by Arlene Kushner
Posting: March 24, 2008
"Fatah and Hamas"
Well, here we are in the midst of an ever-changing scenario that has yet to play itself out.
Officially, neither the US nor Israel has comment on the agreement signed by Fatah and Hamas yesterday in Yemen that commits them to working out their differences. I determined as much via calls to the US Embassy and US Consulate in Jerusalem, and to spokespersons for the prime minister and ministry of foreign affairs.
But unofficially, it's another story.
Most nauseating (and I use the word advisedly) was the reaction of Defense Minister Barak, as reported by Abu Toameh and others in the Post. Barak is said to be considering some "good will gestures" to show the PA that if they get too close to Hamas they risk "losing everything."
What the Post article said was that:
"[Israeli government] officials, who were skeptical that a declaration agreed upon in Yemen by Fatah and Hamas would actually bear any fruit, said that by agreeing to re-start a dialogue with Hamas, PA President Mahmoud Abbas might be signaling to Israel that if it didn't start acting to shore up his position, he had 'other options.'"
If we didn't "start acting to shore up his position"??? Does this mean we are expected to cave on matters that impinge on Israeli security, in order to make Abbas look good, out of fear of what he might do if we fail to respond?
There is a word for what Barak is contemplating: appeasement. The more the PA officials act perversely, the more we think we must provide for them. In such a scenario, the PA is calling the shots and we make ourselves fools. There is no notion of requiring demonstrable good faith of the PA before restrictions are relaxed.
All of this, you understand, is being done with an eye towards Rice's arrival here next week. For it's not only the PA that our government rushes to appease, but also (and perhaps even more so) the US government.
Barak is considering such things as a VIP lane at checkpoints and exempting businessmen who have received security clearances from getting checked at these points. A risky business in my opinion. Suffice it to say that there have been several occasions on which persons who have been deemed trustworthy turned out to be accomplices to terror activity.
In fairness to Barak, he did say it's too soon to consider actually taking down checkpoints.
Olmert for his part, is reported to have told Cheney that "the understandings between Hamas and Fatah are not the kind that requires any Israeli response." We will continue to negotiate with the PA, he said, but implementation of any agreement will depend on its ability to fight terror. Also perhaps words designed to satisfy the Americans.
With all of this, at a different level, the message has also been passed to Abbas that if he returns to a unity government, negotiations are over.
An Israeli official, speaking without authorization and thus anonymously, said, "The Fatah leadership has to make a choice. They can have a peace process and dialogue with Israel or a coalition with Hamas. But it's clear that you can't have them both."
Unofficial messages from the US have been similar.
And will there be a new Palestinian unity government?
Well. according to PA chief negotiator Ahmed Qurei, the agreement was signed as the result of a mix-up. He says that Azzam al-Ahmed, who headed the PA negotiating team in Yemen tried to call Abbas to get a final OK before signing, but Abbas was busy meeting with Cheney, so he went ahead and signed. A foolish and simplistic interpretation that perhaps signals a deeper disagreement or quandry.
Al Jazeera reports that some Abbas advisors are claiming that al-Ahmed kept Abbas in the dark regarding the details of what he signed, but al-Ahmed insists that he didn't exceed his brief and had coordinated with Abbas's office before signing.
So what is this about? We might say that Abbas is getting cold feet. But I would suggest another interpretation: that he's playing both ends against the middle, preparing to get into bed with Hamas while he acts as if this is not his intention at all.
There is considerable indication that this agreement, while it is based on specific items, simply commits the parties to further talk.
According to a PA statement, "Resumption of dialogue in the future must be to implement the Yemeni initiative in all its items and not to deal with the initiative as a framework for dialogue, because this will not yield an outcome." "The initiative in all its items" includes return to the situation in Gaza before the Hamas takeover.
But then, the PA is not ready to change its situation in Judea and Samaria.
While Hamas's position is that the agreement simply represents a guideline for talks, not pre-conditions at all.
Let me here recommend a new piece by Barry Rubin, "Palestinian Politics: Onward and Downward." It provides a solid dose of much-needed realism.
Says Rubin, Palestinian politics continues to reject moderation. (Emphasis added)
"Three factors fuel this trend.
"First, Fatah and the PA continue to be corrupt, incompetent and incapable of self-reform.
"Second, given the cult of violence and total victory dominating Palestinian political culture, Hamas is inevitably seen as heroic because it fights and rejects compromise...
"Compromise is treason; moderation is cowardice. This is the daily fare of Palestinian ideology and politics, purveyed by leaders, clerics, media and schools...
"Third, due to its own weakness and the strong political culture it never challenges, the current leadership cannot make peace. It knows, contrary to Western claims, that negotiating a political solution would destroy it, and acts accordingly...
"Even so, Fatah is undergoing a radicalization process which may not displace Abbas, but will install his successor. Public opinion is also more extreme, with support for terrorism zooming upward. Fatah both heeds and feeds the trend...
"We are now seeing the birth of a new Fatah all right, but not the one heralded by such people as former British prime minister Tony Blair or Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. It is rather an even more extremist version, coming from those who wield guns, not pens, namely the Aksa Brigades. Contrary to much reportage, this is not an 'offshoot' but an essential part of Fatah...
"The Brigades demand Fayyad's firing and replacement by 'a new government that would not abandon the armed struggle.' Like others in the Fatah leadership, its strategy is not to fight but ally with Hamas. Despite Hamas's bloody expulsion of Fatah from Gaza, killing Israelis wipes out all sins in Palestinian politics...
"The main thing keeping Fayyad in office is not honesty or moderation, but the fact that removing him would kiss good-bye to almost $7 billion in Western aid...
"One reason why many Westerners misunderstand the conflict and countries adopt ridiculously irrelevant policies is ignorance of how extremism is attractive in its own right. After all, Westerners reason, if people are all alike and universally pragmatic, Palestinians must want to end the conflict and get an independent state through negotiation and compromise. Why go on suffering? No 'rational' person would act that way.
"Therefore, many in the West reach one of two conclusions:
"1. Palestinian leaders want to act rationally but cannot make peace and achieve a better life for their people because Israel will not let them. This is the anti-Israel stance.
"2. They are eager to do so, and if Europe and America only put in lots of effort and money peace can be quickly achieved. This is the 'evenhanded' position, which always ends up demanding Israeli concessions in hopes of enabling Palestinian moderation.
"These are articles of unshakable faith, impermeable to evidence or experience. Whenever Palestinian leaders reject peace it must be because they were not offered enough... â€
Posting: March 23, 2008
Gratitude first on a national level. We seem to have gotten through Purim without a major terror attack, which is no small thing. (Purim is was over Friday night every where but the walled cities of Jerusalem and Sefat, which celebrated Sushan Purim today.)
There was a time when Purim was a prime choice of terrorists for launching their evil plans upon us. And always during Purim the country is on high alert.
And then, I am grateful beyond words for the simcha (joy) I experienced this Purim with my kids and 10 grandchildren. Such moments of pure happiness are rare in life and must be savored and appreciated.
Vice President Cheney is here.
While I remain mindful of the fact that he does represent the Bush administration and Bush policy, the truth is that, knowing his background with regard to Israel, I trust him in a way I would never trust Rice.
Last night Cheney said: "America's commitment to Israel's security is enduring and unshakeable, as is our commitment to Israel's right to defend itself always against terrorism rocket attacks and other threats from forces dedicated to Israel's destruction... The US will never pressure Israel to take steps that threaten his security."
What I say about this is that I'm reasonably confident that if it were up to him, there would be no pressure on us that threatens our security. Haval (a pity) that it's not solely up to him.
Then... sigh... he did go on to talk about the "peace process." Yes, he said that peace "requires painful concessions." (That again -- it seems to be considered de rigeur. But he said it in Ramallah after meeting with Abbas.) And that, citing the president, a Palestinian state is "long overdue." But even so, he also went on record as saying that while "we continue to work for peace, we must not, and shall not, ignore the darkening of shadows of the situation in Gaza, in Lebanon, in Syria and in Iran, and the forces there that are working to derail the hopes of the world."
While he is dealing with the "peace process" during his brief visit, my impression is that the priority in Cheney's discussions with Israeli officials is Iran. He met with Olmert last night, this morning met with Peres -- who warned that if the Golan were returned to Syria it would end up in Iran's hands -- and Netanyahu -- who warned that withdrawal from any part of Jerusalem would make room for Iran to move in. Then on to Ramallah for meetings, and returning to meet one more time with Olmert.
This is a time when definitive reporting is difficult because so much is unresolved and rumors fly so fast. Let us look here at major issues on the table:
The Fatah-Hamas meetings in Yemen. Fatah wants Gaza returned to its control. Hamas wants Haniyeh restored to the position of prime minister of the PA (moving out Fayyad, who was appointed by Abbas in place of Haniyeh after the Hamas takeover in Gaza). From my perspective it seems that if they are interested in the status quo ante in one respect they have to accept the whole package -- when Fatah controlled Gaza, Haniyeh was PM -- and yet each party seeks only what is perceived as advantageous to its own strength.
So, what we've heard in the last few days is that they were close to an agreement, and then that they'd run into stumbling blocks. That Fatah almost walked out. That Hamas is balking.
Now a report has come from Yemen that they've signed an agreement, at a ceremony in San'a, the capital, at which Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, was present. The agreement, which is being referred to as the "San'a Declaration," says that they "accept the Yemeni initiative as a framework for resuming dialogue" that will enable them to "to return the Palestinian situation to what it was before the Gaza incidents."
This does not mean that the issues have been resolved, but rather that they intend to try to resolve them. Dialogue is supposed to resume in April in San'a, and will be based on the Yemeni initiative, which includes a unity government and merged "national" security forces.
The implications of this are huge.
There is the possibility that Rice and members of the EU will twist themselves into pretzels trying to find a way to continue the peace process even though Hamas doesn't recognize Israel. There was a time when I would have thought this ridiculous, but so much has transpired that is incredible, I am no longer certain.
Can anyone imagine Rice getting up forthrightly and saying, "We misjudged. Abbas is not the man who thought he was and he certainly does not merit continued support from the US. Any notion of promoting a two-state solution now is not viable." Nah...
But this is not likely to play well with Congress, which was sold a bill of goods about Abbas needing US largesse to serve as a bulwark against Hamas radicalism.
As I see it, in any event, if there is an agreement Hamas will come out the victor, given more credibility and the latitude to call the shots to a large degree. Fatah is weaker than it was when the first unity government was established, and Hamas was dominant then.
With all this, however, a new state of affairs may emerge that provides Israel with the latitude to assume a different, far more realistic posture. From the beginning Israel stated unequivocally that there would be no negotiations if Abbas dealt with Hamas.
An unnamed Israeli official has reported that a message has been sent to Abbas informing him that final status negotiations would stop if a unity government was to be formed. Israel didn't say that as he's talking with Hamas that is itself enough justification for halting negotiations. This would only be the case if there was a unity government, which hasn't yet been established by this agreement.
As I'm fond of saying, we will have to watch this closely.
Right now there is also the whole issue of the efforts by Egypt to negotiate a truce between Hamas and Israel.
From the Israeli side comes indication that this is highly unlikely, in part because weapons smuggling is continuing. But also -- I must believe -- because Hamas is seeking a "comprehensive" truce that includes Judea and Samaria, and just at a time when Hamas is gaining strength there.
Certainly top IDF officials are opposed to a truce, some fearing that Hamas would see this as a "reward." Their preference is for additional operations such as the one the IDF did two weeks ago.
But from Hamas and Islamic Jihad sources come reports of such a truce being close, with Egypt having delivered word of this on behalf of Israel. What is being said is that Israel will offer a one year truce if Hamas stops firing rockets. But this doesn't meet Israel's stipulations. Meanwhile, Al Hayat reported today that the Egyptians said that while Israel preferred a truce only in Gaza, they were willing to consider a "comprehensive" deal. I don't believe everything I read, but I remain cautiously skeptical.
What amused me today was this: Abu Toameh reports that Egypt summoned Hamas and Islamic Jihad to an urgent meeting last night and "warned" them to stop smuggling weapons. The thrust of this message is that a deal will be possible if they stop. But we are not so foolish. Israel has stipulated, at a minimum, that Egypt had to seal the border with Gaza so there could be no smuggling. A "warning" does not suffice.
Yet another -- related -- issue must be mentioned here: That is the question of who supervises crossings into Gaza. Hamas monitoring, which is a joke, is not acceptable to Israel. But neither is Fatah monitoring, as this would lead to Hamas control of the situation. Even when Fatah was stronger, and in control of Gaza, it allowed Hamas to smuggle weapons. And now?
Egypt is said to be working out all sorts of deals on this issue.
Of course, ultimately a unity government may have to be factored into this equation.
Hezbollah claims to have "100% proof" that Israel is responsible for the murder of Mughniyeh. The traditional 40 day mourning period has just ended and Israel intends to maintain high alert at all international Israeli installations such a embassies and consulates, as well as at the border with Lebanon.
A recent Palestinian poll shows that 84% of the people approved the massacre at Mercaz Harav, and 64% support rocket attacks.
Posting: March 20, 2008
Purim begins tonight. A holiday of frivolity and fun -- we are bidden to enjoy! -- it carries messages that are so relevant for us today: The threat of extinction of the Jewish people overcome and enemies destroyed.
It says in the Megillah, which is read tonight and tomorrow, that after the Jews were saved there was light and rejoicing. They went from mourning to gladness. So may it be for us.
A Purim Sameach to those celebrating, and a good Easter to my Christian friends.
Posting: March 19, 2008 "Israeli Arabs, Germans, and More"
I wrote recently about the fact that Arabs living inside of Israel are in some instances sympathetic to our enemies and in a smaller number of instances actively supportive. The issue arose with particular potency after the massacre at Yeshivat Mercaz Harav. In several respects I feel it is important to return to this issue for further exploration.
There were readers (a few) who expressed concern that Israel not come down too hard on those living here who are sympathetic to Hamas; they focused on rights that adhere in a democracy, which must be protected. Israel should not act -- or be seen to act -- in ways that are repressive. I would like to address that.
Israel, if anything, bends over backwards to be tolerant of those expressing anti-Israel sentiment. In my opinion (even as an American born and bred, coming out of liberal traditions), I believe this has been too much the case. It's maddening when Arab MKs express support for those wishing to attack us.
And I hasten to assure those who are concerned about these issues that there is no intention within the government to take wholesale repressive actions against the Arab population.
However, we are dealing with situations that are literally existential, and it is time to examine seriously, and without concern for what is politically correct, what potential dangers lurk within the Arab Israeli population, and what measures might be required to protect the nation.
One reader referred to the time of the Vietnam war, and the fact that those protesting it -- including by burning American flags -- were permitted their freedoms. My response was that, while those protestors could -- and in fact did -- affect the outcome of the war, there was no possibility of their bringing about the destruction of the US. Here the risks are far more immediate.
It remains important, as we look at this issue, to differentiate between various Arab populations -- something I did not do sufficiently before. Caroline Glick addressed this recently.
There are, for example, the Druze, who are loyal Israeli citizens who universally serve in the IDF, and the Bedouin, who are renowned as army trackers. There are Christian Arabs who flourish here in Israel and have no history of violence. And non-Arab Muslims, such as Circassians, who are integrated into Israeli society.
And then there is the difference between those living here as full citizens from the time of the War of Independence, as versus those in Jerusalem given residency status following our acquisition of eastern Jerusalem in 1967 and thereafter. (There is talk now about limiting the right of those resident in Jerusalem to move freely about the country.)
Glick is of the opinion that the problem lies with the leaders of the Arab community. The MKs, for certain. And the Higher Monitoring Committee, which I mentioned. There is as well the Islamic Movement in Israel, which is inciteful and has been involved in violent incidents. They are making inroads even in the Bedouin community.
The project to encourage Muslims Arabs who do not serve in the Israeli army to instead do national service provides a key example of how the Arab leadership intimidates. They have warned that anyone who participates in this project -- which makes them Israeli and "robs" them of their Palestinian identity -- will be ostracized by the community. Thus are young people who might be sincerely interested in participating discouraged.
And what of the general Arab Muslim population? As I indicated before, many are surely innocent of malign intentions towards the State, and want only to exist peacefully. But the leadership has turned many heads and made it a mark of disloyalty to the Palestinian people to be too much immersed in Israeli society. This is a problem in particular regarding the Arabs in eastern Jerusalem.
There has been a good deal of information coming out about the very quiet but strong sympathy for Hamas and for the terrorist Ala'a Abu Dheim in his neighborhood of Jebl Mukaber. No one can deny the impact of this situation on the Jewish population of Jerusalem.
After the massacre, the family of Abu Dheim set up a mourning tent. While they were required to remove the banners for Hamas and Hezbollah, the tent itself was permitted to stand. There were even comments here from Israeli officials -- that did not sit well in many quarters -- that the family had a right to mourn.
There was an official attempt made to take down the family's house but that never happened because of legal considerations that blocked this action.
So much for concerns about the Arabs not being accorded their rights.
In fact, there was a considerable response in just the opposite direction: concern that this family of a terrorist was being accorded all together too much consideration.
In this spirit, several hundred right wing activists, on Sunday, gathered in Talpiot, adjacent to the Jebl Mukaber neighborhood, with the declared intention of first protesting and then moving into the Arab neighborhood to take down the house of the terrorist's family. There was, it should be noted, no call whatsoever for violence against persons.
A large cadre of police met them and for the most part blocked them. But some young people made it down the hill to the Arab area, and, inevitably, there was stone-throwing (apparently from both sides) before arrests were made.
For the record, while I have full sympathy with their position, I regretted this action, which I see as counterproductive to the goals of expressing Jewish rights. Such confrontations, even when reasonably mild, fuel false accusations of crazy right wing intentions to kill Arabs.
As to false accusations: After the massacre, there were rumors that rabbis from the yeshiva had sanctioned attacks on Arabs as retribution. In particular, Sheikh Raed Salah, the head of the Islamic Movement's northern branch, told supporters that he had been warned of plans to assassinate him.
The Shin Bet, however, after investigation, said these claims were baseless.
Salah is a trouble-maker, big-time, and this seems clearly a case of incitement.
Meanwhile a rabbi from the Ateret Kohanim Yeshiva in the Old City was stabbed in the neck by an Arab.
A house that was destroyed was that of terrorist Muhammad Shehadeh, taken out by Israel in Bethlehem last week. And guess who has announced intentions to rebuild it? The Palestinian Authority.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the Knesset yesterday, in spite of being boycotted by four MKs who objected to her speaking in German. Her words were moving as she spoke about German hearts filled with shame because of the Holocaust and the special German responsibility to work for Israel's security, which she tied to issues of Iranian threats. A nuclear Iran would be disastrous, she declared.
But all is not sweetness and light here. German trades significantly with Iran and appeases radical Muslims. What is more, from exceedingly well informed sources I've learned of the growing and very worrisome anti-Semitism in Germany.
See Caroline Glick on Germany as an appeaser, and Israel as an appeaser of Germany, helping to play the game:
I've written about the meddling into our security situation of US military envoys and of Defense Minister Barak's deliberate and laudable snubbing of a meeting with American generals because of his pique with them.
Now JINSA has put out a report (# 756) applauding Barak, as well, and taking a hard look at the way in which the US is interfering in Israel's security issues:
"The American generals appear to have three complaints - Israel is not sharing enough intelligence with the Palestinian Security Services; IDF security operations in the West Bank are driving terrorists into the Palestinian-controlled areas, accounting for the inability of the Palestinian Authority to maintain order; and Israel refuses to institute new security procedures (removing checkpoints) as 'peace negotiations move forward.'
"This is a blatant American attempt to a) interfere with the Israeli governmentâ€™s obligation to secure the people of Israel, and; b) blame Israel for the increasing anarchy in the West Bank. We strongly believe it is the result of demands by the State Department for the military envoys to make 'progress' toward the independent Palestinian State to which the administration is committed - regardless of circumstances on the ground.
"The American military professionals appear frustrated by their inability to create any kind of reliable security force among the Palestinians. That they canâ€™t is understandable, but that isnâ€™t Israelâ€™s problem. Israel has to deal with a well-understood threat to its people and cannot subcontract out the work to semi-reformed terrorists in Fatah."
Posting: March 18, 2008
The things to be concerned about, that is.
This morning's Jerusalem Post carried an exclusive by Khaled Abu Toameh regarding a new PA "plan" -- drawn up by high-ranking Fatah member and PA Deputy Minister for Prisoner Affairs Ziad Abu Ein -- to implement the "right of return" for Israel's 60th celebrations.
The plan -- called the "Initiative of Return and Coexistence" -- proposes that the two-state negotiations be abandoned in favor of "all living together."
It calls for Palestinian refugees everywhere to converge on Israel by land, sea and air, on May 14, carrying UN flags and their UNRWA ID cards (which theoretically certify them as refugees). They are supposed to bring their suitcases, and tents so that they can settle down in the towns and villages they (actually their parents and grandparents) came from sixty years ago -- never mind that these places no longer exist.
Neighboring Arab states are supposed to open their borders so the "refugees" can get out and make their way to Israel, and Arab states are asked to contribute to costs. The UN secretary-general and other world leaders are asked to support this effort, which calls upon the refugees to abandon terrorism and "live in peace" with their Israeli neighbors (yea, sure).
And Ramallah is said to be in favor.
You read this, and you said, "Oi vey!" or some equivalent thereof. A most worrisome scenario, one would think.
When I checked with representatives of the prime minister's office and the Foreign Ministry today, I encountered a very relaxed attitude. Who knows if this is even true, they responded.
My most knowledgeable source regarding events within the PA advised me that the plan has indeed been proposed but that Fatah is "too tired," they haven't the energy to pull off anything like this. However, said my source, if Iran, perhaps, should decide to make this happen, and energize it, it might be different. I will add that there might also be other outside energizing forces.
So? Does this get taken seriously? As to actually having the hordes of refugees attempt entry into the country, I am assuming that intelligence would secure information of preparations in advance, and would respond appropriately. It wouldn't be pretty, but we wouldn't have millions of purported refugees suddenly within our borders.
But there's another factor to be considered, and another motivation for what they are talking about: They are out to embarrass us, and make us uncomfortable, and bring us down a few more notches in public opinion, by threatening this. The poor refugees. After all these years, still denied the right to go "home." They are masters at this.
We are, sadly, not masters, as has been demonstrated time and again. Now is the time to make clear that the demands are not legitimate -- to call upon experts in international law who will explain that there is no such thing as a right of return, and to put on the agenda of the international community the need to find an equitable solution for these "refugees." Now is the time to point a finger at the oil-rich Arab states that have donated only very modest sums to UNRWA for support of their fellow Arabs -- the very rich Arab states who gladly allowed them to wallow in misery.
UNRWA, of course, bears enormous responsibility for the current situation. UNRWA, whose mandate says that these refugees remain refugees until they return to Israel (even if they have citizenship elsewhere). UNRWA, who has allowed these people to hang in limbo for three and now four generations, and who has told them that they have this right and that Israel prevents them from exercising it.
In a nutshell: UNRWA, which is responsible for the Palestinian refugees, works with rules that are different from the rules of the High Commission for Refugees, an agency that handles all of the refugees of the world except the Palestinians. Only the Palestinians are so special that they get their own agency and their own rules. The High Commission has a practice of getting refugees settled as quickly as possible -- in the nation of origin if possible, but if not possible, elsewhere. They solve refugee situations. UNRWA not only sustains their refugee population, but has allowed it to grow (to over 4 million now) because descendants are counted, as are those who have new citizenship elsewhere.
The "right to return" is based on General Assembly resolution 194, which says, among other things, that "the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date." This, the claim is made, is the basis in international law for the "right.â€
There is just a small catch: General Assembly resolutions are considered to be recommendations only, they have no standing in international law. Only security council resolutions do.
What is more, when this resolution passed in 1948, the Arab states voted against it because it mentions Israel and they refused to acknowledge the existence of Israel. Oh irony!
"[The enemies of Allah] do not know that the Palestinian people has developed its [methods] of death and death-seeking. For the Palestinian people, death has become an industry, at which women excel, and so do all the people living on this land. The elderly excel at this, and so do the mujahideen and the children. This is why they have formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly, and the mujahideen, in order to challenge the Zionist bombing machine. It is as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: 'We desire death like you desire life.'"
So said Hamas MP Fathi Hammad on an Al Aqsa (Hamas) TV broadcast of February 29.
"... they have formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly... "
MEMRI has captured this and provided translation. I encourage you to see this for yourselves at: http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1710.htm
You can order the clip, or view a transcript, as well as viewing Hammad on the MEMRITV site.
Bookmark this particular MEMRI site, please, and share the URL broadly. The next time we are accused of wantonly killing civilians, reference should be made to this. In this way each of you can be an emissary on behalf of Israel -- writing letters to the editor citing this, and telling those who do not understand.
(MEMRI -- Middle East Media Research Institute -- is a non-profit, non-partisan research organization that "bridges the language gap between the West and the Middle East.")
MEMRI captured yet another Palestinian speaking on TV on March 9. This time it was Qadura Fares, former PA minister and close confident of Marwan Barghouti, speaking about the massacre at Mercaz Harav. He said: "The Fatah movement does not denounce this kind of operation, and the Palestinian people has the right to conduct resistance against the occupation."
Mark well this statement from a member of the "moderate" Palestinian faction.
Fatah officials announced today that they were ready to begin a dialogue with Hamas, if Hamas accepts the Yemeni initiative for reconciliation. A major Hamas official later said that his group did accept it, but it is still a bit unclear as to precisely what Hamas has agreed to. The initiative calls for returning Gaza to its status before the Hamas takeover and for early elections. It further calls for a unity government similar to what was forged at Mecca and security forces built on a national basis (meaning incorporating members of both groups).
This, just possibly, could be Abbas's answer to being squeezed by Rice, who demands that he sit with Israel while there are Israeli operations against Hamas in Gaza; it could save him from his increasingly weak position. And this may suit Hamas exceedingly well right now, as well: It would gain legitimacy and see the end to the siege of Gaza. The fact that Hamas was willing to talk about a ceasefire means it, too, is hurting.
Both groups now have delegations in Yemen and will be meeting with Yemen officials separately.
Big stuff. Let's see...
It should be noted here that in a poll just taken, Ismail Haniyeh (Hamas) would beat Mahmoud Abbas (Fatah) if elections for president were held in Judea and Samaria, and Gaza, now.
Olmert is holding tight in the face of the expressed concerns of US Ambassador to Israel Richard Jones regarding building in eastern Jerusalem. I find particularly charming the Jones statement that: "It is not easy for either side to move ahead when they see the provocative behavior of the other side." Notice the fine, even handed balance that equates support for a terrorist massacre by the PA with building housing units for Jews in eastern Jerusalem.
In a statement to the press, with regard to the building of more housing units in Har Homa, Olmert said, "Everyone knows that there is no chance that the State of Israel will give up a neighborhood like... Har Homa. It is an inseparable part of Jerusalem."
To which Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat declared, "This is totally unacceptable."
Livni and Qurei were supposed to re-start peace talks today, but after Qurei heard about Olmert's remarks regarding Har Homa, he downgraded the meeting to "unofficial," saying the Palestinians would not agree to Israel adding a "single brick" to eastern Jerusalem.
John McCain is here and has been welcomed very warmly.
So is German Chancellor Angela Merkel here on an historic visit, which I'd like to discuss in some more detail tomorrow.
Also, tomorrow, if time and space allow, more on our relationship with the Arabs living in Israel.
Posting: March 17, 2008
It's hard for me to imagine that anyone who cares about Israel and sees what's going on now could avoid being at least a bit sick. Heartsick, for sure.
Let's start with a statement from the EU: "While recognizing Israel's legitimate right to self defense, the European Council calls for an immediate end to all acts of violence."
Makes a lot of sense.
What's really got the EU upset, however, is the question of settlements. A statement on this was issued after a summit of EU leaders:
"The EU reiterates that settlement building anywhere in the occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law.
"Settlement activity prejudges the outcome of final status negotiations and threatens the viability of an agreed two-state solution."
Well, there's so much wrong with this statement that it's hard to know where to start. But this provides me with an opportunity to provide some answers:
The area of Judea and Samaria is, under international law, unassigned Mandate territory. The Mandate for establishing a homeland for the Jewish people between the river and the sea (which called for encouraging close settlement of the land) has never been superseded in international law. Until such time as the area is assigned, Israeli presence is legal.
Israel is not an "occupier" in Judea and Samaria. This is a widely believed canard. "Occupation" refers to a situation in which one sovereign nation moves into the territory of another sovereign nation. This is not the case here at all.
The "territories" are not "Palestinian." The Arabs identified today as Palestinians never possessed this area. The myths are so prevalent that many people actually have some vague, and very erroneous, notion that the Palestinians "had" the land and then Israel took it away.
The land was controlled for centuries by the Ottoman Empire, and then (from 1918-1948) by the British. When the British pulled out and Israel had to defend herself in the War of Independence, the Jordanians moved into Judea and Samaria. There was never a demand by the local population that Jordan should pull out and give them the land.
In fact, the PLO specifically said in its founding charter, in 1964, that there was no claim on this land (or on Gaza as controlled by the Egyptians). The claim was against Israel within the Green Line. When Israel took over in 1967, the land was taken from the Jordanians, not the local Palestinian Arabs. It was only after Israel was in Judea and Samaria that the Palestinian Arabs decided that had a claim to this area. Please understand this clearly.
I would add that it is not so that the Arabs in Judea and Samaria were all there for centuries. Undoubtedly some families do trace their lines back that way. But many of the present "Palestinians" derive from migratory groups who entered the area in recent times -- from other Arab areas -- for purposes of grazing their animals or seeking work.
It is not the issue of settlements that is the stumbling block to peace. Yet another canard. It is the refusal of the Arab world to accept Israel's right to exist here as a Jewish state.
The assumption is being made that everything beyond the Green Line "belongs" to a future Palestinian state. That's what the Palestinians keep telling the world, and what the world has come to believe. But in point of fact, if (G-d forbid) there were to be a Palestinian state, its parameters would have to be negotiated.
The Green Line was never a border -- it was an armistice line only. When the armistice agreement was signed between Israel and Jordan (note: Jordan, not the "Palestinians"), it was written in that this armistice line would not prejudice future negotiations regarding a final border.
It was assumed that the armistice line would not be the border.
This leads us to the significant issue of Israel's right to secure borders, which has been acknowledged even by the UN Security Council. Israel frozen inside the Green Line was recognized as not having defensible borders -- with a narrow waist of some 9 miles that could be traversed no time, cutting the State in two; lack of strategic depth against enemies approaching from the east; and high land in Samaria beyond the Green Line that made us -- our major cities and our airport -- vulnerable to being shelled.
The settlements were placed in Judea and Samaria at least in part as protection in this regard. The Gush Etzion Bloc protects Jerusalem from the south east and Ma'aleh Adumim protects her from the east.
And yet, everyone seems to think a return to the Green Line is what we must accept now, surrendering our protection. And surrendering it, no less, to an entity whose population is hostile to us. That's because the international community is concerned only with Palestinian presumed rights, and no one is guarding or cares about Israel's legitimate rights.
In April 2004, President Bush wrote a letter to PM Sharon, prior to Sharon's plans to pull out of Gaza, praising him for his intentions. There were statements in that letter that Sharon claimed were a guarantee that we would be able to retain major settlement blocs in the advent of the establishment of a Palestinian state. The relevant portion of that letter, which alludes to the issue of secure borders:
"As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.
And yet, today, Bush, who was touted as our best friend ever, has totally reneged on this. Rice has explicitly made this clear on more than one occasion. We are being sold.
This is the true obstacle to peace:
Dr. Walid Al-Rashudi, head of the Department of Islamic Studies at King Saud University, Saudi Arabia, gave a lecture that was carried on Al-Aqsa TV on February 29, 2008, and has been translated by MEMRI:
"One of the important things that we must tell people is that what is going on in Palestine today is a real holocaust. This is the real holocaust. A holocaust is not the burning of 50-60 Jews in Germany or Switzerland, but the Jews continue to call it the Holocaust...
"So what are we supposed to say in the face of the Gaza holocaust? What compensation will satisfy us? By Allah, we will not be satisfied even if all the Jews are killed."
Even more, this is the true obstacle to human decency in its most essential nature.
According to the Washington Post yesterday, when Rice was here recently, and trying to get Abbas back to the negotiating table, she conferred with Egypt and then asked Olmert to make a statement: that if Hamas stopped launching rockets we would halt operations into Gaza. Craven coward that he is, he made the statement, even though it contravened what the Security Cabinet had just decided. Then Egypt was able to go to Hamas with this statement and convince them to stop.
It is no surprise to those of us who have been closely watching these events. Clearly, something was afoot. But now it has been reported.
Rice is due back here in 10 days, to push the "process" harder. This is in anticipation of Bush's arrival in May
Said one US official: "The president's visit in May is intended to take action and achieve results, and therefore, the administration is interested in seeing some progress... Bush does not intend to act like a lame duck, so something has to happen on the ground by the time of the president's visit."
Well, bully for Bush. Something "has to happen" before he comes? This is our timetable?
A meeting took place on Friday regarding implementation of the road map that was chaired by another of our enemies, US Gen. William Fraser, who is doing Rice's bidding. PA PM Fayyad attended. Amos Gilad, of the Defense Ministry, represented Israel. The PA was critical of Defense Minister Barak for not attending himself. I'm no fan of Barak's, but I salute this move, which was a deliberate snub.
My prediction hasn't changed: At the end of the day, or the end of this ridiculous process, it will be the Palestinians who will save us. Because they won't get their act together and won't agree to any compromises.
Abbas, who is very weak, has Hamas breathing down his neck and has already been charged with collaboration with the enemy; he has to deliver on all demands or he can't sign. They will find their way out of this because it doesn't suit the radical vision of our destruction they still hold on to. There will be no peace agreement because there is no peace partner.
I just pray not too much damage will be done before this day arrives. There are still reports, for example, of Egypt's attempts to arrange that ceasefire with Hamas.
The harder Bush and Rice fall on their faces in the end, with regard to their attempts to push us into something disastrous, the better I will like it.