Sad news from Israel is encapsulated in a headline from today’s (Dec. 24) NY Times : “Israel Rejects Hamas Overture, and Presses Housing Construction.” Prime Minister Olmert has rebuffed a Hamas proposal for a cease-fire, that had been under consideration and was supported by some in Olmert’s cabinet.
Israel’s military has been on a roll of late, successfully attacking terrorists in Gaza, especially leading elements of Islamic Jihad. This is in line with Israel’s legitimate right to self-defense and a reaction to the ongoing threat of rocket attack; approximately 2,000 have struck Israel in 2007, intending with some success to disrupt everyday life and inflict casualties and property damage on civilians. But a legitimate question is when and how to recognize Israel’s triumph in striking back. Shouldn’t the desired end result be that of Hamas crying “uncle” and for Israel to at least fully investigate the sincerity and practicality of implementing such a cease-fire?
Hope totters somewhere between slim and none in Defense Minister Barak’s reported suggestion that “if Hamas successfully stopped the rocket fire, Israel might reciprocate. Mr. Barak was quoted by the Israeli news media as telling the cabinet, ‘If they stop firing, we won’t be opposed to quiet.’ “
The same article reported an unhelpful response from Hamas that “The Palestinian people have a right to continue resistance.”
This Times article also reported that “a Housing and Construction Ministry budget proposal for 2008 included plans to build 500 apartments in Har Homa, a Jewish development in a hotly disputed part of East Jerusalem, and 240 apartments in Maale Adumim, the largest Jewish settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. …”
The government spokesman, Mark Regev, then denied that these were imminent plans, but shouldn’t it be obvious by now that a halt to settlement expansion is essential to pushing forward to a peace agreement? This builds trust for Israel among Palestinians and helps moderate Palestinians politically in mustering support for a negotiated peace with Israel.
The bad news jives with MJ Rosenberg’s latest column from the Israel Policy Forum, bemoaning Israel’s pattern of not seizing every opportunity for peace, along with that of Arab parties (famously stated by Israel’s great orator-diplomat, Abba Eban– at Arab expense only– as “never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity”).