Israel Releases $100 Million Withheld from Palestinians
Why is it that even when there is good news in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict it feels like too little, too late? Last week, Ehud Olmert visited an Israeli border crossing and exhorted Israeli security officials to reduce the burden on Palestinians seeking to cross into Israel by shortening their waiting time. He also announced the removal of 50 or so IDF road blocks in the West Bank (out of more than 500). During Condi Rice’s visit, Olmert agree to a 3-way summit with her and Abbas that may happen next month. Today, he announced the release of $100 million in tax payments to the Palestinians. This is a part of $500 million in excise taxes which Israel collects on Palestinian goods which move through its ports. Israel withholds at least $50 million each month in protest of last year’s election of Hamas.
So why is it there is little joy in my heart to hear of such easing in relations between Israelis and Palestinians? First, it would appear to me that most or all of these measures were arranged for the benefit of Madame Secretary. Thus, I don’t believe they are part of an Olmert peace strategy or any conviction on his part that this is the way he should go politically. Second, things are so profoundly bad between Israel and the Palestinians that such ameliorating policy changes as Olmert has made seem somehow perfunctory and piecemeal.
But, hey don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. It’s better than no concessions to the Palestinians. It’s a gesture of–what I’m not sure. To say “good will” would perhaps be too optimistic. But perhaps it can be built on. Were Gilad Shalit’s freedom to follow shortly from this then perhaps we can see these other developments more positively and enthusiastically.
On a very sad note…Brit Tzedek is sponsoring a national tour with leaders of Combatants for Peace, a group consisting of former Palestinian militants and Israeli soldiers who have renounced violence as a means to resolve the conflict. The Palestinian co-founder of the group, Bassam Aramin, lost his 10 year old daughter, Abir, today, who was killed by the Israeli Border Police:
…She was hit by fire from the Israeli border police on Tuesday in the West Bank town of Anata, near Jerusalem, Palestinian witnesses and relatives said. Abir and her classmates were on recess from school when the Israeli forces fired on stone-throwing Palestinians [ed., protesting the Separation Wall] with rubber bullets and stun grenades, according to the Palestinians.
Abir was hit in the head and collapsed, the Palestinians said. The border police said they were investigating the report.
“Investigating” my ass. We all know where such “investigations” lead. What a cursed conflict! A waste of so many lives.
Perhaps one small act of resistance we can muster here is to attend Combatants for Peace events in your city. Here in Seattle Shimon Katz and Sulaiman Al Hamri will speak on:
Thursday, February 8th, 7 pm, Seattle University, Schafer Auditorium, Lemieux Library, (Columbia & Broadway)
Friday, February 9th, 8:00 am, Temple De Hirsch Sinai, 1511 East Pike
Please join us.