Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"Tracking Events"

Arlene Kushner

Sometimes it feels as if it's impossible to keep track of news events without a score card, so quickly does the situation shift.

A major project during the course of the day today prevented me from analyzing what is happening in several spheres. Here, I would like to touch base, in an effort to keep on top of events. Most likely my next post will follow on Thursday.
Tzipi Livni and members of Kadima have unanimously said no to a "unity government" with Likud, which allows us to sigh with relief, at least for the moment. Kadima's charge was that the offer was not sincere as it didn't provide genuine shared power. Netanyahu, for his part, called Livni a "serial unity refuser" (as he had also offered unity when he was forming his coalition) and said he didn't understand what her problem was, as Kadima would have participated in major government decisions.

My take has been to see more than a bit of game-playing in the offer. However, while he was waiting for Kadima's decision, he offered more generous terms as a lure. Did he genuinely want her in the coalition? The possibility exists.

What is more surprising than the rejection by Kadima is the fact that Livni used this as a means to rally unity inside her party. Seems those seven who had signed an agreement with Netanyahu will not be bolting the party now and coming back to Likud after all. It had sounded close to a done deal.

Livni referred to Netanyahu's attempt to split her party as "gutter politics" and accused him, not without reason, of inappropriately attending to this when more important issues should have occupied him. I would guess that her anger at and mistrust of the prime minister played into her decision not to join his government.

Netanyahu, for his part, said he was still determined to broaden his coalition because of the crises we will be facing, and declared that it was only a matter of time until Kadima did split apart.


Nowhere is a score card more necessary than with regard to the politics of the Palestinian Arabs:

Fatah is the major party of the Palestinian Authority. But it is not synonymous with the PA and is sometimes at odds with it. (More on this follows.) The terrorist Al Aksa Brigades is officially part of Fatah, and protected by it. Some of its members are even part of the PA security forces -- if they "renounce terror" it is made possible for them to receive PA salaries. But some Al Aksa members operate outside of the scope of Fatah.

On top of all of this, the US, under the supervision of General Keith Dayton, is training some of the PA forces (which means, in the main, Fatah forces), which are supposed to combat terrorism. That should mean terrorism instigated by Hamas (and there is a problem sometimes with this), and certainly terrorism instigated by Al Aksa. Terrorism is terrorism, is it not? Except it depends on the definition, it seems. As it happens, the PA only takes on Hamas when it threatens its stability and not because of attacks on Jews. And terrorism by Al Aksa, well... that's another matter all together.


If what I've just written sounds convoluted, I apologize. It is no more than a reflection of a convoluted situation. What has generated the current confusion is the drive-by shooting of Rabbi Chai by three Al Aksa terrorists, who were subsequently pursued and then shot by IDF forces (when they refused to surrender).

No Palestinian Arab group and no Palestinian Arab leaders condemned the shooting forthrightly. It is important to understand that doing this is a "no no" in today's climate. It implies siding with the "Zionist enemy" instead of Arab brothers (who undoubtedly were acting against "the occupation"). But, because there is security cooperation in some respects between the IDF and PA security forces (especially those trained by Dayton), and because the IDF pursued the terrorists into Arab areas, on the ground there was coordination. And it seems this has enraged a great number of Palestinian Arabs associated with Fatah.

Yesterday, according to Khaled Abu Toameh, Fatah warned of a third intifada. But this one would not be against Israel, it would be against the Palestinian Authority. The funerals of those who shoot Rabbi Chai in the head turned into a major protest in which a demand was made that all security coordination with Israel be stopped and that the PA be dismantled.


What fascinates me as I watch this unfold is how oblivious to this the US administration remains, as it continues to tout the idea of "peace negotiations." How, precisely, is a peaceful and stable state supposed to be established in this atmosphere? If Abbas was reluctant to come to the negotiating table before, he has to be doubly so now. I would guess that he would be risking his life to sit down with Netanyahu.

According to Palestinian Media Watch, "PA-controlled media have continuously portrayed the killers as Palestinian heroes and Shahids -- holy Martyrs -- while describing Israel's killing of the three terrorists as 'murder in cold blood' and 'assassination.'" Abbas personally sent envoys to the families of these murders.


It would be my guess, however, that when Netanyahu makes all of his very public (and to my ear terribly distasteful) calls to Abbas to stop the games and come sit down to talk, he is not oblivious to this situation. That is, it seems to me he knows, even as he makes his earnest calls, that this cannot happen.


But what shall we conclude about Mitchell, who is due back here soon? Does he begin to understand the futility of his stated goals? It is said he is working on "terms of reference," which would theoretically permit agreement so that Netanyahu and Abbas could sit down together. I have checked with analysts whom I respect, who are not overly alarmed by what is transpiring here, as it all very vague.

And I will note that Israel has announced, to the displeasure of the US, that we will be building hundreds of new housing units in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem beyond the Green Line.


Rumors still abound about the possibility of the Shalit deal going through. The Hamas website is saying that Israel is refusing to release four "heavy-weight" prisoners, including Marwan Barghouti. So perhaps the earlier alleged leaks were incorrect. A refusal to release this man, and three others guilty of particular evil, would be a major step in the right direction, and would make the deal less likely to be completed. (I know, each one who has committed a terrorist act is guilty of particular evil.)


Could the averted disaster on the plane bound for Detroit serve as a wake-up call for Obama? He has now said:

"When our government has information on a known extremist and that information is not shared and acted upon as it should have been, so that this extremist boards a plane with dangerous explosives that could cost nearly 300 lives, a systemic failure has occurred and I consider that totally unacceptable."

Indeed. But will he now grapple with the root of the systematic failure?

No comments: