Thursday, January 03, 2008

A Glimmer of Light?

Arlene Kushner

I begin with the link to my report on Fatah:

Please, read it, share it, and use it broadly in writing letters to editors, writing to your Congresspersons, etc. One would have to have his head screwed on backwards or upside-down to believe we can "negotiate" with Abbas after reading this documentation.

This material is scheduled for broad dissemination, both here in Israel and in Washington DC. It's not over until this government is disbanded and we have elections with a stable, responsible government in place.

But the horror of Olmert is diminished by news I'm able to report today. A new group has founded, whose goal is to bring an end to the government.

It is called Habaytah, which means, Go Home. Its campaign will be directed at Ehud Olmert, and also (and this is key) Ehud Barak.

Headed by Maj-Gen (res) Uzi Dayan, former head of the National Security Council, the group is centrist but with participation from the right. It will focus not on the insanity of Olmert's current policies, but on his failures in the Lebanon War, his corruption, and other broad-based issues. The war is key and, relevant to this, the final Winograd report will be out within weeks. Reservists who fought in that war and bereaved families are among those participating in this action.

Just a week ago, Olmert stated he would not resign no matter what the Winograd report said.


Barak is in for his share of criticism with regard to this whole issue as well, for when he took the position of
defense minister in Olmert's government, he stated unequivocally that it would be only until the Winograd report came out. Now it will be demanded -- via a grassroots campaign -- that he keep his word, and his credibility will be questioned. If Barak's Labor party pulls out (which would likely bring Lieberman and Shas along), the government collapses.

In addition to this issue, there is a question of Barak culpability for the failures of the Lebanon war being raised, even though he wasn't defense minister when it was fought. For Barak, as prime minister in 2000, pulled out of Lebanon precipitously, setting the stage for strengthening of Hezbollah and the diminishing of IDF deterrence. Surprisingly, former defense minister Peretz, of Labor, has issued a scathing criticism of Barak.


On Monday the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, chaired by Tzachi Hanegbi, released its own report on the war. Focusing only on the military and avoiding the failures of the political echelon, it caused an angry response that has set the stage for what will follow with Winograd.


Opposition head Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud) has joined the chorus of voices calling for Barak's resignation as soon as Winograd is released. Netanyahu was also very critical of the report that ignored political culpability.


Returning for a moment to Olmert and his statements of yesterday: One of the things he said was that he anticipated one deviation from return to pre-'67 lines, and that would be with regard to Ma'aleh Adumim, which he considered to be part of Jerusalem and not really a settlement.

Established in 1975, Ma'aleh Adumim is today a city of over 30,000 directly to the east of Jerusalem by all of about 4.5 miles. Plans to extend the city so that it ultimately merged with Jerusalem (via a region referred to as E1) were tabled for political reasons, but in 2003, a new highway -- with tunnels running under Hebrew University in Mt. Scopus -- was completed, which allows the residents of Ma'aleh Adumim to reach Jerusalem in seven minutes.


I was infuriated by this statement of Olmert's because it meant he was prepared to abandon all of Gush Etzion -- with its 18 communities numbering close to 50,000 peoples and a history going back to the 1920s -- and Hevron, the second holiest city to Jews, and Shilo, and Beit El, etc. etc.

Announcing plans to hold on to nothing in Judea and Samaria but Ma'aleh Adumim seemed to me to be a minimalist position to the point of the ridiculous.


But leave it to the PA to say this position was not minimalist enough.

A PA official in Ramallah said: "Olmert must be living on another planet. Peace and settlements don't go together. If this is his policy, he can forget about finding a partner on the Palestinian side."

Personally, I think that would be great: let's forget about finding a partner.

But this statement indicates several different things worth examining.

The bottom line is that no matter how much Olmert stretches himself to "make concessions for peace," it's never going to be enough. There would seem to me to be one of two reasons why this would be the case. Either the political climate -- with Hamas breathing down Abbas's neck -- doesn't allow the PA to compromise for fear of being accused of being a traitor to the cause.


Or, the PA officials know full well that they're demanding more than Olmert can give and thus are making certain that there will be no deal, because they don't want a deal, don't want a two-state solution with end of conflict, at all -- and they're playing a game but making sure that the deal never really happens. This way they can tell the world they were willing, but Israel was not forthcoming. Thus they avoid the unacceptable situation of having to sign on to Israeli permanency while appearing in the eyes of the world to be cooperative.

The influence of Hamas may be a factor. But my take is that they don't want a deal in any terms. I ask you, if you wanted a state in all of Judea and Samaria, and were offered all of it minus one community adjacent to Jerusalem (and thus not impinging on the contiguity of your proposed state), would you not take it?


The PA official says they don't distinguish between Ma'aleh Adumim and an illegal outpost: "These are all illegal settlements that were built on occupied lands belonging to the Palestinian people."

Well, I never let these erroneous statements pass. We're talking about unclaimed, and thus disputed, Mandate land that was originally promised to the Jewish people. In no way whatsoever does this land "belong" to the Palestinians, nor is it "occupied."


While Olmert stood his ground with regard to our right to build in Har Homa, which is within Jerusalem, he has caved in other respects. He recently declared that he would be overseeing all issues pertaining to building in settlements beyond Jerusalem. Decisions will be made not according to our legal rights, but rather "not to jeopardize" the peace process. He should recognize now -- whatever he does, it won't be enough.


There is a Knesset committee that is considering some horrendous changes in the criteria for determining who has "blood on his hands" with regard to who might be released in a prisoner exchange. This has come about because of Hamas demands if Shalit is to be released, but it would set a precedent that would be very bad news indeed.

At present no decisions have been made, but among those who might not any longer be included within the category of those having blood on their hands would be:

1. Those who wounded Israelis but didn't manage to kill them.

2. Those who sent others to kill Israelis.

3. Those who actively participated in an operation killing Israelis but did not actually pull the trigger that shot a bullet that killed an Israeli.

4. Those who killed Israelis a long time ago - e.g. before Oslo.

If these definitions were adopted, those who planned suicide bombings could be released. The scuttlebutt -- for the hundredth time -- is that this is setting the scene for the release of Marwan Barghouti, who planned and set into motion a great many terrorist acts but didn't pull the trigger himself. Barghouti is being touted as a replacement for Abbas, but if the best the PA can do for leadership is a terrorist of this caliber, it tells us a great deal.

Yuval Diskin, head of Shin Bet, is opposed to these changes.


Two days ago I carried reports from a very reliable journalist -- Khaled Abu Toameh -- that the perpetrators of the terrorist killing of two off-duty soldiers outside of Hevron on Friday were associated with Fatah. Well, now it's official:

Two terrorists involved (one had been shot dead -- as the victims fought back) turned themselves in to PA security forces for fear they might be caught by the IDF. Now, what does that tell us?

PA security didn't tell Israeli authorities right away that they had the terrorists. One of them is a member of Fatah with ties to the Palestinian general intelligence, and the other is a Fatah member who belongs to the Palestinian national security forces.

Yup, that again! Terrorists who belong to the security forces. Sure they depend upon those security forces to go lightly on them.


Meanwhile, Defense Minister Barak has said we are going to watch closely to see if the PA fulfills its promise to prosecute these killers.

"These people need to rot in jail until their last days," Barak told Israel Radio.

"We will see if the Palestinian Authority is opening a revolving door for them and if so, the IDF...will know how to put our hands on them."

He's absolutely right to be wary. The revolving door is the Palestinian way of life. But, silly me, I must ask this: If we distrust them so completely, how can we consider turning anything over to them?


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