Sunday, January 24, 2010
Because of the growing anarchy -- the chaos and violence in the streets --- occurring in Haiti, the UN has asked Israel to send a contingent of police. And so, 100 armed Israeli police officers will be joining a peace-keeping mission there.
You can believe this. It is real news. Only unbelievable in the ironic sense of the word. Hamas West Bank representative, Aziz Dwaik, met yesterday in Hevron with influential UK millionaire David Martin Abrahams. In the course of the meeting, which was covered by Khaled Abu Toameh, Dwaik said that Hamas has accepted Israel's right to exist and would be prepared to nullify its charter calling for Israel's destruction.
Now this is unbelievable in a literal sense. Anyone who is familiar with Hamas ideology, and who realizes that even the PLO and Fatah have not removed calls for Israel's destruction from their respective charters, would have trouble swallowing this.
Dwaik sits in a different climate, in the "West Bank." It's different from Gaza, where Ismail Haniyeh -- senior Hamas political leader recognized in Gaza as prime minister -- sits, and from Damascus, where Khaled Mashaal --Hamas politburo head in exile -- maintains his office. How much this affects the apparent moderation of what he said is difficult to determine. He is in touch with both Haniyeh and Mashaal, but did not explicitly say he was speaking on their behalf. What he did say is that both men have made statements agreeing to a Palestinian state within '67 lines.
This is a dangerous ploy, for while I consider what Dwaik said to be unbelievable, and so will many of you, there are those willing to accept his word, and that of Haniyeh, and Mashaal. Dwaik's statement can be seen, as Abu Toameh pointed out, within the context of Hamas attempts to gain international recognition. And there are those, particularly within the EU, who may swallow this whole -- eager to see the problems in this part of the world miraculously resolved.
Dwaik, I will assume, understood whom he was addressing, for Abrahams is one of those eager to believe. This is what he said:
"The fact that there is a possibility for recognition of Israel is a symbolic gesture. We can all look for good in people, and can all look for bad in people. I always look for the good.
"People might say that I'm naive, so let them. But I'm prepared to give them a chance because I've got faith in Dwaik and Haniyeh, We cannot allow 1.5 million to be festering in the Gaza Strip while the majority of them are good and well educated."
Oi vey. The thinking represented here (also unbelievable) is what has gotten the world into so much trouble. The refusal to grapple with unpalatable truths -- to understand that there is evil that must be named evil. The eagerness to try, with blinders on, to transform what should be into reality that is.
Before someone from the UK comes knocking on our door, telling us that Abrahams has said that Hamas leaders have moderated, and we should start talking to them, allow me to point out that recognition of Israel is never "symbolic." It is a very very real issue, and the recognition must extend to us as a Jewish state. I am quite safe in assuming neither Haniyeh nor Mashaal has ever offered this.
Is Abraham's desire to help the people in Gaza dependent upon his perception of them as "good and well educated"? Would he be less eager to help if they were illiterate?
You have, undoubtedly, noted the connect: because he wants to rescue them from their plight, he "trusts" Haniyeh. Unfortunately, he shies away from the fact that Haniyeh has major responsibility for the situation that the Gazans find themselves in. (That would require him to think bad of someone.)
The issues raised here extend far beyond what Abrahams, as one individual, neglects to recognize with regard to Hamas. Regrettably, his thinking is typical of a far broader mindset.
I recommend a briefing for the Global Law Forum of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, by Justus Reid Weiner and Dimitri Teresh. What they address is Amnesty International's predilection for "Forgetting the Real Culprits in Gaza." Amnesty International, of course, points its finger at us, without due attention to our rights under international law (for example, our right to close our own border) or Hamas's embrace of violence.
This merits a read, as well, in order to gain a more accurate picture of life in Gaza, which is not the horror it is routinely represented as being.
Jibril Rajoub, deputy-head of the Central Committee of Fatah, and former head of the PA security apparatus in the West Bank, has given an interview to a Tunisian newspaper. In this interview, he charges that when Fatah was negotiating reconciliation with Hamas, several American officials threatened that the US would boycott Fatah and the PA, should that unity with Hamas be achieved.
As there is no outside corroboration, I cannot attest to the accuracy of this charge, but found it significant enough to share here.
Do the Americans understand what is at the heart of Hamas well enough to recognize that its joining with Fatah would further undermine and not enhance chances (already close to non-existent) for peace? Perhaps. It's an interesting concept to ponder.
My own take, however, is different. If this is true, I would suggest that it has to do with the Dayton-trained forces. The US is investing millions, as well as putting its prestige on the line, in training PA security forces under the direction of US Lt.-General Keith Dayton. These PA/Fatah security forces are supposed to combat Hamas. What happens if Fatah joins with the very group it is supposed to fight? It makes the brains in Washington who dreamed up this idea look like total idiots, and it represents a loss in terms of money and effort. I can see that the specter of this happening might move some US officials to make threats. There is no clue as to which "officials" were allegedly involved, and it is not clear as to whether Rajoub is suggesting their threats were official or off-the-record.
Egypt has been central to negotiating efforts to bring reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, but in recent weeks Hamas-Egyptian tensions have flared considerably.
There has been a built-in tension for some time, that was long kept on a back burner, because Egyptian interests are complex: There is enormous enmity between Egypt, which is Sunni, and Shia Iran (whose influence Egypt fears). And Iran backs Hamas. For a long time Egypt was more content than not because Hamas was making difficulty for Israel. For Egypt also has great enmity for Israel.
Now the tensions with Hamas have erupted. What receives little press when there is talk about an Israeli blockade of Gaza is the fact that there is a crossing between Egypt and Gaza, as well, at Rafah -- with Egypt disinclined to permit free movement there. In fact, Egypt has been so concerned about a Hamas presence undermining Egyptian stability that a decision was made to install an impermeable steel fence at the border with Gaza, a fence that would go underground (but in fact not as deeply into the ground as the more serious of the tunnels). Earlier this month, violence erupted at the border, with one Egyptian soldier killed -- when Egypt refused to allow into Gaza "peace activists."
George Mitchell met with Barak for two hours this morning with regard to security issues and restarting "peace" negotiations. The release from the Defense Ministry said nothing of consequence. Mitchell is scheduled to meet with Netanyahu and then Abbas, this evening and tomorrow morning.
Reportedly, Mitchell is carrying to Netanyahu the request from Abbas for a total short term freeze. I hope and trust that I will be able to report that this request was summarily rejected, and that no other concessions were offered. To make any concession would be absolutely the most unwise of steps for Netanyahu to take, and I'm betting he knows it.
More significant, it seems to me, is that Obama may be starting to back down. He has given an interview to Time Magazine, in which he said that his administration had overestimated the possibility of getting Israel and the PA to re-start negotiations.
"Both sides — the Israelis and the Palestinians — have found that the political environment, the nature of their coalitions or the divisions within their societies, were such that it was very hard for them to start engaging in a meaningful conversation. And I think that we overestimated our ability to persuade them to do so when their politics ran contrary to that."
Obama, admitting that expectations were too high, instead of insisting that we must proceed starting yesterday. How about this!
What is more, according to French sources, in an interview with Al-Sharq Al-Awsat in London, Mitchell will not be providing Abbas with guarantees regarding pressure on Israel to freeze all building. According to this report, there seems more concern about what Israel will accept than we've seen before.
According to once source cited: "Washington cannot provide guarantees if it is unsure Israel will accept them, especially on the issue of Jerusalem."
Ending on a light note: A 17 year old boy praying with tfillin -- phylacteries -- on a US Airways flight that had left from LaGuardia (NY) and was bound for Kentucky, caused the plane to be aborted in Philadelphia. The tfillin consist of two leather boxes containing parchments with biblical passages that are strapped to the head and the arm during weekday prayers. The boy tried to explain to the crew members, who were alarmed about the possibility that the boy was sporting bombs on his body during prayer. The pilot thought better of continuing the flight.
Seems some airline crew education is in order.
see my website www.ArlenefromIsrael.info