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Hurricane Wilma and the Israel Connection - Bill Koenig

Note from Bill:

From August 26 to October 24, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida experienced the fury of three of the six most intense and costly Category 5 hurricanes in Atlantic Basin history.

Once again, while the Bush Administration was putting pressure on Israel to comply with the Quartet's Road Map mandates the United States experienced yet another record-setting disaster in Hurricane Wilma.

Below is the summary of what was taking place politically to pressure Israel, followed by a chronology of the news from October 14 to October 28. To say the least, it has been a very difficult and trying period of time for President Bush and his administration as they have been involved with the dividing and tampering with God's covenant land.

The Summary of Political Activity Pertaining to Israel

On Friday, October 14, Middle East Newsline reported that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was weighing a unilateral pullout from 90 percent of the West Bank and had shared that with President Bush.

On Saturday afternoon, October 15, Tropical Depression 24 formed in the Western Caribbean Sea.

In a letter dated Sunday, October 16, James D. Wolfensohn the Quartet Special Envoy for Disengagement sent a letter to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and the foreign ministries of Britain, Russia and the United States.

Wolfensohn wrote: "The Government of Israel, with its important security concerns, is loath to relinquish control, almost acting as though there has been no withdrawal, delaying making difficult decisions and preferring to take difficult matters back into slow-moving subcommittees."

Accompanying the October 16 letter was a report written on Monday, October 17, regarding Wolfensohn's latest visit to Israel, from October 7-12.

The introduction to the report stated: "The Special Envoy was disappointed that none of the key movement issues has been resolved. Without a dramatic improvement in Palestinian movement and access, within appropriate security arrangements for Israel, the economic revival essential to a resolution of the conflict will not be possible."

On Tuesday, October 18, President Bush met with Wolfensohn at the White House to discuss his report.

On Wednesday, October 19, at 5 am CDT, Air Force reconnaissance plane reported Wilma at 884 Mb...the lowest minimum pressure ever measured in a hurricane in the Atlantic Basin. This made Wilma the most intense hurricane in Atlantic Basin history.

On Wednesday, October 19, Condoleezza Rice, made it clear for Israel that settlement construction between Jerusalem and Maali Adumim settlement contradicts with the American policy. In a speech before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Rice said that the United States is concerned about settlement construction and expansion around Jerusalem, adding that the U.S. administration reduced its financial support for Israel as a result of the continuous settlement activities.

On Wednesday, October 19, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Washington, D.C.

On Thursday, October 20, when President George W. Bush was meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Wilma was a Category 5 hurricane.

President Welcomes Palestinian President Abbas to the White House - The Rose Garden October 20, 2005

Excerpt from their joint press availability:

PRESIDENT BUSH: President Abbas is a man devoted to peace and to his people’s aspirations for a state of their own. And today the Palestinian people are closer to realizing those aspirations. It’s a really interesting period of history, I think. I was just commenting to the President when we were in the Oval Office how much things have changed in the Holy Land. After all, he got elected in January; there were successful Palestinian municipal elections, and then we witnessed the completion of Israel’s disengagement from Gaza and parts of the West Bank.

It’s been an eventful year. And I say it’s an eventful year because the ultimate objective is there — for there to be two states, living side-by-side in peace; two democracies living side-by-side in peace. And I believe that’s where we’re headed. Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza and parts of West Bank was a bold decision, with historic significance. President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority contributed to the success of the withdrawal in significant ways.

Mr. President, thank you.

As I have stated in the past, achieving peace demands action from all parties. Israel must continue to work with Palestinian leaders to help improve the daily lives of Palestinians. At the same time, Israel should not undertake any activity that contravenes its road map obligations, or prejudices the final status negotiations with regard to Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem. This means that Israel must remove unauthorized posts and stop settlement expansion. It also means that the barrier now being built to protect Israelis from terrorist attacks must be a security barrier, rather than a political barrier. Israeli leaders must take into account the impact this security barrier has on Palestinians not engaged in terrorist activities.

This is a time of great possibility in the Middle East. And the people of the region are counting on their leaders to seize the opportunities for peace and progress. This work isn’t going to be easy, but the path forward is clear. I want to thank President Abbas for his hard work. I appreciate your service, Mr. President. I assured him that the United States will use our influence to help realize a shared vision of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security.

Four days later, on Monday, October 24, Wilma pummeled both Southwestern and Southeastern Florida.

Florida Power & Light, the state’s biggest utility, said Wilma affected more of its 4.3 million customers than any other disaster in the company’s history. By Friday, the utility said it had returned power to roughly 45 percent of the more than 6 million people who lost it, but said restoration of service for all of the remaining 3.6 million people might take until Thanksgiving week.

Risk Management Solutions, a risk modeling firm, said new estimates projected that Wilma's insured losses in the United States ranged from $8 billion to $12 billion, up from previous estimate of $2 billion to $10 billion. That would make Wilma the third costliest hurricane in U.S. history, after Katrina and Andrew.


The Two Week Chronology of Pressure on Israel, Hurricane Wilma and the Aftermath

  • Israel weighs unilateral pullout from 90 percent of West Bank, Plan Shared with Bush — Friday, October 14
  • Erekat: President Abbas' Meeting with US President will Focus on Sensitive Issues – Saturday, October 15
  • Tropical Depression Twenty-Four Advisory Saturday, October 15
  • White House prepares for possible indictments — Sunday, October 16
  • James D. Wolfensohn the Quartet Special Envoy for Disengagement sends Quartet a Scathing Letter About Israel’s Gaza Interference – Monday, October 17
  • Bush braces for a stormy week: indictments possible in CIA leak probe; Miers faces more tough questions — Monday, October 17
  • Crude oil leaps as Wilma threatens Gulf of Mexico — Monday, October 17
  • Bush's job rating continues to drop: Poll shows president’s performance approval at low point — Monday, October 17
  • U.S. inflation jump biggest in 15 years — Monday, October 17
  • Tropical Storm Wilma Becomes 21st Named Storm Of The 2005 – Monday, October 17
  • Bush Hosts Ramadan Dinner at the White House – Monday, October 17
  • Bush Says His White House Library First to Have Koran – Monday, October 17
  • Laura Bush Hosts a Ramadan Dinner for Woman at the White House – Monday, October 17
  • Bush Meets Special Envoy James Wolfenson on the Gaza Redevelopment Status – Tuesday, October 18
  • Wilma Becomes Most Intense Hurricane in Atlantic Basin History - Wednesday, October 19
  • Florida declares State of emergency for Wilma — Wednesday, October 19
  • Wilma gaining in strength and size — Wednesday, October 19
  • Rice Condems Israel Settlement Growth, States Funds Are Being Withheld to Senate Foreign Relations Committee - Wednesday, October 19
  • Rice Meets Abbas at State Department, Calls on Israel to Freeze Settlements – Wednesday, October 19
  • Officials ordered non-residents in the Florida Keys to evacuate — Wednesday, October 19
  • Bush and Palestinian Authority President Abbas Meet at the White House; Bush Calls on Israeli Action on Her Land – Thursday, October 20
  • Wilma Clobbers Cancun and Cozumel – Friday, October 21
  • Wilma Turns Towards Florida – Saturday, October 22
  • Wilma Getting Better Organized And Strengthening As It Gradually Accelerates Northeastward Toward Florida – Sunday, October 23
  • Wilma Strengthens Into A Major Category 3 Hurricane: Tropical Storm-Force Winds Lashing The Lower Florida Keys – Sunday, October 23
  • Wilma Hammers Southern Florida as a Category 3 Hurricane – Monday, October 24
  • Wilma Exits Florida and Heads Northeast – Monday, October 24
  • Wolfenson: Israel threatening peace process – Monday, October 24
  • Iran nuclear game too close for comfort – Monday, October 24
  • Bush: US will help only pro-peace PA election winners – Monday, October 24
  • Israel Drops Bid to Ban Hamas from Elections – Monday, October 24
  • President Signs Disaster Declaration For Florida – Monday, October 24
  • Bush: Military action against Syria ‘last option’ – Tuesday, October 25
  • President Bush is "facing the darkest days of his presidency – Tuesday, October 25
  • Rice: Israel must open borders to allow economic development in PA – Tuesday, October 25
  • Cheney Implicated in CIA Probe, Indictments Possible – Tuesday, October 25
  • Governor Jeb Bush takes responsibility for the relief delays as local and county officials pointed accusatory fingers at FEMA – Wednesday, October 26
  • Harriet Miers Withdraws as Bush's Supreme Court Nominee - Thursday, October 27
  • President Bush promises quick recovery for Floridians: Residents wait in long relief lines; millions still without power - Thursday, October 27
  • I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby Indicted: First time in 130 years a sitting White House official is indicted – Friday, October 28