Over the past two weeks, there have been many significant developments regarding Israel and its neighbors, and very little news about them has appeared in our local secular press. The information used in this editorial comes from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. It can be corroborated through many online sources. The full JTA stories can be found in our online exclusives.
On Thursday, July 29, the Arab League, meeting in Cairo, sanctioned direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, telling PA President Mahmoud Abbas that the timing of direct talks was his prerogative. The League further expressed its continuing support for the ongoing indirect talks in the interim.
JTA reported, “shortly after the decision on direct talks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said he was ready to start ‘direct and frank talks with the Palestinian Authority,’ adding ‘that through direct negotiations, it is possible to reach a peace agreement between the two nations in the near future.’” (online: “Arab League Backs Direct Talks; Timing Up to Palestinians”)
A few days later, Netanyahu suggest the direct talks could begin as early as mid-August. Haaretz, one of Israel’s main newspapers, reported, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Palestinians had submitted a “far-reaching” peace proposal to President Obama that would end the conflict with Israel and resolve all Palestinian claims; and JTA cited several sources in reporting that there was some pressure from the White House to start the direct talks in August. (online: “Bibi: Direct Peace Talks Look Set for Mid-August”)
On Friday, July 30, JTA reported, “A long-range Grad rocket fired last Friday from Gaza landed in the city of Ashkelon, causing damage to buildings and cars, according to the Israel Defense Forces.
“Israel’s Air Force responded later in the day, striking a Hamas-linked terror activity site in the northern Gaza Strip, a weapons-manufacturing warehouse in the central Gaza Strip and a weapons-smuggling tunnel in the southern Gaza Strip, according to the IDF.
“A top Hamas commander was killed and 11 Gazans were wounded in the retaliatory strike, the Jerusalem Post reported, citing Palestinian reports. The dead commander was identified as Issa Batran, 42, a commander of the group’s Izzadin Kassam military wing in central Gaza and a senior rocket maker.”
JTA also reported that since the month-long Gaza war in 2008-9, the IDF reports that more than 400 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel, including around 110 rockets and mortars in 2010.
On Saturday, July 31, a Kassam rocket fired from Gaza hit an empty public building near Sderot, causing damage but no injuries; and Israel struck back targeting a weapons-manufacturing warehouse and a weapons-smuggling tunnel. (online: “Rockets from Gaza Strike Israel, Which Retaliates”)
On Monday, August 2, JTA reported, “Israel has agreed to participate in a United Nations investigation of the Gaza-bound Turkish flotilla incident.
“‘Israel has nothing to hide,’ Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday after informing U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon that Israel would participate in the panel that he is establishing. ‘The opposite is true. It is in the national interest of the State of Israel to ensure that the factual truth of the overall flotilla events comes to light throughout the world, and this is exactly the principle that we are advancing.’” (online: “Israel Agrees to Participate in U.N. Flotilla Probe”)
It is hoped that by participating in the investigation, Israel will be treated more fairly than it was in the Goldstone Report, the U.N.’s report on the war in Gaza, and that it will be the first step in restoring the once-close relations with Turkey that broke down as a result of the flotilla incident.
Also on August 2, JTA reports that “Five rockets suspected to have been fired from Sinai hit Eilat and Aqaba.
“A Jordanian man was killed and three people were wounded when one of the rockets hit central Aqaba, a Jordanian Red Sea port city. There were no casualties reported in Eilat, where the rocket struck north of the hotel area.”
Egyptian officials have denied that the attack was launched from Sinai. (online: “Rockets, Apparently from Sinai, Strike Eilat, Aqaba”)
On Tuesday, August 3, violence again erupted along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, resulting in casualties on both sides.
That border was established at the end of the Second Lebanon War in 2006 by UN Resolution 1701. To ensure its security, Israel built a security fence several yards inside Israeli territory, and from time to time IDF personnel cross the fence, staying within Israeli territory, to trim bushes that obstruct the military’s view.
On Tuesday, during a routine bush-trimming operation, the IDF reported the Israeli soldiers were fired upon by the Lebanese Army. The Israeli Air Force returned fire. Lt. Col. Dov Harari was killed and a second Israeli soldier was seriously injured.
JTA reported, “A Lebanese army spokesman told reporters that the gunfire began after Israeli soldiers attempted to dig up a tree on the Lebanese side of the border. He said Israel fired first, according to Ynet.
“Lebanon said at least three of its soldiers and a journalist were killed in shelling, according to reports.
“Reports that Katyusha rockets were fired into Israel were not verified.” (online: “Israeli Soldier Killed in Lebanon Border Clashes”)
On Wednesday, August 4, JTA reported that the United Nations corroborated Israel’s version of the story. (online: “U.N.: Israeli Troops Were in Own Territory”)
There is reason in all these reports for both cautious hope and concern, but it also points out that in Louisville, KY, we have to be proactive in monitoring the news about Israel. We cannot count on the local media to keep us in the loop.
Here are a few places to start. JTA, www.jta.org; Haaretz, www.haaretz.com; and the Jerusalem Post, jcpa www.jpost.com, all have online editions that can be accessed easily. JCPA (Jewish Council for Public Affairs), www.jewishpublicpffairs.org; AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), www.aipac.org; and JFNA (Jewish Federations of North America), www.jewishfederations.org, are also excellent sources for news and analysis. Don’t forget to check out the Jewish Community of Louisville’s site, too, www.jewishlouisville.org.
Take the initiative. Make sure you know what is going on in Israel and the Jewish community around the world.