Friday, March 14, 2014
A good week for Abbas
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas must be feeling pretty pleased with himself. In anticipation of his upcoming meeting at the White House, he needed something that would take the heat off PA rejection of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's "framework for peace."
His prayers to Allah were answered, when two events unfolded that gave him the opportunity to condemn Israel from above the fray.
The first occurred on Monday morning at the Allenby (or King Hussein) Bridge between the West Bank and Jordan. Though details of the event are not entirely clear, what has emerged so far is that 38-year-old Raed Zeiter, a Palestinian judge residing and working in Amman, was killed by Israeli soldiers at the border crossing.
According to witnesses, Zeiter charged at the soldiers with a metal pole, while shouting "Allahu akbar" ("God is great") and attempting to grab one of their weapons. When a soldier shot him in the leg, Zeiter lunged at and started strangling him. This prompted additional shooting, which led to Zeiter's death.
Though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office issued a statement of "regret" (if the incident happened the way the Israel Defense Forces recounted, there is nothing to apologize for) and "…sympathies to the people and government of Jordan" -- as well as agreeing "to a Jordanian request to establish a joint Israeli-Jordanian team to complete the investigation" -- both Jordanians and Palestinians went berserk.
Claiming that Zeiter was not only a judge, but a law-abiding married man with two children (one of whom is in a coma, no less), protesters in Jordan and the PA accused the IDF of committing cold-blooded murder.
The PA leadership, giddy at this turn of events, immediately demanded an international investigation. This is in spite of the fact that if any joint Israeli-Jordanian examination reveals wrongdoing on the part of the soldiers, the IDF will court-martial and hold them legally -- and morally -- accountable.
Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said, "The Israeli government's excuses do not justify that treacherous act."
The lower house of the Jordanian parliament announced, "What happened proved that Israel is a racist country that does not want peace."
In addition, it not only demanded the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador in Amman and the recall of the Jordanian ambassador in Israel, but passed a unanimous resolution demanding the release of Ahmed Daqamseh from jail.
Daqamseh was a soldier in the Jordanian army who opened fire on a group of Israeli middle-school girls on a class trip to the "Island of Peace," a joint Israeli-Jordanian tourist site in Naharayim, near the Jordanian border and under Jordanian rule.
The upshot of the massacre, which took place on March 13, 1997, was that seven girls were dead and six others seriously wounded. Daqamseh was tried by a Jordanian military court and sentenced to life in prison. Rather than expressing remorse, he maintains to this day that his actions were not criminal, but rather the fulfillment of his national and religious duty.
Many Jordanian officials and members of the public consider Daqamseh a hero and have been lobbying for his release. Monday's killing of Zeiter is fanning the flames of this campaign. His funeral on Tuesday in Nablus allowed Abbas to gloat from the sidelines.
The second occurrence that made Abbas' week was the flare-up in the Gaza Strip. On Tuesday, while Zeiter's corpse was being paraded around and hailed as a martyr, the IDF killed three members of the Iranian-backed terrorist group, Islamic Jihad, in Gaza. These targeted killings were undertaken after the terrorists fired a mortar bomb at Israeli troops.
To "retaliate," Islamic Jihad began to bombard southern Israel with dozens of Qassam and Grad rockets, sending civilians preparing for the Purim holiday into shelters.
The IDF response was quick and precise. Twenty-nine terror bases in Gaza were hit from the air, with no human casualties. Fear that Netanyahu meant business when he said, "If there is no quiet … for the residents of Israel, there will be … lots of noise in Gaza. And that's putting it mildly," Islamic Jihad agreed on Thursday evening to "calm things down." Still, several missiles have been launched from Gaza since then.
Abbas couldn't have written a better script for himself. Now he can fly to Washington with a new set of "moderate" credentials and a replenished supply of anti-Israel ammunition.
Ruthie Blum is the author of "To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the 'Arab Spring.'"