Thursday, March 12, 2009

"Standing Strong"

Arlene Kushner

I cannot let the Freeman incident pass without an additional comment:

I have picked up some observations that Jews should perhaps have stayed out of the fray with regard to appointing Freeman to a sensitive US intelligence post. Because, those making these observations say, look at the anti-Semitism that will now be aroused, look how the anti-Semites have been given a hook: that Jews control the government. (Which was Freeman's charge.) ut I would disagree. Anti-Semites will find reasons to attack if they choose. It is important for Jews to be able to voice legitimate concern without fear. And not only was this legitimate -- the issues regarding Freeman far transcend his antipathy to Israel.


Egypt, which is mediating talks between Palestinian factions in an effort to forge a unity government, has told these factions -- primarily Fatah and Hamas, but including other smaller groups -- that they need to complete an agreement in power sharing for a government by the end of the week. Egypt believes this government must be formulated before reconstruction of Gaza can begin in earnest.

There are, however, major stumbling blocks on the way to forging the government.

One is the treatment of members of Hamas by the PA in Judea and Samaria. A Hamas official has revealed that in the last few days PA security forces have arrested 38 Palestinians on charges of belonging to Hamas. All in all the PA is holding over 400 Hamas-affiliated persons in prison without trial. Hamas, infuriated, has said talks will fail unless all detainees are released and the PA stops pursuing members of Hamas


This is a fascinating scenario. For, until very recently, this is what the PA was supposed to be doing, and had been trained to do with US support. Hamas members were the bad guys, and Fatah, fashioned as the good guys, were supposed to keep them down.

But now, the magical formula calls for a unity government in which all factions are supposed to be good guys. It's a very rapid 180 degree turn-around.

The problem is that, whatever Fatah is or is not, Hamas does not consist of good guys. And who is to say (I've picking up nothing on this) what Hamas might be planning inside Judea and Samaria to weaken Fatah or attack Israelis. One Hamas charge is that some of the people picked up by the PA forces just came out of Israeli prisons -- names are mentioned, four from the Nablus area and four from the Hevron area. The accusation is that Fatah is working at the bidding of Israel. Interesting...


Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman had made the suggestion at the beginning of negotiations that a cabinet be formed of independent experts who are not party-affiliated at all. This has been rejected roundly.

Each group wants the upper hand in the formation of the government. A PA officials says that, according to the PA constitution, only Abbas, as president, has the authority to appoint a prime minister and other ministers.

Hamas disputes this, arguing that as Hamas won the majority in the legislature in the last elections it should select the prime minister.

Please, do not hold your breath waiting for a satisfactory and stable resolution here.


What I notice is that Hamas is not challenging Abbas in his position as president. If you remember, Hamas had said his term ended in January, as he had served four years, while Abbas claimed that he had another year in order to have presidential and legislative elections at the same time.

And I note here that Salam Fayyad -- who was appointed prime minister by Abbas in lieu of Ismail Haniyeh after Hamas took over Gaza and the two factions split -- has submitted his resignation for the end of March, to make way for a unity government.

Fayyad, who belongs to neither party, is the favorite of the Western world.


Another stumbling block to forming a Palestinian unity government that would facilitate Gaza construction is Secretary Clinton's reiteration the other day of the US insistence that there cannot be dealings with Hamas unless it recognizes Israel, renounces terrorism, and accepts previous PA-Israeli agreements.

This is simply not going to happen. Hamas will not renounce terrorism and accept the principles of Oslo. The question is whether the US will stand strong on these demands or find ways to look the other way in order to proceed with Gaza reconstruction. Europe is already moving in the direction of looking the other way.

The stipulation that Hamas must "recognize Israel" is the one that I see as most slippery. Hamas has said on occasion something like: "Israel (the Zionist entity, or whatever they call us) exists. We don't deny that it exists. We even have indirect talks with them."

Will this sorely inadequate statement, or one similar, suffice? There are two words missing from the demand that Hamas "recognize Israel." One is that Israel has a RIGHT to exist. And two that she has a right to exist AS A JEWISH STATE. That will never ever be forthcoming -- even Abbas wouldn't agree to this. And it bothers me more than a little that this is not an explicit and on-going part of the demand, part of the formula of what's expected. What does this say about the US? (No, I don't expect this of the UN, or the EU.)

This bears close watching.


Here at home formation of the government is moving slowly. It had been expected that a coalition agreement would be signed between Likud and Yisrael Beitenu today, but this did not happen as there are still outstanding issues.

One of those issues is the retention of Daniel Friedmann as Justice Minister, which Lieberman has been pumping for. Friedmann, who has taken on the justice system in Israel and challenged the amount of control it wields, is controversial in the eyes of some. (Not my eyes.)

Unofficially it's now being reported that Lieberman is willing to show some flexibility on this -- permitting someone Lieberman proposes and both parties can agree upon. The names now being suggested are either Uzi Landau -- formerly of Likud and once a public security minister, now Lieberman's second -- or Yaakov Neeman -- who was Minister of Justice under Netanyahu but does not now sit in the Knesset.

After this agreement is signed, Shas will be next, followed by United Torah Judaism and HaBayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home - formerly NRP). Whether National Union will be part of the coalition is still not clear.

Netanyahu wants all of this completed by next Wednesday.


Obama, in an interview with the NY Times the other day, spoke about reaching out to the moderate members of the Taliban. What struck me immediately is that "moderate Taliban" is an oxymoron, if ever there was one.

And, it turns out, the head of the Taliban, Mullah Mohammad Omar, seems to agree. According to a Reuters report cited by Jihad Watch, a spokesman for the Taliban said, in response to a Reuters query in Kabul:

"This does not require any response or reaction for this is illogical. The Taliban are united, have one leader, one aim, one policy...I do not know why they are talking about moderate Taliban and what it means.

"If it means those who are not fighting and are sitting in their homes, then talking to them is meaningless. This really is surprising the Taliban."


What is not surprising, sadly, is that in his eagerness to do this "dialogue," this reaching out, Obama is not doing his homework regarding what is possible and risks making a fool of himself and his nation.

That point was made by several persons commenting on this posting on Jihad Watch.

One said:

"What ticks me off the most is that Obama and the liberal leaning press would never have questioned the farce of the term 'moderate Taliban' if the Taliban themselves did not do so.

"What kind of dream world are we living in if 7th century barbarians have to correct world leaders...And how will Obama deal with national security if he cannot even acknowledge our enemies or their nature?"


Ofer Dekel, Israel's key negotiator for the release of Gilad Shalit, is in Cairo, having extended his stay because of reported "progress." But exactly what that progress might be was not made clear. Hamas is demanding the release of over 1,000 prisoners, some 450 of whom have been involved in deadly terrorist attacks against Israel. The very notion that they might be released wrenches the stomach.
And, apparently, the powers that be in Jerusalem deciding on this matter are also finding the terms objectionable. The end is not in sight. This in spite of the PR pressure that Noam Shalit, Gilad's father, is putting on Olmert to finalize a deal before he leaves office.

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