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The New York Times’ columnist Nicholas Kristof can’t find any fault with the Palestinians — with everyone else he can find faults but not Hamas and the Palestinians. He writes in his latest opinion piece, Obama’s Long Shot for Peace, from Davos, Switzerland where the World Economic Forum was recently held that the Obama administration is now faced with a historic opportunity to move the MidEast peace process forward. He blames President Bush for failing in this initiative, and rightly so. He noted that President Bush

embraced Israeli leaders even when they responded to provocations by killing more than 1,300 people in Gaza, according to Gaza health officials — in retaliation for shelling that had killed fewer than 30 Israelis since it began in 2001.

(Kristof, Nicholas D., “Obama’s Long Shot for Peace“, The New York Times, January 31, 2009)

Mr. Kristof completely ignores the impact and terror that the past 7 years of continual rocket fire have had on the population of Israel’s southern cities.

Only 30 Israelis have died because Israel has done all it can to harden the buildings in those cities against rocket strikes and has built an early warning system to give residents time to find shelter. In the nearly 4 years that the Palestinians have been in full control of Gaza they have done little to nothing to build the economy, to rebuild it’s infrastructure, to improve the lives of their citizens. Rather they have used it as a launching pad to strike at Israel.

In his opinion piece Mr. Kristof notes that the Obama administration needs to move the two major parties — Israel and the Palestinians — in two major ways. First,

it must push to reduce the misery in Palestinian territories. A peace deal with the Palestinians is not possible today, partly because the Palestinians themselves are bitterly divided between Fatah and Hamas. But nothing can be done anywhere as long as scenes of Gaza suffering are unfolding on television screens.

That means that Israel must lift the siege of Gaza, completely opening the crossings.

(Kristof, Nicholas D., “Obama’s Long Shot for Peace“, The New York Times, January 31, 2009)

Once again, according to Mr. Kristof, the onus is on Israel alone. Never mind the fact that this was tried and the results ended up being the recent conflict in Gaza. Never mind the fact that the Palestinians have used every opening and relaxation of security measures to send homicide bombers into Israel to attack the civilian population — mothers, brothers, fathers, children. Sure, let’s open up the borders with Gaza, let’s remove the checkpoints — hell, let’s take down the whole security fence and see what happens. I can easily predict what will happen. The Palestinian Authority (not them directly but one of the militias), Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and all the other terrorists will send a wave of homicide bombers into Israel that will result in the deaths of hundreds, perhaps thousands of Israeli civilians. Additionally, Hamas will likely resume it’s incessant rocket attacks against Israeli cities — perhaps hitting Tel-Aviv even. But, Mr. Kristof notes

If Hamas resumes its unconscionable rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, then bomb the tunnels or strike Hamas targets in a proportional way, but don’t escalate.

(Kristof, Nicholas D., “Obama’s Long Shot for Peace“, The New York Times, January 31, 2009)

Now if Israel, according to Mr. Kristof’s suggestion to the Obama administration, opens the crossings completely, what value is there in striking tunnels? With the crossings opened completely, Hamas will be able to bring in more and bigger rockets. Striking the tunnels when the crossings are open would achieve nothing. What about striking Hamas targets “in a proportional way”? Perhaps Israel should simply fire its own rockets back at Gaza just like Hamas does with their rockets against Sderot, Ashkelon and Ashdod. But then the world community would cry foul when Israeli rockets hit a house or a school and claim that Israel is committing war crimes. There would be calls for “restraint”.

Mr. Kristof suggests that Israel strike “Hamas targets” — what exactly are those targets? Police stations? Government buildings? According to the NGOs and the UN those targets are not “Hamas targets”. Hamas does not have military bases like any other army does. They use houses, schools, and other buildings as their staging and launching areas. In the video below the Al-Arabiya reporter laughs when she discovers that Hamas was launching rockets from directly underneath her news channel’s building during the latest conflict in Gaza.

Is that a legitimate Hamas target? Please Mr. Kristof, help the world define what is a legitimate “Hamas target”.

In addition to easing the Gaza seige by opening all the crossings, Mr. Kristof suggests that

Mr. Obama should also insist on a complete halt of settlement activity on the West Bank, and on an easing of the West Bank checkpoints that make life wretched for Palestinians. All that would also bolster moderates in the Palestinian Authority, making an eventual deal more likely.

(Kristof, Nicholas D., “Obama’s Long Shot for Peace“, The New York Times, January 31, 2009)

What Mr. Kristof appears to be advocating is a rollback to the Oslo Accord agreements state with Israel making all the concessions and no tangible responsibility on the part of the Palestinian Authority. I’ll grant him the idea that stopping the settlements and removing the roadblocks will be seen as a sign of good will on the part of Israel but during the time of the Oslo Accords such gestures usually resulted in increased terrorist attacks originating from the West Bank and the Gaza strip.

Mr. Kristof’s second suggestion to the Obama administration is to restart the Israeli-Syrian peace talks that have been going on for the past year mediated by Turkey. These talks have fallen apart because of the recent conflict in Gaza. However, this effort seems contradictory given that Mr. Kristof, earlier in his opinion piece, noted that “nothing can be done anywhere as long as scenes of Gaza suffering are unfolding on television screens” (Kristof, Nicholas D., “Obama’s Long Shot for Peace“, The New York Times, January 31, 2009).

It seems that according to Mr. Kristof Israel must again make all the concessions, take all the risks, and assume all of the responsibility in the MidEast peace process. In his calculus, Israelis must also assume any of the consequences and all of the blame should it fail. The Palestinians, in his opinion, are as innocent as babies. Tell that to the families of the 30 who died from Qassam attacks and the hundreds of others who died at the hands of Palestinian terrorists while Israel made great efforts to achieve peace with them.

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In this Fox news interview of a Palestinian legal advisor the Fox news anchor is just stunned how she spins the situation into one where Israel is the agressor with Hamas having done no wrong.

What is most disturbing is what she says and how she says it…let’s look at some of the quotes from the legal advisor:

“Even when Hamas does not fire a single rocket and it’s important to note that these rockets do not have explosive heads”

Let’s see…the rockets do not have explosive heads? Hamas appears to fire primarily two types of rockets: Qassams and Katyushas. The Qassams are developed locally by Hamas operatives whereas the Katyushas (also known as Grads) come from Russia. Qassams carry a warhead of anywhere from 11 – 22 lbs (5 – 10 kg) and have killed civilians as well as Israeli soldiers. See here for a list of Qassam attacks from 2002 until the end of 2007 and here for 2008. Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza strip in 2005.

Another comment made by Diana Buttu was

When Americans were Americans were celebrating the election victory of Barack Obama Israel used that opportunity to go into the Gaza Strip and kill Palestinians so this is not at all a question of Israel simply responding it’s a question of Israel initiating and this is a violation of International Law

What she neglects to point out is that Israel was responding to mortar attacks coming from Hamas in Gaza and that the attack was targeting suspected militants (“Israeli-Palestinian clashes in Gaza kill 6“, Los Angeles Times, November 5, 2008 ). Israel is once again responding to continual rocket fire coming from Gaza even though they withdrew from Gaza over three years ago. No country in the world would be vilified for responding to continual terror attacks from their neighbors…no country, that is, except Israel. Israel is the only one that is singled out for such criticism.

As I sit here and watch the news coming in about the Israeli ground offensive in Gaza I am both worried for friends and relatives who may be serving in units of the IDF in this campaign as well as hopeful that this will result in a meaningful change in the situation. Normally I don’t agree with Benjamin Netanyahu on alot of his politics but a friend of mine recently posted this YouTube video to his wall. I have to say, I agree with Netanyahu wholeheartedly on what he says in this context.

What country would tolerate the constant rain of missles (we’re no talking about suicide bombers now…we’re talking about missles) on it’s cities and communities? Israelis live in constant fear of the possibility that some random individual will walk into a restaraunt, a night club, a shopping center, a synagogue, or anywhere else and blow himself (or herself as the case may be) up with a bomb that is packed to the gills with nails, metal fragments and other shrapnel. For the past 6 years the southern cities and communities of Sderot, Ashdod, Netivot and others have seen the constant rain of rockets coming from Gaza. Even the Qassam rocket which Hamas fired initially was crude, it could still cause casualties among civilians.

I found this blog which provides a great synopsis of a fictional verbal exchange between Israel and Hamas. Folks, it’s not like Israel wanted to go back into Gaza…but when the kid on the other side of the fence keeps throwing stones at you and your family…at some point you’ve got to go over to their house and take away their stones…especially when there are no parents around to punish their own child!

Of course, over in Europe, the protests are for the end to “Israeli aggression” and “disproportionate use of force.” As a quick aside, Alan Dershowitz wrote an excellent article in the Wall Street Journal on on the concept of proportionality that utterly blows away the “disproportionate use of force” argument but I digress. When will the Europeans and the EU get it? This, like the second Lebanon War, was not what Israel sought. Israel has sought to live in peace with its neighbors but its neighbors have only sought Israel’s destruction. It’s like Golda Meir’s famous quote

We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. … We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.

Israel has the right to defend its citizens…just like any other country; it has the right to defend itself when attacked…just like any other country. And yet the world seems determined to claim that when Israel retaliates in response to being attacked, it is the aggressor and Isreal needs to show restraint. The world seems to have forgotten the lessons of 2001, 2006, and 2008.

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