Tuesday, March 03, 2009

"Everything's Relative"

Arlene Kushner

Perfection we're not about to get. Not at home, not internationally. And so, whatever we hope for, pray for, we have to examine the possibilities, and what the best we can expect is.

To that end, domestically, whatever my frustration and disappointment with Netanyahu, I would far prefer him to Livni. He speaks of retaining a hefty percentage of Judea and Samaria, and limiting a Palestinian entity so that it has no army, no control of its airspace, and no ability to make treaties. She devotes herself to a "two-state solution." And so, as things stand, it could be a lot worse. What I want to focus on today is this perspective with respect to the international scene. In particular, with regard to Hillary Clinton, who's due here tomorrow.

Hillary has never been a favorite of mine. I have not forgotten that she kissed Suha Arafat, who had just included a blood libel against us in a speech, and that she announced in favor of a Palestinian state before Bill did.

But I, at least at this point, feel more kindly disposed to her than I did to her predecessor, Condoleezza. (Maybe I just need to wait a while.) Rice dragged down her boss, Bush. But Clinton is much more on the mark than Obama is ever likely to be. What is more, she is head and shoulders above Samantha Power in the National Security Council, with whom she is already engaged in a turf war.

In short, within the current Obama administration, she is about as good as it's likely to get. It seems clear as day by now that we're facing some real enemies there.


Barry Rubin, writing about Hillary today, says that she doesn't accept the myths that many in Washington embrace. She knows that:

[] The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the fulcrum of the Middle East, and its solution will not make all other regional problems disappear.

[] The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not easily solved by pressure, the perfect plan or hard work.

[] A very large and decisive portion of the blame for the continued conflict rests with the Palestinians.

[] Bringing Hamas into the negotiating process is a mistake that would doom any chance for peace and might bring down the PA.

Additionally, Hillary is reported to have said in a private meeting today with the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates that she doubted Iran was going to respond favorably to Obama's interest in dialogue.

And so, this is a real and significant start.


Does this mean that everything will be sweetness and light, and we will work easily with her on all matters? Absolutely not. She's going to push us, as she is eager to prove her leverage is substantial and to score points that will keep her relevant within the administration.

As Rubin puts it, "...no matter skeptical Clinton is of the chances for progress [in negotiations with the Palestinians], she want to make it appear that she is actively engaged and making progress...She wants Israel to make her look good." (Note, this is about power politics, not about what's good for the US, Israel, or the Western world.)

Thus there are going to be bones of contention with her, with regard to settlements, and Gaza (re-opening crossings, establishing a cease-fire, and dealing with humanitarian problems).


Today Secretary Clinton was in Sharm el-Sheikh, joining representatives of some 80 nations who met to discuss assistance for Gaza reconstruction efforts.

And already she made her pitch for concentrated involvement in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "We cannot afford more setbacks or delays," she declared. "The United States is committed to a comprehensive peace." Sigh...

The US contribution is to be $900 million. Reportedly $300 million is for humanitarian aid, with the avenue(s) for distributing this still vague. That Hamas should not benefit is understood but it is questionable if money can be kept out of their hands. UNRWA, mentioned as a conduit, is hardly legit in this respect.

The other $600 million would go for development aid to the PA. "We have worked with the Palestinian Authority to install safeguards that will ensure our funding is only used where and for whom it is intended and does not end up in the wrong hands," she assured those gathered. And I say, yea, sure.


The international donors at the conference pledged $4.48 billion for Gaza and the Palestinian Authority, to be paid out over the next two years. There are, however, some very serious issues to be raised with regard to this notion of international reconstruction -- even aside from the question of who is in charge of the rebuilding.

The international community is acting as if the destruction in Gaza is a thing of the past, and reconstruction can proceed apace. A big mistake. Several times now Netanyahu has raised this issue with foreign leaders: Why put money into Gaza reconstruction when the rockets are still being launched? And indeed they are being launched, with considerable frequency and power. The military response the terrorist groups face from the IDF in the future is still an unknown.


There is still much potential flux with regard to the formation of the government coalition. Barak has decided he would like to come aboard, but large parts of the Labor party are bucking him. Livni is definitely out, but Mofaz and others remain restive.


Attorney General Mazuz is indicating likelihood that he will indict PM Olmert in the Talansky affair. There are several charges: fraud, breach of trust and receiving illicit perquisites. More to follow on this, hopefully.


"Puzzled in Gaza," by British journalist Yvonne Green, is a fascinating piece that should be widely circulated.

Green, wanting to see the destruction for herself, went into Gaza, and moved about accompanied by a Palestinian guide. She saw evidence of pinpoint strikes on Hamas infrastructure, and much that was undisturbed:

"THE GAZA I saw was societally intact. There were no homeless, walking wounded, hungry or underdressed people. The streets were busy, shops were hung with embroidered dresses and gigantic cooking pots, the markets were full of fresh meat and beautiful produce - the red radishes were bigger than grapefruits. Mothers accompanied by a 13-year-old boy told me they were bored of leaving home to sit on rubble all day to tell the press how they'd survived..."


see my website www.ArlenefromIsrael.info.

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