Quiet for quiet in Gaza

The Gaza-Israel conflict looks like it’s heading toward a period of calm. NPR reports:

Israel and Hamas [Gaza’s ruling regime] are taking initial steps toward an agreement to calm hostilities — and it’s allowing thousands of Palestinians from Gaza to go work in Israel daily.

All Things Considered, January 13, 2020

So quiet in exchange for quiet, which means Hamas, which is a militant group, is agreeing to prevent rocket attacks on Israel and to prevent confrontations with Israeli soldiers at the Israeli fence separating Israel from Gaza. So we’re not going to see any more fiery kites and rock-throwing, and protests there are on hold. And in return, Israel is starting to let Gaza breathe a little, and it’s relaxing restrictions that they put on Gaza for years ever since Hamas took power there.

NPR’s Daniel Estrin, January 13, 2020

(Actually, Hamas is a Jihadi terrorist group — much more than militant. Hamas is an Arabic acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement.)

This pause eases up pressure and tension. Gaza has been on the edge of collapsing, even its own people exploding against Hamas.

But, a Hamas spokesman said, “It’s not a cease-fire. It’s not an agreement. It’s quiet for quiet.” It’s clear to Hamas that this is an “understanding. “Such fragile understandings are usually brokered by neighboring Egypt and by the United Nations according to Al Jazeera.

Whatever you want to call this indirect agreement, [i]t’s very different from Israel’s longtime policy to isolate Hamas and break its hold on Gaza. Instead, Hamas and average Gazans are getting some relief.

NPR’s Daniel Estrin, January 20, 2020

After Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, Israel blocked most Palestinians from crossing the fortified border to go to jobs in Israel. That crushed Gaza’s economy. Over the last few years, Israel has gradually issued more work permits to Gazans and recently speeded that up to a record high. Now more than 5,000 Palestinians from Gaza are being allowed into Israel.

NPR’s Daniel Estrin, January 20, 2020

The border crossing between Gaza and Israel is now open for those who can get permits. They’re now bringing home wages from work in Israel, although it’s a drop in the bucket for about 2 million people. These workers are bringing in Israeli shekels because Hamas and the Palestinian Authority do not mint their own currency.

The Middle East Monitor (MEMO) reports on other goodwill gestures by Israel. Israel has been lessening the embargo of Gaza by permitting the import of cement and vehicle tires. Furthermore, fishermen have been allowed to buy fishing boats, and drivers have been allowed to buy passenger buses.

Medicines donated by an American organization worth $600,000 have also entered Gaza.

According to MEMO, Israeli media reported that Israel has allowed cooking gas and pesticides to enter Gaza.

The head of the Palestinian Businessmen Association in Gaza predicted that if Israel continues with the current approach, Gaza could move toward economic recovery in 2020 and the living conditions of residents could improve (January 9, 2020).

In another vein, MEMO reports that Gazan farmers are gaining access to plant crops near the border fence between Gaza and Israel where they were previously excluded for the sake of Israel’s security. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has cleared unexploded ordnance and other war material from several fields and helped to rehabilitate them. Crops planted last August are expected to be harvested this May. According to the ICRC, roughly 580 farmers have regained access to their land. (February 5, 2020)

Israel has for years designated a strip, between 100 and 300 meters wide, along its 25 mile-long border fence as off-limits to Gazans. Israel cites security concerns since Gaza has been ruled by Hamas terrorists.

Egypt has [also] opened its border for travel out of Gaza. And Qatar is supporting poor families. Israel is boosting electricity to Gaza to reduce daily power cuts and letting fishermen venture farther out into the Mediterranean. And for the first time since Hamas took control in Gaza, Israel is allowing snacks made in Gaza to be exported overseas.

NPR’s Daniel Estrin, January 20, 2020

However, Al Jazeera now reports that two rockets were launched from Gaza into Israel on February 15, 2020. Israel announced it would cancel the easing of restrictions on Gaza as a response to these two rocket attacks. “Israeli security officials warned of a “harsh military response” if attacks from the Gaza Strip did not stop (February 16, 2020).

These are the latest attacks, many occurring since U.S. President Trump announced a peace plan for Israel and Palestinians on January 28, 2020.

Except for NPR, Western journalists have not been reporting on Israel’s easing of restrictions on Gaza or Egypt’s. Perhaps you can find coverage by the Associated Press, Reuters, The New York Times, or The Washington Post.

A Gazan economy that recovers and interlocks with Israel’s may tame terrorist Hamas, a jihadi enterprise. And if living conditions for Gazans improve, this may motivate Hamas, as it governs Gaza, to rein in rogue elements who fire mortar shells into Israel.

________

See or listen at:

All Things Considered, “An Opening Between Israel and Gaza — For Now,”
January 13, 2020.

All Things Considered, “Israel-Hamas Aim To Reduce Hostilities As Gaza Restraints Eased,” January 20, 2020.

Also see these articles from MEMO:

Gaza farmers return to their lands along volatile Israel fence,” February 5, 2020.

Israel allows cement entry to Gaza without UN observers,” January 29, 2020.

Israel’s steps to ease Gaza blockade point to longer-term truce,” January 9, 2020.

And from Al Jazeera:

“Israeli security officials warned of a ‘harsh military response’ if attacks from the Gaza Strip did not stop,” February 16, 2020 (article seems to no longer be online).

Hamas says Israel move to tighten blockade will increase tensions: Israel says it has cancelled an easing of restrictions on the besieged Gaza Strip after rockets fired from territory,” February 16, 2020.

Trump is not learning

On Thursday, February 6, 2020, I wrote that,

I expect that U.S. President Donald Trump will abuse the power of the presidency today. If not today, then no later than tomorrow.

Trump is acquitted. What next?

He actually waited until the morrow at the end of the day. On Friday, he fired Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman from his post as a national security advisor to the President.

Vindman was planning to be transferred from his post by the U.S. Army at the end of February. However, rarely does one just leave the Trump administration. They are fired, usually in a dramatic way. This is an abuse of power. Trump sends away people who have worked for him with drama because he can. These people do indeed serve at his pleasure. But why drama and humiliation? Why seething and mocking tones?

But, why such forbearance to wait another day?

Actually, according to The Washington Post (February 8, 2020), Trump wanted to fire Vindman on Wednesday just after being acquitted in a Senate trial from the impeachment charges leveled against him by the House of Representatives. However, aides to the President persuaded him to delay the action in hopes of enjoying positive news coverage over the acquittal.

To make matters worse, “Trump simultaneously ordered the ousting of Vindman’s twin brother, Yevgeny, a chief ethics lawyer at the National Security Council (NSC) who did not testify in the impeachment probe.” Besides this, Trump recalled Gordon Sondland who was serving as U.S. ambassador to the European Union. Sondland also testified before the House’s impeachment probe. Both Alexander Vindman and Sondland were responding to subpoenas from the House. Yevgeny Vindman was caught in Trump’s snare only because of his brother.

So, Trump has become emboldened – as I wrote – and is seeking revenge for betrayal, real or imagined.

According to the Post, Fernando Cutz, who served on the NSC as a senior advisor to then-national security adviser H.R. McMaster before they both left in 2018, said, “Every career official will tell you it’s not just chilling but frightening … The broader message to career officials is that you can’t speak up. Even if you see something illegal, something unethical, you can’t speak up. That’s the message the president wants to send.”

Trump has been and continues to be a bully. With the backing of the power of the presidency, he bullied Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky (last July), and this is what precipitated his impeachment. He’s not learning from his misdeeds. He remains the Bully-in-Chief.

Trump's celebration — a coronation

Thursday, February 6, 2020

U.S. President Donald Trump was received today in the White House’s East Room. Trump was clear. “It’s a celebration, because we have something that just worked out.” This is how he characterized his remarks to the nation – a celebration.

As I heard it, I imagined a coronation. He entered the East Room to the herald of the United States Marine Band playing “Hail to the Chief.” Trump thanked his supporters in the room, many by name. I heard this as bestowing knighthoods on his warriors. He actually called his Senate and House partisans “warriors” – “great warriors,” “incredible warriors.”

Trump spoke for an hour in his extemporaneous, rambling style. He often used the royal ‘we’, although at times it was an inclusive ‘we’ – everyone in the room, all Republicans (except for Senator Mitt Romney whom he’s sorry about). No barrier between him and the people. Entirely unified against the party of black knights who tried to depose him.

Trump spouted his grievances against those whom he styled as his enemies who were out to get him – ranting on and off for a full hour about the injustice heaped upon him. The Speaker of the House is “a horrible person.” The chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is “a vicious, horrible person.” He’s a “corrupt politician.”

His enemies were out to get him even before the election. It was so unjust – “tremendous corruption,” according to Trump.

But the righteous king was victorious – a “total acquittal.” Trump was only missing a crown and a sable stole.

Trump is acquitted. What next?

Thursday, February 6, 2020

I expect that Donald Trump will abuse the power of the presidency today. If not today, then no later than tomorrow. Yesterday he was acquitted by the U.S. Senate of the two articles of impeachment delivered by the House of Representatives. Most likely, he regards the acquittal as license to do whatever his heart desires.

But, on what basis do I predict that his next malfeasance will be today?

On July 24, 2019, Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified before the House Judiciary Committee, answering their questions in line with the report that bears his name. Mueller’s findings were two: He could not find sufficient evidence that the Trump presidential campaign of 2016 cooperated or coordinated with Russians to sway the vote in his favor. Since Mueller couldn’t find sufficient evidence, U.S. courts would not bring charges. Second, as far as obstruction of justice was concerned, Mueller found ample evidence that President Trump should be charged. Despite this, Mueller refrained from bringing charges because of a ruling that a sitting president cannot be prosecuted.

The very next day after Mueller testified, President Trump spoke to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and extorted him. Zelensky was to investigate Ukrainian corruption in connection with presidential candidate Vice President Joe Biden and his son. In return, Ukraine would get consideration to receive $391 million in military aid. President Trump released a record of the call, saying that there was nothing wrong with the call.

On one day, Trump was relieved of liability from his misbehavior of three years, and the very next day, he abused the power of the presidency.

Yesterday, Donald Trump was acquitted by the U.S. Senate. Today, he already outraged the attendees at National Prayer Breakfast by speaking divisively against politicians he doesn’t like. He publicly nursed his grievances. He spoke this way after the featured speaker spoke about reconciliation. Trump indicated that he’s not interested in reconciliation. He has no shame.

I’ll write later about his public celebration of acquittal that he presented only a few hours after the Prayer Breakfast.

We now have an unrepentant man occupying the office of the President of the United States. Shame on us for boosting him into office.

Rooting out corruption

Testimony of George P. Kent, United States Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, before the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on November 13, 2019:

You can’t promote principled anti-corruption action without pissing off corrupt people.

Now let’s mull that over with a cup of hot tea with sugar.

Donald Trump has fallen from grace; are the American people now rising in a nascent recovery?

Frankly, I was projecting when I posted that impeachment would bring a new dawn for America.

I’m now recovering from the suspense of whether U.S. President Donald Trump would be impeached and if so when. It was cathartic for me to think optimistically.

Now that the president has been impeached – which is to say indicted for high crimes and misdemeanors – I’m relieved to not be listening to Congressional hearings. I’m recovering. But, we Americans cannot expect to repair damage brought about by President Trump until a new president is inaugurated with a new Senate and House.

If I’m honest with myself, though, my own recovery will be short. I’ll soon be listening to the proceedings of his trial in the Senate. I’ll be listening in suspense over whether new damning evidence will be presented. Will such evidence reveal more corruption or further crimes? Will the Senate hear new testimony that appalls even the Republicans? Will the Republicans ask President Trump to resign, as in the case of President Richard Nixon?

So much suspense, and I’ll succumb to listening from the first gavel to the last.

By the way, I did watch some live feed of the proceedings from The Washington Post because I don’t have a television set hooked up to cable service. I moved into my present apartment ten months ago but have yet to set up my television.

I didn’t have a television during the Clinton impeachment trial either. I reluctantly listened to the disgusting proceedings over the radio. I had the flu during the trial and needed some noise to distract me from the aches, pain, and fever. So why didn’t I listen to classical music? Don’t ask. And classical music is not noise.

Sometime I’ll tell you why I didn’t have a television set.

Acquittal: freed from charges

I found these notes after the previous post on the subject:

A not guilty verdict is not exoneration except in a colloquial sense.

U.S. President Donald Trump claims that the Senate will exonerate him. “I’ve done nothing wrong.” What he doesn’t know – or doesn’t want to admit – is that a not guilty vote doesn’t mean innocent.

An acquittal, which is to say a preponderance of not guilty votes in the Senate, would only free President Trump from the impeachment charges. No explanation is attached to the individual votes, though.

A Senator who votes not guilty may intend to say that the President is innocent of the charges. He simply did not do what he was accused of doing. Another Senator might intend that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict. The President may still be guilty – just not in the eyes of the law.

What is the difference here?

Those who believe that he is innocent will still associate themselves with him. Those who believe that the President probably did what he was accused of will distance themselves from him.

Similarly with voters, although it is more complicated. People have been known to hold their noses when they reach a ballot box.