hypocracy of so many governments is highlighted again concerning this second option by complaining of collective punishment. The Europeans were double quick in cutting off all supplies when they were not being paid. In Israel's case the proposal is only to cut off up to a maximum of 20% and this should not create any humanitarian issues.

a) Fire Rocket Barrage at Israel - Shmulik HadadPalestinians in Gaza fired a barrage of 13 Kassam rockets at Israel Thursday morning. At least nine rockets landed in Sderot and its vicinity. One of the rockets landed near Sapir College, just five meters from a campus employee, but did not explode. Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for the rocket fire. (Ynet News)

b) See also Palestinian Terrorists Fire Mortars at Israel from Gaza Schoolyard - Hanan GreenbergIDF Intelligence has released a video of three Palestinian terrorists launching mortar shells towards Israel from a courtyard outside an elementary school in the town of Beit Hanun in northern Gaza. A senior IDF officer said Wednesday that Palestinian terror organizations continue to abuse the civilian population in Gaza by launching attacks against Israel from their midst. "They don't think twice about firing Kassam rockets near crowded public areas, even though they're fully aware that they're endangering innocent civilians," said the officer. (Ynet News)

c) IDF Thwarts Suicide Attack in Hebron - Efrat WeissAn 18-year-old Palestinian youth aroused the suspicion of Border Police securing the junction leading to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron on Wednesday. The troops called to the youth to stop and lift his shirt, where he had concealed a firearm and two knives. On further inspection, soldiers found a suicide letter detailing the youth's intent to die as a martyr in an attack. One of the knives was inscribed with the words: "With this knife a Jewish soldier will be murdered." (Ynet News)