Jerusalem – It was announced last night that United States President George W. Bush will make his first official visit – while in office – to Israel and the Palestinian Authority in January.
This visit will be Mr. Bush’s first visit to Israel since he took office seven years ago. Mr. Bush visited Israel in 1998 when he was governor of Texas, when he was accompanied by then Israeli Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon.
Mr. Bush’s visit will come a little more than a month after the Annapolis Middle East Summit, where Mr. Bush declared that that he wanted to see the creation of a Palestinian state by the end of 2008 – the last year of his presidency.
Sources close to the president indicate Mr. Bush will want to gain a first hand impression of the immediate developments in this nascent Palestinian state, since the creation of the 23rd Arab state in the Arab world, would represent the legacy of President Bush.
When a president convenes international conferences near Washington, he can only review the pomp and circumstances of the public relations professionals the Palestinians parade in front of him.
Now that Bush has invested the prestige and policy of the White House behind the sponsorship of
Machmud Abbas and the Fatah as the leaders of the emerging Palestinian state, a hands-on visit may present Mr. Bush with a hands-on view of what Palestinian sovereignty means.
Some surprises may be in store for Mr. Bush: The question will be how he reacts to each of them.
1. . Abbas continues to reject the notion of a ‘Jewish state’
[ At the Annapolis Middle East Summit, Bush asked that Arab states – especially the Palestinian Authority – recognize Israel as a Jewish state]
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday reiterated his rejection of Israel’s demand to recognize it as a Jewish state.
“From a historical perspective, there are two states: Israel and Palestine. In Israel, there are Jews and others living there. This we are willing to recognize, nothing else,” Abbas told reporters before leaving for Saudi
Arabia where he met Saudi King Abdullah for talks on the results of the Annapolis conference.
Will Bush insist that Abbas recognize Israel as a Jewish State?
2. Abbas’ West Bank Rule an Optical Illusion
Mr. Bush has made it a matter of policy to hand over control of Judea and Samaria, described in the media as the “west Bank” of the Jordan River to Machmud Abbas, AKA Abu Mazen together with the Fatah organization that operates under his leadership ]
However, the respected Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a think tank run by the American born former Israeli ambassador to the US, Dr. Dore Gold, has just issued a research study which documents that ” Fatah control in the West Bank is an optical illusion. Israel’s security services are concerned at clear signs of Hamas strengthening in the West Bank”, and that “Israel has been unable to block the large flow of Hamas money to its welfare institutions, which function much better than the failed PA institutions”. The study also says “Hamas is building up its military capabilities in the West Bank. Its forces are training and building bunkers in cities like Nablus and Kalkilya, while its activists plan attacks on Israeli civilian targets…. Of additional concern are the thousands of rifles and millions of bullets that were brought in from Jordan for the Palestinian police…. It has now fallen drastically as ammunition from PA police warehouses finds its way into the hands of terrorists”
Will Mr. Bush to reconsider his policy of handing over this area to the control of Abbas and the Fatah?
3. Perscution of Christians in the Palestinian Authority may lead to their ouster
Almost unnoticed, the Palestinian Authority has fostered a new constitution, funded in part by US AID, which the former Vatican Ambassador to Israel, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, described to this reporter as “denying juridical status to Judaism and to Christianity in a Palestinian entity.” The current situation of the Christians in the Palestinian Authority reflects that reality.
“The systematic persecution of Christian Arabs living in Palestinian areas is being met with nearly total silence by the international community, human rights activists, the media and NGOs,” notes Justus Reid Weiner, an international human rights lawyer in an address at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, citing Muslim harassment and persecution as the main cause of the “acute human rights crisis” facing Christian Arabs, and predicted that unless governments or institutions step in to remedy the situation – such as with job opportunities – there will be no more Christian communities living in
the Palestinians territories within 15 years, with only a few Western Christians and top clergymen left in the area….”In a society where Arab Christians have no voice and no protection it is no surprise that they are leaving… ,” he said.
The Palestinian Christian population has dipped to 1.5 percent of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, down from at least 15% a half century ago.
No one city in the Holy Land is more indicative of the great exodus of Christians than Bethlehem, which fell under full Palestinian control in the last decade as part of the Oslo Accords. The town of 30,000 is now less than 20% Christian, after decades when Christians were the majority.
Will President Bush plead the case of Palestinian persecution of Christians with Abbas?
4. Report: Palestinians released in previous gestures killed 177 Israelis
[The US has placed ample pressure to release Palestinians convicted as accomplices in capital offenses.
Palestinian convicts, freed in past releases by Israel, were responsible for at least 30 terror attacks which claimed the lives of 177 Israelis, according to a study published yesterday by the Almagor, an organization representing the victims of Palestinian terrorism.
The report’s publication coincided with this week’s release of 429 Palestinian convicts jailed in Israeli prisons.
According to the report, 6,912 convicts were released between the years 1993 and 1999, and nearly 80 percent of them returned to terrorist activity
In light of this report, will Bush reverse pressures on Israel to release more Palestinian convicts? .
5. PA holds cop who murdered Israeli in protective custody
A fundamental policy of the Bush Administration is that the US and Israel must arm Palestinian security forces in Northern Samaria.
However, Israeli Defense Forces have confirmed the three terrorists who murdered Ido Zoldan, father of two little children, in a drive by shooting on November 19th, were Palestinian Police who used the attack weapons that had been transferred to the Authority by the US government.
Abdullah Baram and his brother Dafar, residents of the Palestinian village of Kfar Kadum in the Nablus area were detained the night after the murder near their village. They admitted planning the
attack on Zoldan
They identified their commander, who is also a Palestinian policeman, Fadi
Jama. The two said they hid the weapons that
they had used in the attack. Jama is now held by PA police.
Will Bush insist that Fadi Jama be handed over to Israel to stand trial for murder?
6. ‘Fatah, Hamas may join ranks’
[The Bush premise is that the US must arm Fatah to fight Hamas]
Khaled Abu Toameh writing on November 29th in the Jerusalem Post, confirmed Fatah has made a policy declaration it will fight alongside Hamas if and when the IDF launches a military operation in the Gaza Strip, a senior Fatah official in Gaza City said last Thursday.
“Fatah won’t remain idle in the face of an Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip,” the official said. “We will definitely fight together with Hamas against the Israeli army. It’s our duty to defend our people against the
The Fatah official said his faction would place political differences aside and form a joint front against Israel if the IDF enters the Gaza Strip. “The homeland is more important than all our differences,” he said.
Will Bush insist that Fatah cease any and all cooperation with the Hamas?
7. Al Aksa helps increased rocket and mortar fire from Gaza into Israel over past month
During the month of November, the Al Aksa Brigades of the Fatah again joined forces with the Islamic Jihad to Palestinians and fired over 300 shells at Israeli communities in the Western Negev
Will Bush issue a clear directive to Fatah to cease and desist from shelling the Western Negev.?
8. Al-Aksa Brigades leader refuses to meet Dayton to discuss Palestinian
According to Ma’an, a reliable and independent on a Palestinian news agency, -a prominent leader from the Al-Aqsa Brigades, the military wing of Fatah, told Ma’an’s reporter on Thursday that he refused to
meet with the US Security Advisor General Keith Dayton to discuss the issue of Palestinians in Nablus, who are ‘wanted’ by Israel.
Dayton paid a surprise visit to Nablus earlier in November to monitor the implementation of a security plan that included a deployment of 300 Palestinian Authority security service members to the volatile city. The Palestinian Authority recently announced that the plan was progressing
successfully and they said that Palestinian police will take control of security operations in other West Bank districts.
Since the Al Aksa Brigades of the Fatah is defined by US law as an illegal terrorist group, will President Bush insist that American government personnel relate to the Al Aksa Brigades as such?
9. Bush: Help civilian infrastructure
The most emphatic statement made by Bush and other world leaders in attendance at Annapolis was that all nations would provide aid to the civilian infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority.
A civilian agency that clamors for aid in the PA is the Palestinian school system
However, the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education, warn that the new Palestinian curriculum, posted at www.edume.org released the results of its recent study of the new Palestinian texts for the 11th and 12th grades. The publication of these school books was financed by charitable donations of fourteen donor nations.
The institute’s disturbing findings were that new Palestinian school books include the following themes:
* Jews are represented as foreigners without rights in the land. There are no Jewish holy places. For example, Rachel’s tomb is alluded to as “Bilal bin Rabbah Mosque.”
* Palestinians are seen as the only legitimate inhabitants of the land, descended from the Canaanites and Jebusites, who are said (without genuine historical justification) to be Arabs.
* When information is given about the inhabitants of the land, the Jews are excluded.
* Israel is not recognized as a legitimate state. Israel is instead portrayed as a Zionist, imperialist, western, racist usurper.
* Israel is omitted from all the Palestinian political maps. When Israel must be alluded to, alternative terms are used, such as “pre-194 lands.” For example, Modern History of Palestine, Grade 11, 2006, says “The green line is an imaginary line separating land occupied before 1967 and land occupied after.”
* Palestine is presented as an existing sovereign state, established in 1988.
* Jews are demonized, seen as a hostile enemy, and the source of all evils in Palestinian society, e.g., cause of drug addiction. Twenty-five alleged crimes against the Palestinians are enumerated.
* Individual Jews are never mentioned, so the humanity of the Jews is lost.
* The fabricated, anti-Semitic “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” was represented in a text as factual. When representatives of Belgium, which underwrote production of this book, were informed, they protested and a new version of the book, omitting the “Protocols” was published. However, the old version is still available in PA book stores and there is no evidence that the new version is actually in use in the schools.
* The textbooks contain praise of jihad and martyrdom. Terrorism is not openly advocated but its acceptance is implicit. Armed groups are celebrated.
The question remains: Will President Bush insist that Abbas scrap this curriculum as a gesture to peace?
©The Bulletin 2007