Thursday, May 17, 2012

IDF troops make 2 brief incursion into Gaza to level land and clear lines of sight along the border fence nr. Bayt Lahiya in the north and Khan Yunis in the south. IDF soldiers on the n. Gaza border nr. Bayt Lahiya fire warning shots at Palestinian farmers who stray too near the border fence, forcing them to leave. IDF soldiers on the s. Gaza border open fire on Palestinian agricultural areas e. of Abasan, causing no reported damage or injuries. Israeli naval vessels fire at Palestinian fishing boats off the n. Gaza coast, forcing them to return to shore. In the West Bank, the IDF patrols in 2 villages nr. Ramallah and 1 each nr. Qalqilya and Tulkarm in the morning; in 2 villages nr. Jenin and 1 each nr. Qalqilya and Tulkarm in the evening; and in 2 villages nr. Jericho and 1 each nr. Ramallah and Tulkarm late at night. The IDF also conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches nr. Jenin, including rearresting a PA General Intelligence officer released in the 2011 prisoner swap that freed captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. (PCHR 5/23; OCHA 5/25)

News hits the media that the new U.S. amb. to Israel Dan Shapiro recently told a meeting of the Israeli Bar Association that the U.S. is ready and willing to use military force against Iran if diplomacy and sanctions fail, stating that the military option is ‘‘not just available, but it’s ready. The necessary planning has been done.’’ A tape of Shapiro’s address was leaked to the AP, with an anonymous Israeli official stating: ‘‘Quite clearly he didn’t mean this to be public. ... For the Iranians to understand that he really means it, they have to hear it publicly and clearly.’’ (AP, ITV 5/17; NYT, WT 5/18; see Quarterly Update [QU] in JPS 165 for details on Iran.)

At a private fundraising event in Florida that is secretly taped and leaked to the media on 9/18/12, Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney states that ‘‘the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace’’ and are ‘‘committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel.’’ He also opposes creation of an independent Palestinian state, assuming that it would become a client state of Iran. In terms of a U.S. mediating role in the peace process, he states: ‘‘The idea of pushing on the Israelis—to give something up, to get the Palestinians to act, is the worst idea in the world.’’ In response to the leak, which was seen (e.g., NYT 9/19)

as likely to damage Romney’s ability to act as a peace broker if elected, Romney publicly states on 9/18 that he stands by his longtime support for the U.S. official position advocating a negotiated 2-state solution. (Mother Jones 9/18; NYT 9/19)

Israeli DM Ehud Barak meets with U.S. secy. of defense Leon Panetta in Washington to request an additional $680 m./yr. in aid over 3 yrs. to help purchase 3–4 new Iron Dome antimissile batteries and another $168 m. for 3 other missile programs jointly developed with the U.S. (This is on top of an increase of $99.9 m. in funding for FY 2013 already requested by the Obama admin.) With the appeal coinciding with Israel cutting its defense budget by 5% per year for 2013 and 2014, critics complain (e.g., WP 5/17) that the U.S. is effectively helping balance Israel’s budget before balancing its own. (WP 5/17)