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Update – 16 January 2009

Dear All,

With talks about a possible ceasefire in the Gaza War continuing, many are saying that the war will wrap itself up by Barrack Obama’s inauguration on Tuesday 20 January. However, as the war rages on, the rockets continue to fall on Israel, and Israeli troops advance deeper into Gaza City. One can’t help but wonder whether this can really happen in the space of just four days.

The Australian reports today that a Gaza ceasefire is imminent, based on an initiative put forward by Egypt. The agreement would see an end to the fighting and that the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip would by manned by Hamas’ rivals, the Palestinian Authority to prevent smuggling. It has been said that Hamas has agreed to this “in theory”. Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry’s Security-Diplomatic Bureau took the proposal back to Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak and has subsequently been sent back to Cairo to present Israel’s guidelines (see more).

On 7 January it was decided that the IDF would halt all fire into Gaza City from 1:00pm-4:00pm to allow for humanitarian materials to get through. A decision was made yesterday that this humanitarian recess would be extended for an additional hour each day. Despite the nature of the recess and the fact that it benefits the Palestinian people to have it in place, it has been reported on most days that missiles have been fired into Israel during this period of time. While Hamas has not agreed to this pause, by striking while IDF has halted all activity, Hamas is demonstrating its contempt for its own people who it continues to use as shields and brings into question once again whether it can be trusted on issues of such importance. Since the beginning of the operation 1,136 trucks of produce have entered the Gaza Strip with over 26,000 tons of goods. This period of time also allows for the repairs of electrical grid and sewage systems, the evacuation of the wounded and coordination of medical assistance (see more).

Yesterday’s Haaretz featured a very critical piece by Gideon Levy entitled ‘The IDF has no mercy for the children in Gaza nursery schools’. Levy has been a constant critic of Israel in relation to its policies with respect to its Arab neighbours. In this article, he condemns Israel’s actions, what he perceives is the public’s indifference to the operations berates those that blame Hamas for the death of children.

Today’s Haaretz features a response from noted Israeli author A.B Yehoshua entitled ‘An open letter to Gideon Levy’ which offers a very coherent and balanced response to Levy’s attack. Yehoshua’s letter is a must-read for all of those struggling to make sense of this ongoing conflict.

Today’s Age features two Op-Ed pieces concerning the conflict. The first is an excellent essay from Israel’s ambassador to Australia H.E Yuval Rotem entitled ‘A free press comes with responsibilities’ in which he responds to the publication by the Age of an article by exiled Hamas leader Khalid Meshaal entitled ‘Gaza: the great divide’. The second article is written by former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser entitled ‘Israel’s actions foster extremism’ in which he recycles arguments refuted long ago such as the issue of proportionality and of negotiating with Hamas. When talking about Hamas’ missiles he claims “they are for a large part ineffective and inaccurate, and have done comparatively little damage.” The former PM is presumably unaware of the Iranian and Russian made Grad Missiles which have been striking ever deeper into Israel and which were smuggled into Gaza under cover of the recently failed ceasefire. He would probably feel better if the missiles were even more highly effective and accurate but that feeling is not shared by the 1 million residents now within their range.

For a rundown of the latest news in today’s papers, please also read ‘Israel shells blast UN headquarters‘ by Jason Koutsoukis from The Age. As with much that has been reported on the conflict, many of the facts of this incident are in dispute.

The Australian leads the ways in the reporting of the conflict with ‘The real Mid-East conflict is between Arab nationalists and Islamists‘ by Barry Rubin and ‘Tactical rethink as plans set back’ by Abraham Rabinovich. There was also an excellent piece from Bret Stephens entitled ‘Hamas in a state of denial’. This piece originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal and can be found here.

The Zionist Council of Victoria is running a briefing session and workshop called “Answering the tough questions about Israel’s Operation Cast Lead”. It will take place on Wednesday 21 January at 7:30pm at Beth Weizmann Community Centre.
*** Be updated on the current situation in southern Israel & Gaza
*** Understand main messages regarding Israel’s position & actions
*** Confront & tackle issues raised on talkback radio, TV & in printmedia
*** Get skills and tools required to answer pointed questions

Click here for more details. There is no charge for the event. So I can get an idea of the numbers coming, please email me by clicking here.

Best wishes,

Emily Chrapot
Research Officer
Zionist Council of Victoria
9272 5507