217 "humanitarian" truckloads of goods to be passed into Gaza today

This is news. For months, the Israeli Ministry of Defense’s “Coordinator of [Israeli] Government Activities in the Territories” or COGAT, has been putting Gazans on a very strict “diet”. Only when a high-level American delegation was in town, or maybe Tony Blair, were there even 100 to a max of 112 or so truckloads worth of goods allowed into Gaza on a daily basis. Most days, the number was 66, 71, 88, or maybe 90 or so. Today, it is 217 truckloads worth of goods and materials! What is going on? Is it just in preparation for the big Eid coming up on the 27-28 of November?

Even so, there is a shortage of cooking gas, we are informed by Ma’an News Agency — so if foodstuffs are getting in, many people won’t have any way of cooking anything. Maybe today’s supplies are canned goods …

[As to this designation of the goods as “humanitarian” — well, it has to be made clear that these are not gifts donated by either the State or people of Israel. They might include donations by international organizations, or aid agencies, but for the most part they are goods ordered by the Palestinians (from Gaza, through Ramallah, to Israel) and paid for by the Palestinians themselves (by Gaza and/or by Ramallah). These are not Israeli humanitarian donations. The use of the word “humanitarian” refers to the Israeli Military’s way of implementing the Israeli Supreme Court decision that the tightened military-administered sanctions ordered by the Israeli government in September 2007 must not cause a “humanitarian crisis”. These goods, which are NOT donated by Israel, are the means by which a “humanitarian crisis” is being staved off — sometimes, by not much more than a hair. Some international officials have said, at various points, that a “humanitarian crisis” already exits. (The tunnels that Palestinian entrepreneurs have developed at the Egyptian border at Rafah, and in which over 100 young Palestinian workers have lost their lives, have played a possibly even bigger role in preventing a true humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.)]

Other interesting news today: the Jerusalem Post’s well-connected military correspondent Yaakov Katz reports an IDF official scoffing at the idea of UN membership for a Palestinian State, endorsed by the UN Security Council (as the Europeans have encouraged some PA officials to imagine — and it might well work). Katz writes: ” ‘The Palestinian Water Authority wouldn’t last a day on its own’, an IDF source said. ‘We allocated them a piece of land on the coast to build a desalination plant and they have decided not to build it’.”

On the coast? Exactly where, and on what coast? He must mean in Gaza… So who would have refused to build it, and why? He must mean the PA in Ramallah. And if they refused, it must be because Hamas is in control in Gaza…

UPDATE: Yaakov Katz kindly responded to an email request by referring me to an article he published in the JPost on 4 August this year, in which he wrote that Lt.-Col. Amnon Cohen, head of the civil administration’s infrastructures department, told The Jerusalem Post … in an interview earlier this week [that] Israel recently allocated a piece of beach land next to Hadera for the Palestinians to use to build a water desalination plant, which, if operated, would provide over 100 million cubic meters of water annually. ‘The land was allocated over a year ago and the Palestinians have yet to move forward with the project’, he said. This JPost report can be read in full here.

Katz also writes, in his piece published today, about “security cooperation”, which, he reports, “has significantly increased over the past two years, since Hamas violently took control of the Gaza Strip. Next month, the fifth Palestinian battalion trained by US Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton in Jordan will return to the West Bank for deployment. Another one will then depart for four months of training in Jordan. Despite the deployment of these forces – which IDF officers openly admit are doing a good job cracking down on Hamas infrastructure in the West Bank – whenever PA President Mahmoud Abbas travels outside of Ramallah to another Palestinian city, the IDF, Shin Bet and Civil Administration are all involved to coordinate and ensure his safety. ‘When Abbas travels it is like a military operation’, one officer explained. ‘Everyone is involved since the PA forces cannot yet completely ensure his security’.” Well, that’s for sure. And this is not only when Abu Mazen is outside Ramallah, but also when he is inside the PA’s current capital city. And, it was previously reported that the same type of “military operation” is mounted whenever the Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad moves around, as well…

Katz then gives an interesting insight into what is happening in the corridors “of the IDF’s Central Command and Planning Division”, in reaction to the flurry of reports in recent days about possible moves to have the UN Security Council endorse a Palestinian state (which he refers to as a “unilateral” declaration, actually another separate alternative): “The understanding in the defense establishment is that with all the hype surrounding the possibility that the Palestinians will unilaterally declare a state, it is more likely a ploy aimed at getting Israel to be serious about negotiations on the two-state solution. The idea is to get other countries to put pressure on Israel to start making real concessions – such as a freeze on settlement construction – so the talks can begin. While this may be true, the corridors of the IDF’s Central Command and Planning Division were buzzing with talk about the potential fallout, both diplomatically and militarily. If the Palestinians declare statehood, then Israel will likely come under major international pressure to take action to show it recognizes the new state. The government will then go knocking on the IDF’s door. Ultimately though, Israeli moves will be dictated by political decisions. Israel cannot order the IDF to completely pull back from the West Bank while settlers still live there. It can, on the other hand, lift more roadblocks and even allow the Palestinians in the interim to ‘have’ their new state in Area A parts of the West Bank which are already, for the most part, under Palestinian control”. This interesting article by Yaakov Katz in the Jerusalem Post can be read in full here.

An editorial in the JPost today reveals another interesting detail about the supposedly-secret “historic” and “unprecedented” offers that the Palestinians have received from Israel (but failed to accept, or even to respond to) in the past decade: “Successive Israeli governments have offered to recognize a Palestinian state in the West Bank and in Gaza. But Abbas rejected Ehud Olmert’s offer of 93 percent of the West Bank, plus additional lands from Israel proper to make up the difference, all of Gaza, and a free passage scheme between the Strip and West Bank. Under Olmert’s proposal, Israel would retain its strategic settlement blocs – but all other settlements and outposts on the ‘Palestine’ side of the border would be uprooted. Ehud Barak made slightly less generous offers to Yasser Arafat at Camp David in July 2000 and at Taba in January 2001. Barak, like Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in his June 2009 Bar-Ilan address, asked that Palestine be demilitarized”… This JPost editorial accuses the Palestinians of trying “to lobby the UN Security Council to, in effect, junk Resolution 242 – the edifice upon which the entire peacemaking process is constructed – and give its imprimatur to a new Palestinian declaration of independence claiming 100 percent of the West Bank and Gaza (though the Strip is under Hamas suzerainty) plus all of east Jerusalem including the Jewish holy sites”. It can be read in full here.

What, exactly, are the “strategic settlement blocs”???

On Salam Fayyad, an interesting item (though not new), the Jewish Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) has done its SECOND study of his transition plan for developing the institutions of a Palestinian state by the year 2011, by former Foreign Ministry legal adviser Alan Baker, which is posted here. In it, Baker reports (though we knew it already) that “Interestingly enough, one of the elements of the Palestinian leadership that does not appear in the [Oslo Accords] Interim Agreement is the Office of the Prime Minister, i.e., Salam Fayyad’s own function, which was not foreseen. See article III of the Interim Agreement which deals with the structure of the Palestinian Council, and article V which refers in subparagraph 4 (b) and (c) to the appointment of members of the Executive Authority and others, but makes no mention of a “prime minister” as such. The post was created with Israeli concurrence in March 2003 immediately prior to the publication of the Roadmap, when Abbas was appointed prime minister under the presidency of Yasser Arafat. Neither he nor his successors as prime minister have ever been elected to this post …”. Baker also writes that “The Roadmap goes on to lay down, as part of its first phase, a program for ‘Palestinian Institution Building’ which includes a specific reference to the newly-created office of ‘Interim Prime Minister’.”

This suggests what we already knew — that, in fact, the office of Palestinian Prime Minister (first occupied by Mahmoud Abbas, then later by Salam Fayyad) was actually created by the Quartet (more specifically, by the Quartet’s leading member, the U.S.) rather than by the Oslo “bilateral” negotiations directly between the two parties themselves. But, as Baker significantly notes, “The post was created with Israeli concurrence”…

(We’ll write more on the Baker (and JCPA) analysis of the Fayyad plan in a future posting.)

And, the JPost reported today that “IDF soldiers arrested seven Palestinians in West Bank operations overnight Sunday.
The detainees were transferred for interrogation”. This news is posted here.

BTW, I was wrong yesterday to write that the JPost and Ma’an News Agency are the only two media sources reporting this stuff — Ma’an has stopped, and is not even bothering anymore…

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