Israeli News: A Daily Analysis

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A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

January 28, 2009--IDF Responds to Hamas Attack, Michell in Israel

Last night the IDF destroyed three tunnels in Gaza that had not been destroyed during the recent war. This was in response to the bomb explosion that killed and IDF soldier near the Gaza border yesterday. Expectations are that there will be additional responses to the attack. Meanwhile, Senator George Mitchell arrived in Israel today. According to all sources the meetings were cordial and he was indeed on a fact finding mission in Israel. He clearly realizes that before he can deal with issues of any peace agreement he needs to deal with the ceasefire in Gaza. After meeting with Prime Minister Olmert, Mitchell spoke about the ceasefire and clearly stressed the need to end smuggling into Gaza. He also spoke about implementing the 2005 border crossing agreement. That agreement placed the Palestinian Authority in charge of the crossing and gave Israel the ability to electronically monitor the crossings. Hamas does not accept either of these conditions. Mitchell's first stop on his trip to the Middle East was to Egypt where he heard the Egyptian positions, which were very similar. For the first time, Olmert publicly stated that the Israel would not open the crossing permanently without an agreement for the release of Gilad Shalit.

Palestinian President Abbas spoke today and tried to lower expectations about both the Mitchell mission and President Obama's administration in general. He said that he is sure they are going to be more active and take slightly different approach, but Obama will not be able to change the basic facts.

Channel 10 released a poll today, two weeks before the election:
Likud (Netanyahu) 28 mandates
Kadima (Livni) 25 mandates
Yisrael Betenu (Lieberman) 15 mandates
Labor 14 (Barak) mandates
Shas 10 mandates
Meretz 5 mandates
Yehadut Ha'Torah 5 mandates
Ram Tal 4 mandates
Ichud Ha'Leumi 4 mandates Chadash 3 mandates
Bayit Yehudi 3 mandates
Balad 2 mandates
Gimlaim 2 mandates

Based on these results the right will clearly be victorious and Netanyhu will be the next Prime Minister. Three-quarters of Likud supporters want the party to be part of a right wing coalition. It turns out that one of Netanyhu's advisors is one of Olmert's closest advisors. This goes together with the sense among Israeli political observers that he is doing what he can to help Netanyahu, and not Livni.

On Friday Ha'aretz ran an article on the illegal increase in the settlements based on the study that Shalom Achshav released. On Sunday 60 Minutes ran a story on the subject and it is clearly getting some traction. I was asked today on radio appearance about it. This will clearly be the first area that the Obama administration is going to deal with.