Thursday, December 06, 2012

6-Dec-12: A day in the life

Cairo today [Image Source]
Israel is so small it could fit into the state of Florida eight times. France is 25 times larger; Portugal is four times as big; Iran is 76 times larger; and Israel's total area could fit into Saudi Arabia 90 times. Tasmania, Australia's smallest state is three times the size of Israel.

Israel has borders with territory governed by Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip and the area controlled by the Palestinian Authority. All are hostile; all are seriously troubled.

It's become fashionable to heap scorn on the way Israelis, ranging from the government at its highest levels through to the most ordinary and powerless of citizens, relate the political and military decisions of our tiny country to this thing called the 'security situation' - in Hebrew, the matzav.

Today, Thursday, we thought it might be illuminating to a certain degree if we published here the briefest of snapshots of the matzav: in simple terms, what news is emanating today, Thursday, from each of the political entities on the far side of Israel's borders.

Clashes flare up in north Lebanon, death toll rises
Source: The Daily Star, December 6, 2012
BEIRUT: Clashes between supporters and detractors of Syrian President Bashar Assad flared up once more Wednesday in Tripoli, as the death toll in the north Lebanese port city rose to six. Security sources said Khodr Hanoun, Mehdi Khodr and Ali Hadabah were identified as the latest fatalities of the fighting between the neighborhoods of Jabal Mohsen, which strongly supports Assad, and Bab al-Tabbaneh, where residents oppose the embattled Syrian leader. Hanoun, according to the sources, died from wounds in a local hospital at dawn. Khodr, 18, was killed by sniper fire, the sources added. The sources said the number of wounded from the fighting also rose to 56. Schools were closed Wednesday but some shops opened despite the frequent sound of sniping from the tense neighborhoods, where intermittent sniper fire could still be heard.
Syria Loads Chemical Weapons into Bombs; Military Awaits Assad's Order
Source: NBC News, december 6, 2012Jim Miklaszewski and M. Alex JohnsonThe Syrian military is prepared to use chemical weapons against its own people and is awaiting final orders from President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials told NBC News on Wednesday. The military has loaded the precursor chemicals for sarin, a deadly nerve gas, into aerial bombs that could be dropped onto the Syrian people from dozens of fighter-bombers, the officials said.
Second policeman dies after Jordan fuel unrest
Source: France24A Jordanian policeman died on Thursday from a gunshot wound suffered during riots over fuel price hikes last month, in the second such death in a week, the police force said... "Second lieutenant Faisal Ahmad Soeidat, 36, died today at the King Hussein Medical Centre, after he was shot by unknown gunmen on November 15 in the southern city of Karak during the riots," police spokesman Ahmad Abu Hammad told AFP. Police said earlier that corporal Ahmad Ali Hamdan died on Saturday after assailants armed with automatic weapons attacked his station on November 14 in Shafa Badran, near Amman, hitting him directly in one of his eyes. More than 50 policeman and 17 civilians were hurt in violent protests against a government decision to raise fuel prices by up to 53 percent, according to police.
Egypt Sees Largest Clash Since Revolution
Source: Wall Street Journal, December 6, 2012Charles Levinson and Matt BradleyTens of thousands of supporters and opponents of Egypt's president clashed Wednesday, hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails and brawling in Cairo's streets, in the largest violent battle between Islamists and their foes since the country's revolution. The confrontation started after Islamist protesters marching in support of President Morsi moved to break up a demonstration by the president's non-Islamist opponents outside the presidential palace. A report by state television quoted the Health Ministry as saying five people were killed and 446 people were injured.
Over in Hamas-controlled Gaza, a shooting war involving hundreds of rockets fired at Israeli civilian targets and hundreds of air force sorties and bombing runs was suspended when a ceasefire was agreed on November 21. In the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authoritythe past week's celebration of the UN decision (on November 29) to upgrade their non-state to non-member state status is going to be followed this weekend by PA/Fatah reps celebrating all over again in Gaza as the Hamas branch of the Moslem Brotherhood - certified by major Western governments as a terrorist organization - marks its silver anniversary. The pro-Fatah Ma'an newsagency coyly writes today that "Fatah members who fled Gaza during factional fighting in 2007 have started returning to the enclave", but makes no mention of the Fatah members who were too slow to flee and were slaughtered by their Hamas bretheren during the 2007 fighting with Hamas for primacy in Gaza. Ma'an points out that "Fatah leader Abbas congratulated Hamas on what he called a victory against Israel, and Hamas expressed support for Abbas' UN bid. Meanwhile, Fatah rallies have been held in Gaza and Hamas has rallied in the West Bank." At some of those rallies, chances are that the revellers may have joined together to sing a new hit broadcast this week by official PA radio, a song of hatred and death whose words include "We strapped ourselves with explosives, and trusted in Allah".

Pulling it all together, if you were a news channel, and you had to sum up the state of tension, violence, danger in the region, where would you place the emphasis on your news reporting?

Here's how the mainstream news media are answering.

Associated Press said today: "Israel's Jerusalem plans ratchet up Mideast tension". Catholic News Service leads with this: "Palestinian question key to Mideast peace, say Catholic leaders". At the Christian Science Monitor, a major feature article ["Obama and Israel are walking away from two-state solution with Palestinians"] builds to the conclusion that "Israel is increasingly seen as a strategic liability for the US".

In fact, media attention is riveted on an Israeli decision to establish new communities in the undeveloped space between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim. So riveted that all the drama and violence in the states and would-be-states bordering Israel (exemplified by the reports above) recede into the distance. If there's an obstacle to peace in the region, the editorial consensus is that it's on our side of the border.

How correct is that consensus? A Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs paper, published yesterday, offers a basis to suggest it's not correct at all.
From the start of the peace-process negotiations, it was agreed between the parties, and accepted by the international community in witnessing and endorsing the Oslo Accords, that the issue of settlements would be one of several issues to be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations. None of the agreements signed between the parties contain any limitation on building by the parties in the areas under their respective jurisdiction. The attempt by the Palestinian leadership to isolate the settlements issue and to turn it into a precondition for further negotiation, as well as threats to initiate action regarding settlements in the International Criminal Court, undermine and prejudice any chance of a return to viable negotiations. [More]
Today is almost over as we write this. From Jerusalem, where we sit, the robust back-and-forth discussions about what can, what should, what must, be done to make peace happen are active and energetically underway as they always are. By contrast, on the far side of the fences, the view seems to be dominated by chaos, vituperation, killing, and conflict. To us, the JCPA's conclusion seems pretty close to the target:
"Any solution to the Middle East issues, including the achievement of Palestinian statehood, cannot be imposed by UN General Assembly resolutions, whatever majority they may command and however many times they may be repeated... Only genuine and bona fide negotiations will produce the sought-after solution and permanent settlement, including opening the route to Palestinian statehood."
Did this day bring us closer to that? In a word: no.

No comments: