Posting: August 2, 2007
It’s hot air, all right. Foul hot air, but air none the less. Consider all of the following:
Abbas, who cannot get his act together and couldn’t run a nation if it were handed to him on a silver platter, has told Condoleezza Rice that he is prepared to issue a “declaration of principles” jointly with Olmert.
“Declaration of principles.” Apparently this is supposed to mean outlining “the contours of a future Palestinian state, ” without taking on the hot issues such as final borders and the refugees. So precisely which “contours” are being referred to here?
And there’s more: Abbas assured Rice that, “We are continuing our efforts to improve the security situation.”
This is really really hot air.
Let me tell you how Abbas is improving the security situation. Remember the roughly 180 Fatah Al Aksa Brigades members to whom we had agreed to grant amnesty (i.e., refrain from pursuing)? They were supposed to sign agreements to renounce terrorism and hand in their weapons. But now it turns out that some 50% of them haven’t turned in their guns. (I bet no one reading this is surprised.)
The PA had wanted to enlarge the list by another 206 people, but Israel is saying that right now there’s nothing doing. And an Al Aksa representative is talking about having no obligation to keep the peace if that list isn’t enlarged.
You can see where this is going, and it will be all our fault, won’t it?
Saudi Arabia ‘s much vaunted willingness to attend a Bush-inspired peace conference was actually a tad qualified: Only if it is to discuss matters of substance and not just be a talking shop. Said Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal: “Should we get an invitation to attend the conference we will look at it very closely and very hard.”
Additionally, the prince said the kingdom was “astounded” by US criticism of its Iraq policies.
“Astounded,” is it? Astounded perhaps that someone had the nerve to criticize them?
Then we might look at a statement put out by Olmert’s office, saying that he has paid close attention to the statements of Prince Saud, and that he “shares the same approach, that the International Meeting will be serious and meaningful… “
Well, that’s not quite what the prince said, was it? But how nice of our prime minister to agree with the Saudi foreign minister. Sort of.
I might go on in this vein almost indefinitely. My point, simply, is that a lot appears to be happening, but that not much is. Rice may stand on her head in her efforts to bring a Palestinian state into being, but it does not mean it will happen. (This is my note of hope, even as I think we must continue to oppose her strenuously.)
My own vote for the hottest hot air would go to everyone who refers to the PA as moderate. A recent survey has revealed that Palestinians are more radical than Muslims from Kuwait, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco or Lebanon. Amongst these other groups, less then 10% of the population (in some instances a little as 2% or 3%) think that “suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets are often justified in order to defend Islam from its enemies.” Among Palestinians, 41% think so.
Posting: August 1, 2007
“Snake in the Grass”
When it comes to twisting arms, Condoleezza Rice is a world champion, and right now she’s on a roll. In Saudi Arabia, at the beginning of her current Middle East tour, she managed, after all, to get the ruling regime to say they would participate in the US-inspired peace conference in the fall.
Rice and Secretary of Defense Gates, who is traveling with her, then made a showing at Sharm el-Sheikh for a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Gulf Co-operation Council. At the press conference at the end of the meeting, she participated in a joint communiqué with Egypt, Jordan and six Persian Gulf states that recognized the Arab initiative as one of the foundations for Middle East peace.
Her duplicity is breathtaking. The Arab initiative calls for return to pre-67 borders, return of “refugees” to Israel, and a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. She would gladly sell us down the river if she imagined this would motivate the Arabs to help extricate the US from Iraq.
Currently she’s here, and meeting with various officials. More arm-twisting. Her goal while in Israel is to get Olmert to make more concessions to “strengthen” Abbas and advance “peace.” Or, as one official put it, to move “to the next level,” which, we’ve been told, means that Washington is eager to “expand the range of things discussed” between Olmert and Abbas.
Explained an Israeli official, “They’re more than testing the waters. The Americans are trying to see how much they can expand the envelope of ‘political horizon.'”
Not surprisingly, the US government has been very pleased with recent Israeli government indications of a willingness to pull out of major parts of Judea and Samaria. Now it’s a question of just how far Olmert will go.
I’m waiting, and will wait a very long time, for balanced arm-twisting, with Rice insisting that Abbas has to really dismantle the terrorist infrastructure and stop incitement.
Said President Shimon Peres today: “When Condoleezza Rice arrives in the region she brings hope and freshness, this time more than ever.” He declared that because of Rice we are now closer to peace with the Palestinians than ever.
If this weren’t so terribly pathetic, it would be funny. A quintessential “alternate universe” statement that shows total lack of awareness of what’s happening on the ground. When Rice arrives in the region, my blood pressure goes up several points.
Remember all of the material and data that Hamas seized from Fatah in Gaza when they took over? It was inevitable that this would be used to weaken Fatah, and, while it has taken time, indeed, the process is under way.
Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar has just released to the Arabic press evidence of the corruption of the PA under Fatah. There will be more to follow, but the documents released now primarily show bribes, payoffs and similar improper use of funds authorized by Yasser Arafat from 1994 – 2004. There was $40,000 given to a Fatah official for his son’s wedding, artwork worth $66,000 given to someone in Paris, etc.
Most damning for the current situation is that fact that some of these “improprieties” took place while Salaam Fayad, currently PA prime minister, was serving as finance minister under Arafat. Fayad is routinely touted as the cleanest of the PA officials.
Fatah offered two defenses. First, they claimed that the documents were forged. But Arab journalists who were permitted to exam the documents indicated that they seemed quite legitimate, as, I am quite sure they are.
Then a Fatah spokesman charged Hamas with not being able to account for monies it had received. This is a case of the pot calling the kettle black, if ever there was one. Even if Hamas is guilty of corruption (and all indications are that Hamas is considerably less corrupt than Fatah), this does not remotely absolve Fatah.
What I’m interested in is how the international community will continue to justify support for a Fatah-run PA in the face of such documentation. This, most certainly, is just the beginning.
~~~~~~~~~~ Posting: July 31, 2007
According to Al-Hayat in London, which cited an Israeli “senior government source,” Olmert and Abbas have set up a secret channel for discussing final status issues. These include establishment of an independent Palestinian state, the refugee issue, the question of settlements and the future of Jerusalem, although — according to the report — there have been no breakthroughs.
Olmert’s office is denying this. But I have picked up similar inklings from another source and I consider this within the realm of possibility. Those of us who have been monitoring Olmert are aware that he is focused on this: a desire to give away part of the land. He came into office speaking of “realignment,” which was to be the Judea-Samaria version of the Gaza disengagement. When that didn’t play because of the political situation, he pulled back temporarily. Now, with “peace talk” in the air, he may believe he has the opportunity to give our land to the Palestinians more directly.
After considerable publicity about Olmert’s possible readiness to allow Jordanian regular army forces from the Badr Brigade — which consists of Bedouins with experience in fighting terrorists — into Judea and Samaria to help the PA, Jordan has responded: Nothing doing.
Said a Jordanian spokesman: “To discuss such a notion is shooting down Palestinian aspirations of independent statehood and implies that the Palestinians aren’t capable of taking responsibility for their own security. We aren’t contemplating anything like that.”
Translation: We have no intention of getting involved at this level now.
Round and round we go… But there’s no clarity, no sense of anything really happening (because in truth nothing is happening):
The Arab states — which had presumably been promoting “peace” via the Arab League initiative (from which the Saudis have since withdrawn) — are now saying that they’re not terribly enthusiastic about Bush’s plans for a peace conference. Such an effort, they are saying, should be “all-inclusive,” meaning that it should work on peace between Syria and Israel at the same time. A new wrinkle.
When the Arab governments met in Cairo on Monday to discuss their response to Bush’s proposed conference, representatives of Syria stormed out, angry that fellow Arabs would even discuss it. It would, they said, “liquidate the Palestinian cause.”
So much for that. Let’s hope.
A number of terrorist Palestinian groups — most notably the Palestinian Resistance Committees — have expressed fury with PA Prime Minister Fayad for dropping the term “armed struggle” (mukawama) from his newly announced platform. One PRC representative, Abu Abir, said they would target Fayad and “his treacherous gang.”
“We will target them in the field the same way we attack Israel. We promise to put an end to all the American-backed Palestinian personalities in the near future because of their decision to side with the Israeli enemy.”
And so, guess what?
When Fayad was at the Arab League meeting in Cairo on Monday, he held a press conference and further explained his stand: Palestinians have a right to resist the “occupation” even if the word mukawama didn’t appear in his platform (for semantic reasons and because of the possibility of misunderstandings): “What is the essence of resistance, especially in light of the current occupation? Does it not begin with all possible efforts to strengthen the permanence of the Palestinian citizens on their land? That is precisely the government’s agenda.”
Oh. Right. That was a close one for Fayad.
Word came out from the Lebanese paper An-Nahar the other day that one of the two Israeli soldiers being held by Hezbollah is dead. This information reportedly came from Germans who had been in touch with Christian Lebanese Michael Aoun, an ally of Hezbollah.
Israel is not giving this undocumented report credibility. In truth, we just don’t know.
It would seem that Bush has made pretty much of a mess of things with his latest diplomatic gambit. Over the weekend the US announced that it is planning to sell Saudi Arabia $20 billion in advanced weapons systems, including JDAMs that turn regular bombs into “smart” bombs, which present a potential strategic threat to Israel.
He is doing this to secure Saudi cooperation in Iraq. But it seems fairly short-sighted (exceedingly myopic?) to establish such a policy made in the expectation of an alliance with the Saudis. Of late, they promoted the unity government in Mecca, favoring Hamas; then they withdrew support for the Arab League peace initiative, instead pushing renewed negotiations between Fatah and Hamas, something that the US solidly opposes.
Far more significantly, Saudi Arabia — home of radical fundamentalist, virulently anti-Shiite Islamic Wahhabism — is directly connected to terrorism in Iraq. Saudi Arabia has permitted Sunni radicals to cross into Iraq, and has provided funding for them; Wahhabi clerics have encouraged them. The New York Times reports that “Of an estimated 60 to 80 foreign fighters who enter Iraq each month, American military and intelligence officials say that nearly half are coming from Saudi Arabia.”
And Bush has failed to notice this?
Addressing the issue of how the American government views the Saudis, Stephen Schwartz, a senior policy analyst with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, writes, “The (Saudi) kingdom is an unwavering nerve center of ideological indoctrination, incitement, and terrorist financing… Washington needs to end its delusion that the Saudi royal family is a moderating force…
“… Saudi Arabia has never been subjugated by the West, instead it has only been cuddled and bribed to ridiculous extremes. And in turn the West has received a torrent of violence and hateful venom.”
Resistance to this sale has been stiffer than Bush had anticipated, for the prospect of increased risk to Israel does not sit well here in Jerusalem or among supporters of Israel in Congress; there is no adequate Israeli defense for these “smart” bombs.
In an attempt to sweeten the situation, the US has announced an increase in military aid to Israel, from $2.4 to $3 billion annually. Along with this came promises of continuing US commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge and guarantees that limits would be put on the Saudis regarding use of their equipment (“restrictions on the range, size and location of the satellite-guided bombs,” including a commitment not to store the weapons at air bases close to Israeli territory).
Whether the US is truly committed to Israel’s qualitative edge remains to be seen. Israel’s request to buy the US’s most sophisticated stealth bomber has been denied.
As to restrictions on the use of the equipment, a report today indicated that this may make it more difficult for Condoleezza Rice to get the Saudis to cooperate publicly with supporting the Israeli-Palestinian process. Is this not unreal?
Reps. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) and Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) have announced that they will introduce a joint resolution to block the deal when Congress is formally notified. Said Weiner, “The reputation of the Saudis has taken quite a beating since 9/11, and despite the fact that the administration has done everything to portray them as part of the moderate Arab world, members of Congress of both parties are increasingly skeptical.”
A Palestinian Arab was caught at a checkpoint (yup! one of those checkpoints again) near Shechem with 22 pounds of explosives.
This is an interesting news item: The Prison Service has decided to cancel matriculation exams for Palestinian Arabs in Israeli prisons. Seems there have been several incidents in which Arabs brought in to administer the tests attempted to bring letters to, or accept letters from, the prisoners.
Matriculation exams for Palestinians in Israeli prisons?
~~~~~~~~~~ Posting: July 29, 2007
Narrative is the politically correct buzz word these days: There’s your narrative (version of events) and there’s mine. No absolute truth. No documented history. One narrative is to be respected as much as another, is as valid as another.
This take has generated much difficulty for Israel. For our truth has gotten lost in a revisionist, relativist take on matters. As Assaf Wohl wrote recently in YNet, “For some reason, whenever I hear the word ‘narrative’ I immediately sense the stench of lies tickling my Jewish nostrils. I found this word too often in articles written by those ‘new historians,’ who in order to advance their anti-Israeli and post-Zionist ideas invented the term ‘narrative.'”
And unfortunately we have not been forceful enough in responding and defending our position. In fact, the opposite seems to be occurring. There is a current dispute in Israel about the fact that the concept of Nakba (catastrophe) is to be introduced into textbooks in Israel for the Arab populace: While Jews were celebrating their Independence, the Arabs marked this day as the Nakba, it explains. The argument being advanced is that this dovetails with the version of events the students are being taught in their homes and mosques, confirming their reality as one narrative — although not the Jewish narrative. But their “reality” is distorted and it perhaps falls to the schools in particular to present the facts.
The concept of “narrative” is also at the forefront of an article that ran today in The New York Times. It describes a letter sent by “several dozen evangelical clergy and activists” to President Bush, urging him to promote a two-state solution. Only then could “justice” be done, you see, for, according to this letter, both Israelis and Palestinians have rights to the Land going back “millennium.”
But this simply is not true. And, as always, it is important for us to speak out forcefully in defense of the truth. Arabs are latecomers to the Land, and never had a nation in the area known as Palestine. Only the Jews did: the Land is a Jewish heritage. In fact, the very areas that are being claimed by the Arabs now — eastern Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria — represent the true heart of our Jewish presence here. Anyone who takes the time to tour this area (and I urge everyone to do so!) comes away impressed with the evidence of that presence. If justice is truly to be done on this issue, it means acknowledgement of our rights to this Land. The notion that “justice” requires a balance between competing positions is a fallacious one.
I will add here that there is considerable evidence for the fact that many so-called Palestinians moved into Palestine within the early part of the 20th century, from places such as Syria, having come as migrants seeking work when the Jews began to develop the land.
For further information I invite you to visit the “Background Information” page of my website, where you can access information both on ancient and modern history in this land.
It should be noted that these evangelicals do not represent the mainstream position of evangelical Christians with regard to Israel, even if the Times saw fit to give their letter major play. Protests have come from several quarters. John Hagee’s group, Christians United for Israel, is planning on sending its own letter to Bush to refute the earlier letter; Hagee’s letter will say that the claim that Palestinians have an historical connection to Israel is “absolutely incorrect.” Hagee is on the mark.
In a briefing done for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Dan Diker visits this same issue of narrative and how we’ve fallen on our faces with regard to defending our positions. In writing about “Why Israel Must Now Move from a Concessions-Based Diplomacy to Rights-Based Diplomacy,” Diker explains:
In spite of generous territorial concessions, Israel is not receiving international support, but, instead, faces an increased challenge internationally to her existence. This is happening because with Oslo Israeli diplomacy was focused on helping the Palestinians achieve what they — the Palestinians — claimed were their “legitimate rights.” This was a tacit recognition of the Palestinian narrative — accepted in the hope that this position of granting concessions would lead to peace. But in the process, the Israeli narrative was lost.
We spent painful years pretending that the Palestinians had “rights” that they don’t have. And as we failed to defend the rights we do have, the world forgot about them. The world? Our own head of state. Diker presents the following example among many.
In June, the Guardian ran opposing op-eds by Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian Prime Minster Haniyeh.
Haniyeh spoke of rights: “My people will… remain rooted in their land, whatever the price, and pursue their legitimate right to resist the occupation.” Their land. Their legitimate right.
All Olmert did was lament the poor response Israel was receiving from the Palestinians with regard to concessions made: “In the face of concessions that have threatened our own domestic consensus, the constant refrain has been the Palestinian refusal to end its violent attacks on our citizens.” In spite of this, Olmert concluded with a restatement of his position that “Israel is prepared to make painful concessions to pay the price for a lasting and just peace that will allow the people of the Middle East to live in dignity and security.”
It’s all about what we will give. No refutation of Palestinian claims and no statement of our own rights. This is a serious, serious business.
See the entire briefing at: