The Saudi government seems to be ever so quietly knifing the Bush administration in the back. I wrote last week about a piece by Dore Gold in which he said that the Saudis have decided to go with Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah. (This, wrote Gold, please note carefully, was because of the weak response of the West to Iran — a case in point as to why strength is important.)
It seems that at the Arab Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, last week, Saudi King Abdullah spoke of the “illegitimate foreign occupation” in Iraq. The Bush administration has expressed “surprise” over this. State Department Spokesman Sean McCormick said, “We certainly had not seen that particular phrase before coming out, talking about illegal occupation. I think it only stands to reason that we are interested in understanding better what exactly King Abdullah meant by that phrase…. We are operating under Security Council resolutions in Iraq, as well as with the invitation of the Iraqi government.”
This is a diplomatic low-key response; the Bush administration has to be furious.
And there’s more. Abdullah also criticized the US-led boycott of the PA dominated by Hamas. Said he: “In wounded Palestine, the resistant people are still suffering from oppression and occupation, deprived of their right to independence and to have a country.” Notice, please, his conflation of terrorism with resistance — his implicit support of Hamas.
So much for Rice’s plan of using a “moderate” Saudi Arabia as a linchpin in her plans for Middle East peace. The Saudis are showing their true colors. No surprise that a virulently anti-Semitic Saudi Arabia (Jews are not allowed into the country) that, having never signed an armistice agreement, is still technically at war with Israel, is not going to help make peace. The more the Saudis undercut Rice’s grandiose plans, the less should be the pressure on us.
This, on the other hand, could cause one to gag: Olmert has given an interview to Time Magazine in which he said that Israel looks “very favorably” upon the “active role” Saudi Arabia is playing in the Middle East peace process. He suggested that King Abdullah would be “very surprised” to hear his opinion of the Saudi peace plan. He called it a “very interesting approach” that reflected a “state of mind” that rejected a violent approach.
In light of what I have shared above, this is a startling position. Olmert is clearly doing his part to make Rice happy.
Giving credit where it is due, however, he gave a statement to the Post on Friday that was adamant in refusing to accept any Palestinian refugees into Israel. “It is out of the question.” Return of refugees is part of the Saudi plan.
I dearly wish that Olmert would also say that return to the pre-67 lines and sharing of Jerusalem are out of the question as well. The fact that he doesn’t makes me considerably uneasy.
More reassuring news: After a recent test by the Israel Air Force of the modified Arrow defense missile — likely the most sophisticated of its kind in the world — the head of the Missile Defense Agency, Aryeh Herzog, has declared the missile capable of successfully intercepting and destroying any ballistic missile in the Middle East including nuclear-capable missiles in Iran. “Our Arrow… can without a doubt deal with all the operational threats in the Middle East, particularly in Iran and Syria.”
A top Palestinian official has now said that Abbas agreed to meet with Olmert twice a month only to appease the Americans. Yasser Abed Rabbo, former PA information minister, says, “These meetings will be ineffective. I don’t see any point in holding [them]… “
At the same time Khaled Mashaal, head of Hamas has declared that Hamas will not stop its attacks because of participation in the unity government: “We will never give up our principles; anyone who thinks that Hamas is tired or weak is mistaken. Hamas has not stopped its military operations.”
And terrorist-posing-as-security-advisor Mohammad Dahlan has said the Palestinians want to see end-of-conflict discussions… “we don’t want talks that will focus only on the day-to-day issues here.” Translation: let’s cut the nonsense in terms of discussions that focus on our progress in complying with cessation of smuggling and reduction in terrorism and jump straight to giving us a state. This is a frequent ploy.
Lovely. In 2005, Eilat Mazar, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center’s Institute for the Archeology of the Jewish People, discovered a site with a monumental 10th century BCE building, just south of the walls of the Old City in Jerusalem, in the City of David; she claimed this was the palace of David, described in Samuel 11:5, which says King Hiram of Tyre built it for a victorious David. Now a 20 meter-long section of a 7-meter thick wall in the area has been uncovered, giving strength to her original claim. This, the largest site yet uncovered from King David’s time — and still less than a quarter of the entire wall — makes it clear that the City of David was a major government center.
Ah ha! Two Arabs have been arrested, one by the Palestinian Authority, the other by Jordon, because of their involvement in the sale to the Jewish community of a Hebron building on the road between Kiryat Arba and the Machpelah. Palestinian Authority law requires the death sentence for anyone found guilty of selling property to a Jew. This sure goes a long way towards vindicating Jewish claims that the building was purchased and not confiscated.
The murder of a prominent sheikh in Gaza city has brought to public attention a simmering feud between Hamas and an al-Qaida affiliate associated with radical Sunni Islam known as Salafism (referred to by its opponents as Wahhabism). Salafism believes in returning to the Muslim ways of the ancestors; it advocates jihad rather than political action, and promotes Shari’a (Islamic law). Adnan Manasreh, 30, who was gunned down as he left his mosque on Friday, is the third Salafi sheikh to be killed in recent months. Hamas is being fingered in this killing but a Hamas spokesman says Fatah is spreading lies about them.
Meanwhile an Internet cafe in Gaza has been blown up and a group called the Righteous Swords of Islam has claimed credit for this and several other attacks on Internet cafes.
Two Arab residents of Jerusalem have been arrested for a kidnapping plot. It was their alleged intention to kidnap and murder haredi (ultra-Orthodox) residents of Jerusalem and use their bodies (that would require proper burial) in a trade for Palestinian prisoners.
The Winograd Commission would like to delay the release of the testimonies of PM Olmert, DF Peretz and former Chief of Staff Halutz, with regard to conduct of the Lebanon war. They have a small window of opportunity for appealing to the High Court, which had ordered this in the first place.
According to Russian intelligence sources, reported by AP and The Jerusalem Post, the US has devised plans to attack several targets in Iran and may launch missiles from fighter jets and warships. The Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted a Russian security official: “Russian intelligence has information that the US Armed Forces stationed in the Persian Gulf have nearly completed preparations for a missile strike against Iranian territory.” Reportedly the US will be ready to launch an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities as early as this month.
The EU has announced expansion of its contacts with in the PA, expressing a readiness to meet with a number of “moderate” members of the PA gov’t. This is seen as a step towards the inevitable acceptance of the PA by the EU. PA Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti has said the current EU policy is welcome but indicates “discrimination” among cabinet members of the PA; he hopes this policy will change i.e., the EU will meet with everyone.
Israel has voiced distress over this new policy accordingly, saying that it is impossible to separate the ministers from the gov’t they represent. This issue will be raised with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country currently holds the rotating chairmanship of the EU. Merkel was in Jordan yesterday, where she met with King Abdullah and was urged to press Israel to negotiate; she came into Israel last night and will be meeting with Olmert today.
Yesterday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon addressed UNIFIL troops in Lebanon, and stated that Israel had provided him with “evidence and pictures” of trucks crossing from Syria to Lebanon and unloading weapons. Expressing concern that this arms smuggling will destabilize Lebanon, he called for increased monitoring capacity on the part of the Lebanese army to stop the smuggling.
I don’t know that what he says will have any effect, but this confirms my feeling that while he is naive, he is not anti-Israel. A vast improvement over his despicable predecessor.
Speaking of the situation in Lebanon…
For the first time, PM Olmert has come out with a statement with regard to Foreign Minister Livni’s responsibility for the outcome of the war in Lebanon. Focus is on him, Peretz and Halutz (as mentioned above). “I cannot understand why she is seen as not bearing any liability to the public,” lamented Olmert.
This is of more than academic significance. Livni has been campaigning quietly to be seen as the next head of Kadima, when Olmert resigns or is pushed out because of his responsibility for the war’s failures. For those of us eager to see the collapse of the current coalition, she represents a far greater threat than Olmert, as she promises to keep things together. The hope is that things will not be kept together, that former Likud members of Kadima will move back to Likud, and that a new coalition more to the right will emerge.
The fact is that Livni has enormous responsibility for the failure in Lebanon. She is the one who pushed for a “diplomatic solution” and lobbied in the government against the needed major military offensive. It was because of her that Rice and the State Department were able to argue against the White House with regard to the need to call a ceasefire — which Bush had originally opposed so that Israel would have time to take out Hezbollah. Even now it enrages me to think of this, and of the damage she did. And her “diplomatic solution,” which she continues to laud as a success? It has been a total failure as Hezbollah has re-armed and our deterrence strength has been weakened. The thought of her at the helm of the government makes me shudder. And yet, the Israeli public sees her in a more positive light than Olmert.
Please read Caroline Glick’s major piece on this very subject. Glick says that “Livni sold out Zionism for a job promotion.”