Saturday, January 29, 2011

Security Vacuum in Egypt


January 29, 2011

* The Egypt Unrest

Tens of thousands of protesters are gathering Jan. 29 demanding the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in defiance of an army curfew in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez. While a number of uncertainties remain over Egypt’s political future, a security crisis is building in the streets Egyptian police and Central Security Forces (CSF) have largely abandoned the streets following the Jan. 28 protests. The CSF represents the backbone of the country’s internal security apparatus. Under Mubarak, this force grew to about 325,000, outnumbering the 300,000-strong army (though two-thirds of the army is made up of conscripts and another 375,000 are considered reserves). The CSF, along with the 60,000-strong National Guard, are specially trained and equipped to deal with riots and insurgencies.

STRATFOR sources have reported that the CSF have become severely demoralized after being overwhelmed by the Jan. 28 protest. The local police and CSF are largely staying at home — perhaps encouraged to do so by outgoing Interior Minister Habib Ibrahim El Adly, who was forced to resign Jan. 28 along with the rest of the Cabinet — and allowing the army to handle the situation.

A great deal of animosity exists between the Egyptian army and the CSF, which gets most of its recruits from Upper Egypt where poverty and illiteracy rates are high. A major source of army-police friction stems from the first CSF rebellion in 1986, when the CSF revolted over long working hours and mistreatment by state authorities. The army had to intervene and crush the rebellion, creating a crisis in relations between the police and the military. The second CSF rebellion came in December 2008 during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, when many CSF recruits refused to patrol the Rafah Crossing between Sinai and Gaza and instead wanted to invade Gaza to defend the territory against the Israel Defense Forces.

The events of Jan. 28 appear to have broken the will of the CSF and many within the National Guard, who were at the forefront of the crisis, leaving the General Directorate for State Security Investigations (notorious for its repressive interrogation techniques) as the only institution within the internal security apparatus left intact. No personnel from the internal security forces have been seen on the streets Jan. 29. Significantly, the target of the demonstrators remains the internal security forces, and not the military, as demonstrated by a violent attempt by protesters to storm the Interior Ministry on Jan. 29.

With no police on the streets, crime has skyrocketed. Prison outbreaks have been reported across Cairo, and criminals spent the night robbing and destroying banks and shops in the resulting chaos. Several central bank offices have reportedly been attacked across Egypt over the past several hours. A STRATFOR source in Cairo explained how impromptu neighborhood watch groups have formed, where civilians are standing guard in front of banks, shops, hospitals and even the national museum to try and deter looters.

This security factor could end up affecting the sustainability of the protests, as many people are too afraid to leave their homes and join the demonstrations for fear of being robbed.

Army personnel in tanks and armored personnel carriers are meanwhile patrolling the major areas where demonstrators are gathering, but their primary mission is to demonstrate the presence of state authority, not to protect the people. The military may still be well-positioned to re-impose order at the highest level of the regime and create the conditions for Mubarak’s departure, but given the hostilities that exist between the army and police and the glaring absence of police on the streets, the military faces an even greater challenge in trying to re-impose security in the country overall.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Palestinian Authority to release documents critical of Qatar

IMRA Middle East News Updates

The Palestinian Authority to release documents critical of Qatar
By Kifah Zaboun and Salah Al Naimi

Ramallah, Asharq Al-Awsat – Senior Palestinian sources have informed Asharq
Al-Awsat that the Palestinian Authority is in possession of important
documents that condemn Qatar with regards to numerous issues relating to the
Palestinian – Israeli negotiations.

The source, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity,
refused to give the precise details of these documents, describing them only
as being "grave." The source also revealed that Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas has prevented these documents from being published quickly, as
some Palestinian officials wanted, in response to the "Palestine papers"
leaked by the Qatari Al Jazeera channel. The Palestinian Authorities relations with Qatari are at their lowest ebb,
and in Ramallah pictures of Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifah Al Thani
were set on fire by protestors, in an indication that the Palestinian people
are holding Qatar and its Emir responsible for the Al Jazeera leaks.

Due to the increased tensions between Qatar and the Palestinian Authority,
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is said to be reluctant to visit Qatar
next month to attend the International Jerusalem Conference that is being
held by the Arab League. However a senior Palestinian Authority source
informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Abbas will "most likely" attend the
International Jerusalem Conference, which is scheduled to take place between
2 – 3 February in Doha.

Al Jazeera continue to publish leaked documents relating to the Israeli –
Palestinian negotiations, with the latest information accusing the
Palestinian Authority of being responsible for the death of resistance
fighters in the Gaza Strip.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat accused Al Jazeera of attempting to
incite sedition in the Palestinian territories, and he informed Asharq
Al-Awsat that "they are opening the doors to personal and family [revenge]
feuds" adding that the documents being leaked represent "one deception after

In response to allegations that former Palestinian Authority Interior
Minister Nasser Yousef had been asked by former Israeli Defense Minister
Shaul Mofaz to arrange for the assassination of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade
commander Hassan al-Madhoun, Erekat told Asharq Al-Awsat that "Nasser Yousef
has nothing to do with security today."

Although the leaked Al Jazeera documents show Yousef refusing to aid Israel
in this endeavor, al-Madoun was later killed by an Israeli air strike.
Nasser Yousef has denied what was published by Al-Jazeera, describing this
as being "explicit lies and cheap fabrication", and has presented the Qatari
media outlet with the official documents with regards to what happened.
Yousef also vowed to sue Al Jazeera for causing harm to the Palestinian

This document is one of the most dangerous of the documents published by Al
Jazeera, as it arguably shows Palestinian officials being complicit in the
deaths of Palestinian citizens, opening the door for revenge attacks.

Yousef said "I had nothing to do with the information side of things during
my 10 months as Minister of Interior in 2005, so how can Al Jazeera simply
accuse me of being involved in the death of a Palestinian in this manner
[based upon a hand-written note]. The Israelis refused to deal with me, and
that includes former Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, and there were
clear instructions from [Ariel] Sharon to do so."

Follow my blog at Daled Amos

The Real Disconnect in the Peace Process

Matthew RJ Brodsky
The Guardian
January 25, 2011 (first post)

Much like the recent WikiLeaks cables, the "Palestine Papers" leaked to al-Jazeera provide a treasure trove of information for those interested in a play-by-play account of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process in recent years. Nevertheless, to western eyes, these revelations should be far from earth-shattering. In fact, the documents release so far, along with the maps, look remarkably similar to the Clinton Parameters from 23 December 2000, and have long been on record.In the wake of the failed July 2000 Camp David summit, US negotiators tried to offer bridging proposals in the twilight of Bill Clinton's presidency. The final American push came with the release of the Clinton Parameters – an actual offer containing the contours of a final agreement. On territory, it called for a solution including between 94-96% of the West Bank (100% of Gaza), with a land swap between 1-3% that would account for 80% of the Israelis living in the West Bank. The Jerusalem formula followed the general principle that what was Arab in the city would be Palestinian, and what was Jewish would be Israeli, and would also apply to the Old City. The refugee formula called for massive international financial compensation and resettlement in the Palestinian state or in other countries. Israel accepted these ideas – and Arafat rejected them, in what Bill Clinton later called "an error of historic proportions" in his 2004 memoir, My Life.
The core of the conflict has always been about contrasting narratives, unbridgeable red lines and mythology. And Palestinian Authority leaders have not prepared their people for the compromises necessary to make peace. Instead, they promise 100% of the West Bank, all of Jerusalem, and an unrestricted return of all Palestinian refugees and their descendants to Israel – some 4.5 million according to recent estimates. It is inconceivable that any democratically elected government of Israel would part with all of Jerusalem and sign a death warrant for the Jewish state by allowing the return of millions of Palestinian refugees.
This explains why the Israeli negotiating position remained remarkably unified in the "Palestine Papers". Israeli leaders understand what the acceptable contours of a final status agreement will look like and it includes land swaps and probably a creative formula on Jerusalem.
What the "Palestine Papers" reveal is the disconnect between the positions publicly held by the Palestinian Authority and the expectations of ordinary Palestinians. But even this should not be such a surprise in a region where autocratic leaders have a habit of steering their population's eyes elsewhere to account for domestic problems. And the Arab-Israeli conflict has, in that respect, long been the regional gift that keeps on giving.
The most telling aspect of the leaked papers is what it says about President Barack Obama's approach to the peace process. If his preoccupation with gaining an Israeli settlement freeze appeared mystifying before, it seems positively foolish now. It was during Vice President Biden's trip to Israel in March 2010 that the Jerusalem Municipality authorised 1,600 new housing tenders. This led the White House on the tactical diversion of demanding an Israeli settlement freeze. It turns out, however, that the area affected most by the announcement – Ramat Shlomo, in northern Jerusalem – was already discussed with Palestinian negotiators in 2008 as a town that would be annexed to Israel. This reaffirms that the notion that Israeli settlements are the greatest obstacle to peace is a mere canard.
No wonder, then, there has been less progress on the path to peace during Obama's watch than at any time since Lyndon Johnson's presidency. Barack Obama has held a position that is more absolutist than the Palestinian Authority itself.
There can be little doubt that whoever leaked these documents to al-Jazeera did so to harm the Palestinian Authority. This will give Hamas the ability to continue to sell their "resistance" platform as the ultimate path to Palestinian statehood, that compromises are not necessary, that Jerusalem will be Palestinian, and that millions of refugees will return to Israel. One can only hope that the revelations contained in the "Palestine Papers" will spark a realistic debate within Palestinian society. After all, without a fundamental shift in Palestinian principles and red lines, a final peace agreement will remain out of reach, no matter how many direct negotiations are held.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

PS On Palestine Papers

Barry Rubin

A reader writes that he agrees with my assessment on the Palestine Papers but then adds that he doesn't mind seeing PA leader Mahmoud Abbas and PA prime minister Salam Fayyad subjected to some heat and criticism.

My response: How would you like to see them lynched by a crazed mob and replaced by people who launch a new uprising in which hundreds or thousands of people on both sides die?

Not the most likely scenario but quite conceivable. How can anyone think this catastrophe helps the peace process? Has anybody reaching a mass audience said that it hurts any chance for peace? I haven't seen that. How can a group of revolutionary Islamists (al-Jazira, not the most reliable source) and revolutionary leftists (Guardian, not the most reliable source) so easily and totally seize control of the world debate? Why does it seem as if not a single major newspaper in the world has any desire to independently try to authenticate the documents, analyze their bizarre contents, or question the credentials of two of the most politically motivated and tendentious news organs on the planet?

And finally, have no doubt that this whole affair is probably going to cost people their lives. How's this for a reaction from a British philosophy professor, Ted Honderich, (thanks to Melanie Phillips) writing a letter to the Guardian:

"The revelations in detail (Report, 25 January) of the intransigent greed, the escape from decency, of Israeli governments in negotiation with our selected leaders of the Palestinians, serve one purpose among others. They provide a further part of what is now an overwhelming argument for a certain proposition. It is that the Palestinians have a moral right to their terrorism within historic Palestine against neo-Zionism. The latter, neither Zionism nor of course Jewishness, is the taking from the Palestinians of at least their autonomy in the last one-fifth of their historic homeland. Terrorism, as in this case, can as exactly be self-defence, a freedom struggle, martyrdom, the conclusion of an argument based on true humanity, etc (my emphasis)."

So we now know that Palestinians have a right to murder Israel Jewish men, women, and children by blotting out decades of previous Palestinian terrorism, Israeli peace efforts, and territorial withdrawals on the basis of--even if it were true--one offer by the PA.

Do you believe we are in an area of anti-Israel and often anti-Jewish hysteria comparable to Medieval times? Keep reading.

For as if this wasn't enough:

--A British television station is preparing a documentary by an associate of Michael Moore on how horrible settlers are.

--The BBC is reportedly preparing a drama on the 1948 war. You can just imagine.

--The Los Angeles Times has a long article about Israel as a hotbed of racism and homophobia, when it is the only country in the region where someone found to be a homosexual wouldn't be murdered (and where Palestinian gays go to live and hide out). Not to mention a country that has been airlifting and organizing escape attempts for Jews of darker hue from Ethiopia for many years.

--The release of a Turkish film, "Valley of the Wolves" that lyingly shows Israeli soldiers opening fire on helpless Gaza flotilla passengers and shooting prisoners with handcuffs. At the end, the Turkish heroes kill lots of Israelis. Thousands of ethnic Turks in Europe (it is temporarily barred in Germany) will see a movie in which Israeli Jews brutally murder their fellow countrymen and Palestinians. Then they will see vengeance defined as killing Israeli Jews.

Might this list of things and many more have some effect on someone's behavior in that respect? But of course if someone does go out and kill some Jews or attack an Israeli office will that provoke some soul-searching by those who have been assisting in the incitement? Of course not. Because a number of such murders have taken place in France, for example, without changing anything.

Actually, I have a suggestion of a motto for this new era: Kill the Jews! They Really Deserve it This Time!

So who are the new heroes? Hamas, which is of course totally against any peace. A Hamas official is given op-ed space in the Guardian to push their line that the PA leadership are traitors who should be overthrown. See a pattern here?

So, here is our conclusion: the Palestinians want peace; Israel doesn't; the mild-mannered Tsipi Livni is an aggressive warmonger; Hamas is justified for killing Jews as the only way to wipe Israel off the map (oh, excuse me, establish a permanently peaceful Palestinian state alongside Israel). Lip-service is given to the "gallant" PA but that isn't who is benefitting here.
In America now there's a big to-do about political civility. You see, people are worried that if the public is shown inflammatory television or radio talk shows, they will go out and murder people. Apparently, this doesn't apply to Jews and Israelis since there's a massive campaign--with the cooperation of much (most?) of the mass media--to demonize them.

Talk about a blood libel.

This is the Most Important Story: Lebanon Burns; America Snores

Barry Rubin

While the media is going wild over the ridiculous "Palestine Papers" deception, Hizballah is taking over Lebanon.

Fareed Zakaria, the wildly overrated American pundit, has invented a new term, referring to Hizballah as “a quasi-terrorist group.” What does this mean? It means that Hizballah runs in elections but then if it doesn't get its way it kills people.

At least this is better than the president's advisor on counterterrorism and apparently chief expert on Lebanon who has explained that there is nothing to fear from Hizballah. It can't be terrorist, he explained once, because it has lawyers among its members. If we examine the Russian (can't last long), Chinese (“agrarian reformers”), and Iranian (don’t worry, the moderates will soon emerge; Khomeini can’t govern) revolutions we find rationales to explain that soon things will return to normal. There's no problem. But the historic result is decades of horror.

Here's how Martin Gilbert, the British historian, put it:

"At bottom, the old appeasement was a mood of hope, Victorian in its optimism, Burkean in its belief that societies evolved from bad to good and that progress could only be for the better. The new appeasement was a mood of fear, Hobbesian in its insistence upon swallowing the bad in order to preserve some remnant of the good, pessimistic in its belief that Nazism was there to stay and, however horrible it might be, should be accepted as a way of life with which Britain ought to deal."

Yes, "a way of life" that must be accepted. Just another cultural choice involving burqas, stoning, making life impossible for Christians and Jews, terrorism, and massive repression, and endless war, and the indoctrination of children to hate.

On the verge of an international investigation that will show Syria and Hizballah were involved in a dozen bloody terror attacks in Lebanon—and specifically the assassination of former prime minister (and leader of the opposition) Rafik Hariri, Hizballah provoked a government crisis. Then, winning over the Druze leader Walid Junblatt (who sees that Iran-Syria are strong and America-West are weak), it may emerge as the strongest power in a new government.

"A prime minister chosen by Hezbollah and its allies won enough support on Monday to form Lebanon's government...culminating the generation-long ascent of the Shiite Muslim movement from shadowy militant group to the country's pre-eminent political and military force."

I believe the theme of his article a few days ago was that Hizballah is weak and no threat. This is a very sad day for Lebanon, the Middle East, the hope for peace and freedom, and Western interests.

Of course, Hizballah is not going to convert Lebanon into an Islamist republic. Why start a civil war with the Christians and Sunni Muslims. Just leave them alone in their territorial enclaves. But the Islamists and their partners will control the apparatus of state, foreign policy, and all the key decisions.

How did the leading Arab newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat describe the situation? By saying that Iran will now control Lebanon.

The French government has accepted, even endorsed, this outcome.

What do you think the rest of the region is going to take away from this? America cannot or will not protect you.Islamism and Iran are the wave of the future. Submit or die. And that's even before Tehran gets nuclear weapons. The way things are going, maybe Iran doesn't even need them.
And where is the United States? Asleep. Determined to prove that it doesn’t throw its weight around, rationalizing a terrible defeat as insignificant, it hasn't even taken a stance. Now it's too late.

Last year, the United States and Europe accepted the secure establishment of a revolutionary Islamist state that is a client of Iran and Syria on the Mediterranean. This may be the year of seeing a second such state come into existence. Of course, the situation in Lebanon will be far more subtle and nuanced but in strategic terms it amounts to something very similar.

An American government that will put all of its resources into preventing the construction of apartment buildings in east Jerusalem can barely be roused to prevent the construction of an Islamist-dominated state in a country of tremendous strategic significance.

Rubin Reports: April 28, 2009: Here Comes Hillary; There Goes Lebanon."

Rubin Reports: June 4, 2009: "Hizballah Taking Over Lebanon? Don't Worry! Be Happy!"

Rubin Reports: June 15, 2009 "Watch developments in Lebanon carefully as the struggle to form a government is going to be critical. And will the United States and Europe support the March 14 coalition, or rush to "engage" Hizballah, steps which will strengthen the radical Islamist terrorist group, and its Syrian and Iranian sponsors?"

Guess what happened.

Rubin Reports, September 1, 2009: "Lebanon: A Sinking Ship that the Obama Administration has forgotten....Walid Jumblatt, once the lion of the moderate coalition, has now deserted it, thus weakening the anti-Hizballah, anti-Syrian, Lebanese nationalist forces that want to keep Lebanon independent,"

Rubin Reports, July 31, 2010: "Syria Marches Into Lebanon; Saudis Surrender to Inevitable; State Department Proclaims Victory."

Oh, here's the "funny" part. The New York Times, which a few days ago was preaching there was nothing to worry about, now discovers:

"But the symbolism of Hezbollah’s choosing Lebanon’s prime minister was vast, potentially serving as the beginning of a new era for a combustible country whose conflicts have long entangled the United States, Iran and Syria. A practical impact may be the realignment of Lebanon away from the United States, which treated the government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri as an ally."

Wow! You mean the takeover of Lebanon by a revolutionary Islamist group, armed by Iran and Syria that wants to wipe Israel off the map and expel Western influence from the Middle East "may" move Lebanon away from the United States?

And three necessary remarks:

First, yes, the U.S. government treated Prime Minister Hariri as an ally. Unfortunately, in recent years the United States has treated allies very badly. And Hariri's people are now in serious trouble. Might that suggest something to other U.S. allies?

Second, how long will it be before the Times is writing the same paragraph about Turkey realigning "away from the United States."

Third, note how the United States, Iran, and Syria are all placed on an equal footing, being "entangled" in Lebanon's affairs. Well, Iran and Syria didn't just get dragged in. They got entangled in Lebanon's affairs like Britain became "entangled" in the affairs of Ireland and India, as an imperialist power spreading its influence and subordinating other states to its own interests.


And what is the Western response? The Europeans urged the “broadest possible consensus” in forming a government.

Response: Idiots! Aren’t you aware that Saad Hariri the opposition leader refused to join the government because he didn’t want to legitimize a Hizballah-controlled regime? You are undermining the pro-democracy forces and, of course, accepting the new regime.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got “tough”: "A Hezbollah-controlled government would clearly have an impact on our bilateral relationship with Lebanon."

You think? What kind of impact, pray tell? Well, have no fear as the Obama Administration has begun a review of U.S.-Lebanon relations. After all, nobody possibly could have thought this is where things were heading a year or two ago, right?

And while I know it is diplomatic-speak I can’t help but remark on what Thomas Vietor, a White House spokesman said: “"It is hard to imagine any government that is truly representative of all of Lebanon would abandon the effort to end the era of impunity for assassinations in the country.”

Hard to imagine? Well what if the leaders of that government were named as the ones who carried out those assassinations?

The administration's meetings to discuss on U.S. policy will be interesting. Some will say that the United States should engage Hizballah (or at least the government itself which thus allows the diplomatic fiction that the U.S. government isn’t engaging Hizballah).

Some will say the U.S. government should wait and see. Presumably, no one will suggest strong action.

By the way, consider the bizarre world we live in. The mission of the UN-mandated and U.S.-backed UNIFIL force’s mission is to keep Hizballah from returning to the south and reestablishing their military positions there, to keep Hizballah from getting smuggled arms from Syria, and possibly--with cooperation from the Lebanese government—to help disarm Hizballah.

But now Hizballah IS the government for all practical purposes. Presumably it won’t cooperate in punishing itself.

It would take Gilbert & Sullivan to do justice to this situation:

"As a government minister and Lebanese citizen of course I want to see justice done and the murderers captured and punished to the fullest extent of the law. But as one of the murderers I prefer that the report be ignored, denounced as totally inaccurate, and the murderers get away free.

Barry Rubin is editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Another Mosque Desecration

My Right Word

Yes, another mosque desecration occurred in the disputed territories but a Jew was not involved.

Excuse me, a dead Jew was involved:

...Kafah Animat, confessed to another murder last February of Neta Shorek Blatt, a Zichron Yaakov resident whose body was found next to a mosque in Beit Jamal on February 24. Police never concluded their investigation into the death of 56-year-old Blatt, though initially they were suspicious that her death was a suicide. Think about that.

The cell Animat led was involved in another murder and a arape and other acts of violent mayhem.

(K/T: DF)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Give Me a Break"

Arlene Kushner

Mahmoud Abbas, president of the PA, has always highlighted "return" of the "refugees" as a cause to which he has particular devotion. He fashions himself as a "refugee" -- although he has admitted that his family left voluntarily from Sfat (an Israeli city in the Galil), where he was born -- and has consistently said that he will not retreat from the demand that the "refugees" be permitted to go back to their homes and villages inside of Israel's Green Line.

Whether this is truly an issue dear to his heart or a position that he knows he must take because his people will accept nothing less is in a sense irrelevant. The point is that Abbas has dutifully adhered to this line regarding return.

As a matter of fact, there is a substantial school of thought that says that PA insistence on "return" is a device for destroying Israel from within, and that Abbas's position is likely tactical. Now comes the leak released last night by Al Jazeera to tell us that in a March 2008 meeting Abbas had with the Negotiation Support Unit, he said:

"On numbers of refugees, it is illogical to ask Israel to take five million or even one million -- that would mean the end of Israel." He then said that as Israel has offered to take 5,000, which didn't even satisfy family reunification demands, there would have to be compensation.

Are we supposed to believe this?


Yesterday I indicated that I thought there was a good chance that the leaks contained distortions if not fabrication. This particular leak convinces me that it indeed is likely the case. For I find it difficult to accept that Abbas said precisely what he is reported to have said here.

He might have said something like this: "We can try to push for all of the refugees to return, as a matter of principle, but let's face it, the Israelis will never buy it. But the 5,000 that Olmert offered? An insult. It doesn't even account for full family reunification. We cannot simply accept this, it would look very bad. Let's push as hard as we can. Talk about the rights of the people, need to reunify families. Maybe we can get acceptance of 50,000. Then, in the end we'll have to go with some compensation package as well."

But to simply acquiesce to only 5,000 returning, without protest, saying that it's not "logical" to expect the Israelis to accept as much as a million? It's a long way from 5,000 to a million, with a lot of ground in-between. And since when is he logical with regard to dealing with Israel?


Even as I write this, I am mindful that, according to YNet, Nabil Sha'ath, a former member of the PA negotiating team, gave an interview with Al-Jazeera last night -- in defiance of an order from Ramallah -- indicating that the documents were real.

One highly reliable source I checked with commented that "no one says the documents aren't real-- they are not forgeries." But, as this source acknowledged, this still leaves room with regard to material left out, twisting of what was said, and so on.

Barry Rubin, whom I was also in touch with on this, reminds us that it is possible for real documents to have been altered and for Al-Jazeera and the Guardian to have misquoted what the original documents said. We must remember that Al-Jazeera was not provided with word-for-word transcripts of what was said at meetings, but notes.

What bothers me is the question of why Sha'ath would have defied the PA, and given an interview that further damns it. This makes his interview suspect in my eyes.


I'm picking up all sorts of analyses: That what the PA offered was not such a big deal, when you consider what they didn't offer. Or that what they said in private is so different from what they said in public because they weren't preparing their people for peace. Or that this proves we really have a partner for peace after all. These various takes assume that there is solid veracity in the leaks.

But I'm not going to go there.


Khaled Abu Toameh, writing about this in the JPost today, does not specifically say that the leaks are fabricated. But he does refer to a "show trial," which carries certain implications. This, in part, is what he wrote:

"After assuming the role of prosecutor and judge, Al- Jazeera, the Arab world’s most influential TV network, has ruled that the leaders of the Palestinian Authority have betrayed their people and must therefore step down from the stage.

"In other words, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his men have been convicted of high treason – which, in the Arab and Islamic world, is a crime punishable by death.

"Al-Jazeera is now waiting for the executioner (the Palestinians, in this case) to carry out the death sentence.

"...The TV station has already decided that the defendants are guilty of the...charges against them. The station’s unequivocal message to Palestinians is that Abbas and his men are traitors who need to be removed from the scene, and the sooner the better.

"It’s hard to see how, in light of this damning verdict, the PA will be able to salvage what’s left of its credibility. Al- Jazeera has succeeded in instilling in the minds of many Palestinians and Arabs the belief that the leaders of the PA are a bunch of corrupt traitors who serve Israeli and American interests.

"The damage to the PA’s image and reputation is colossal and irreparable.."


This, my friends, is the story. Not a parsing of whether Abbas might give more than he has publicly indicated, or what it means that his private and public words seem so different.

Abbas as a politician has been weakened, perhaps fatally. The PA has been weakened.

It was highly unlikely in any event that Abbas was going to return to the table, no matter what the Quartet may be proclaiming or what might be happening in meetings he has with Ross and others. But now? He might prefer to resign and go into hiding in a distant land rather than sit down opposite Netanyahu. Were he to meet with the Israeli prime minister, it would be seen by his people as immediately suspect, a betrayal.

Abu Toameh refers to a "death sentence" for high treason. Do not take this metaphorically. Abbas knows full well that his life is in danger.


And let's take this one step further. Roee Nahmias, writing on YNet, describes the "ambush-like coverage planned in advance, [in which] network reporters were deployed in the field." An Al-Jazeera correspondent went into a refugee camp in Lebanon "in order to elicit reactions to 'the Palestinian renouncement of the right of return.' Meanwhile, several commentators in the studios were fuming, including the editor of the hawkish London-based al-Quds al-Arabi, Abdul Bari Atwan, a Palestinian who constantly slams senior PA officials."

So Al-Jazeera not only fomented the current situation, it is willfully fueling it.

Elaborates Nahmias:

" should not be making light of al-Jazeera’s effort (and not for the first time) to present PA officials as willing collaborators with Israel, who sell off their people and make concessions behind closed doors...

"...the overall package presented by the Qatar-based network was a resounding 'You sold out Palestine.'

"The situation throughout the Middle East is volatile ever since the Tunisia upheaval. Arab rulers are waiting for the dust to settle and for order to be restored. Yet precisely at this time, al-Jazeera arrived with its bombastic reports, which directly undermine the legitimacy of Palestinian Authority leaders, even if most of the 'concessions' were already known in advance and thoroughly covered by the media before.

"Such reports and claims, which have been repeated in various forms and more forcefully in recent years, are gradually weakening the Abbas-led Palestinian Authority. It is being portrayed as a weak, submissive, failed and corrupt entity, as opposed to Yasser Arafat’s era, for example. And when this is the impression created by the most popular network in the Arab world, can one assume this will not have future implications?

"Even if the likelihood of this is slim at this time, we should take into account the possibility that ongoing erosion in legitimacy and image may one day provoke riots against the PA, or at least prompt a power struggle amongst its leaders, thereby dramatically toughening its positions.

"If one day we see bloody riots in the West Bank similar to the ones we saw in Gaza, it would be worthwhile to go back to the latest al-Jazeera project. This is yet another step, and apparently a deliberate one, in weakening the PA, a move that one party stands to benefit from: The Hamas movement. It is for good reason that Hamas already uses the term 'popular revolution' in its reports." (Emphasis added),7340,L-4018476,00.html


We should not be surprised by this state of affairs, for Qatar, which is the home base for Al-Jazeera, provides support for Hamas:

In 2008, The Washington Times cited a key Abbas aide as saying that Qatar provides Hamas with millions each month -- in addition to which, it provides political support and hosts Hamas officials in Doha regularly.

In 2009, terrorism expert Matthew Levitt, writing on the Counterterrorism blog, addressed Qatar's "diplomatic journey away from the Arab consensus -- via support for Islamist extremists -- toward an alliance with Syria and Iran."

Altogether the situation with Qatar is both difficult and somewhat schizoid. For the US has had significant ties with Qatar, and, in fact, in 2003 directed the war on Iraq from an American base in Qatar.

The direction in which Qatar is moving seems to me a spit in the eye for the US. The current undermining of the chances of furthering the peace process so fervently sought by the US, if nothing else, is problematic for Obama.


Yesterday, State Department spokesman JP Crowley allowed in a press conference that the leaks complicate efforts to forge a peace deal. However, he clarified, this will not slow the president's work towards that goal.


But let us step back and look at the big picture:

Hezbollah is about to take control in Lebanon, to our north. Iran is directly implicated in what's going on there.

To our east, the PA is weakened and an Iranian-supported Hamas is more likely to take over, as the result of machinations by Qatar, which has ties to Iran.

Hello there, in Washington! If Obama truly wants to see peace in this part of the world, he should table his efforts to get Abbas to the table (Which efforts would likely include increased pressure on Israel to offer the PA "confidence building measures," since it was weakened.)

Obama's absolute priority should be stopping Iran in its destructive tracks and in increasing US deterrence in this part of the world.

Does he have even a clue?


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution

see my website

Monday, January 24, 2011

"Israeli Vindication, PLO Denials"

Arlene Kushner

Two different stories, and we'll start with the Israeli vindication:

The Turkel Commission -- officially the Public Commission to Examine the Maritime Incident of 31 May 2010 -- released its findings yesterday.

The "maritime incident" alluded to is the one that involved a flotilla of six ships launched from Turkey, and pledged to break the Israeli maritime blockade of Gaza. The flotilla was organized by the IHH, an Islamic organization with terrorist ties. One of the ships -- the Mavi Marmara -- carried many so-called "activists" associated with IHH When the ship refused to change course, it was boarded by Israeli soldiers who were summarily and viciously attacked with weapons that had been stored on board. In the course of the ensuing struggle, in which Israeli commandos defended themselves, nine Turkish citizens were killed.

This incident caused a rupture with the Turkish government, and provided an opportunity for the international community to roundly condemn Israel. It was in response to this international furor that the Commission, consisting of four members and two international observers was set up; commission head was former High Court Justice Jacob Turkel.


The Commission review addressed the question of the legality the naval blockade itself; the actions taken by the organizers of the flotilla, and its participants; and the actions taken by the IDF to enforce the blockade.

In brief, the Commission found that:

1) "The naval blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip -- in view of the security circumstances and Israel's efforts to comply with its humanitarian obligations-- was legal pursuant to the rules of international law."

2) "The actions carried out by Israel on May 31, 2010, to enforce the naval blockade had the regrettable consequences of the loss of human life and injuries.

Nonetheless...the actions taken were found to be legal pursuant to the rules of international law."


The virulence and the brutality of the attack on the Israeli soldiers by IHH members and their associates on board the Mavi Marmara has come to light as a result of the Commission investigation. Weapons wielded included axes, knives, clubs, crowbars, and metal objects hurled with slings. And the terrorists wielding those weapons were heard to yell Allahu Akbar ("Allah is great" -- routinely heard when there is a terrorist attack).

One Israeli commando who gave testimony said:

"Before my feet hit the deck about 10 men jumped on me and started beating me with clubs, iron bars, their fists and anything else they could find. They beat my whole body, but they focused especially on my head and face. I have to make it clear that at that point I was not armed. That was when I knew my life was really in immediate danger."

You can see an extensive description of what went on, provided by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, here:


The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) has also uncovered information regarding active support for the flotilla provided by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who agreed to the departure of the ships even as he was aware that Israel would prevent the flotilla from reaching Gaza.

Evidence has surfaced of a meeting IHH held before the flotilla left, which makes obvious the close ties the government of Turkey had with IHH.

ITIC Director Reuven Erlich is very clear on this issue. Yesterday he said:

"The Turkish government was behind this unprecedented provocation against the State of Israel. The Turkish government went through several levels of involvement from behind the scenes to the front. You cannot disconnect the two."


Erdogan recently insisted that if the relationship between Turkey and Israel was to improve, Israel would have to issue a formal apology for the incident. At this, Foreign Minister Lieberman, in one of his "right on!" observations, commented that Turkey should be apologizing to Israel.

What Netanyahu's government was toying with at the time was some sort of unofficial expression of "regret" for the deaths of Turkish nationals. But, hell, these guys got exactly what they deserved. And I trust there will be no more suggestions in this regard following the exposure of the Turkish government's involvement.

Now, of course, Ergodan is totally rejecting the findings of the Commission.


The foreign observers for the Commission were Lord David Trimble, an Irish baron and politician, and Brig. Gen. (ret.) Kenneth Watkin, a former Canadian judge advocate general for the Department of National Defence. The two have issued an official letter, in which they indicate that they had full access to all of the material the Commission was working with, and were provided with translations of all testimonies given in Hebrew.

The Commission, they said, "made repeated efforts to hear both sides," and "made enormous efforts to get as much information as possible." They expressed regret that offers by the Commission to take evidence via video conferencing and, alternately, to take evidence in a neutral location, were "not taken up."

In conclusion, they wrote, "We have no doubt that the Commission is independent."


And now to the PLO denials:

Some 1,600 confidential documents regarding negotiations between the PLO and Israel have been leaked to Al Jazeera, over a period of months, reportedly by several sources. Al Jazeera -- a network based in Qatar -- in turn has shared this material with the Guardian in London. Apparently covering a period of ten years this material is now being released by both sources. The Guardian says it has confirmed the authenticity of most of the documents.

The various documents were originally part of the records drawn up and maintained by the Palestinian negotiation support unit (NSU), an arm of the PLO functioning in Ramallah. In other words, this is official, at least in theory, from the PLO side -- notes taken at meetings and such.

According to the Guardian, there has been discontent inside of the NSU, with many leaving, because of the degree of concessions being offered by the PLO.


The main thrust of what is being publicized concerns an apparent flexibility by the PLO beyond anything that has been made public before. In 2008, the PLO reportedly agreed to Israeli annexation of the Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, except for Har Homa. Additionally, it is claimed, at one point Ahmed Qurei -- who had been PA prime minister -- offered Israel part of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

The Palestinian Arab officials in the PLO and the PA are having apoplexy over these reports, for, given their current position (that any building in Jerusalem past the Green Line works against peace), it is greatly embarrassing.

There are several ways to interpret what is going on here, and to determine what lessons, if any, can be drawn from it. The bottom line for me, no matter how it is interpreted, is that it will all come to nothing. (I will elaborate.)


Palestinian officials are charging that Al Jazeera -- and Qatar -- are deliberating working against them. PLO Secretary General Yasser Abd Rabbo called a press conference today, at which he said:

"[Al Jazeera took] references which were said now and again in an ironic manner as Palestinian answers. Al Jazeera took a lot of things out of context, including things that were said in jest. They made up things I've never heard of.

"We ceded nothing in Jerusalem. We ceded nothing more than [Abbas] presented. Our position is that we have a right over the 1967 lands, the rest is not true."

While Abbas, who is in Cairo at the moment, claimed that the leaked documents deliberately confuse the Israeli and Palestinian positions:

"What is intended is a mix-up. I have seen them yesterday present things as Palestinian but they were Israeli... This is therefore intentional."


The interesting thing is that analyst Barry Rubin says Abbas may be correct. Or it may be, he says, that the documents provided to Al Jazeera were altered, or the translations (from Arabic to English) turned matters around. Somewhere, somehow, it is extremely likely that there is fabrication, Rubin believes. For matters on the record, including notes on negotiations that Israel has and all public statements made by the PLO with regard to its demands, make it close to impossible to accept that the PLO would have been so forthcoming.

Are we going to accept a purely Arab version of events, asks Rubin, when we know the Arab propensity for fabrication?

Besides which, if the PLO was so eager to make concessions, why does it refuse to negotiate now?

In addition to which, if the Americans had known of the PLO willingness to make concessions, why would this have not been factored into its policy? (He doesn't specifically mention the Obama role in demanding freezing of all construction in Jerusalem past the Green Line, but this certainly doesn't comport with Arab conciliation.)


And what is the intended effect of these released documents?

There are those who claim that this will show that the PLO/PA is really more moderate and conciliatory than has been understood, and that, indeed, peace has a chance. It's a way to help the Arabs and make them look good.

But I think this utter nonsense. Unless there is something moderate and conciliatory on the public record, it all comes to nothing. Remember please, to put this in context. The PA still uses maps that have no "Israel" on them, still teaches its school children that all the land is theirs and that jihad is praiseworthy, and continues to name public squares after the most heinous terrorists. What conciliatory and moderate? What sign that peace is genuinely sought?

If, by some remote chance, these conciliatory offers were genuine, even this is meaningless if positions have hardened now. If the fact of their having been conciliatory is an embarrassment to them, what does this tell us?

And with regard to this, we come to the final piece in the equation: Hamas. There is an unfortunate tendency to forget about how Hamas affects Palestinian political discourse. Hamas fashions concession and conciliation as betrayal of the people. The PLO/PA cannot be seen to go there -- to be seen as weak and unable or unwilling to fight for the land and support the rights of the people. This is a sure way to lose the street. Already Hamas is attacking the PA because of these "leaks."

If anything at all will come of this, it will be to further stiff the backs of PLO/PA officials.


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution

see my website

They make facts on the Ground

Rivki Goldfinger

Their jeep dauntlessly sweeps across the hills and dirt roads
throughout Gush Etzion and the Hebron hills, and not a single dunam of
land escapes their eyes. For five years Nadia Matar and Yehudit
Katsover have been struggling for Jewish possession of the area, while
keeping track of the worrisome Arab takeover. In the battle for the
land, they want, first of all, to "establish facts on the ground". The
strategy: hundreds of plantings of new trees throughout the year that
will establish who are the owners of the land. Nadia Matar and Yehudit Katsover, the leaders of the Women in Green
movement, devote their time to "the war over home," as they define
this. They fear no one. Speeding in a white jeep throughout Gush
Etzion, spreading out maps and examining every new development on the
ground. This week I joined them for a patrol. They take me to the edge
of the Palestinian town of Beit Sahour, where we encountered trucks,
going about their business as if they belonged there, leveling areas
at the foot of the hill, close to the Shdema military outpost. Yehudit
Katsover makes a call to the commander of the Etzion Brigade, to
update him.

Under the Aegis of the Dutch Government

We continue toward our second stop: the Netzer Hill, that is situated
between Elazar and Alon Shvut. Nadia cruises in her vehicle up on the
rocky hill. Arab and Jewish agricultural plots are scattered around,
all mixed together. Nadia and Yehudit go into the field almost every
day, and it's obvious that they are totally familiar with the area. To
the right, close to the fence of the community of Elazar, is an
agricultural plot that an Arab has taken over. "He planted grape vines
here," Katsover says, and explains that by taking over the lands
adjoining the fence, the Arabs hope to prevent the expansion of the
communities. Nadia hands me an up-to-date contour map. "In this region
there are hundreds of dunams that are defined as state lands. In the
past two years the Arabs, who are financed by international bodies,
have been accelerating the takeover of the land. They are acting at an
insane pace in order to prevent Jewish settlement continuity between
Elazar, Alon Shvut, and Efrat. A stubborn struggle is being waged here
for every piece of land," Nadia says, and points to a metal sign
proudly standing in one of the plots, teaching that the Dutch
government is financing and aiding the Arab residents in the area to
steal their land.

The initial activity at Netzer began as the private initiative of a
number of families from the community of Elazar, who felt that they
cannot remain apathetic in light of the reality of the theft of more
and more state lands. With their meager resources they went out into
the field and began to build and plant grape vines and olive trees.
"They understood that it was impossible to stand by and wait for the
state to be so good as to do something about this, for precious time
was passing, and there is no reality of a vacuum here. It;'s either us
or them," Katsover states and wants to expand on the Palestinian
method of the takeover of state lands. "They plant olive trees, and
after ten years, in accordance with the law, claim ownership of the
land. We have the Defense Minister closing his eyes here. When we try
to build houses here, they destroyed them eight times. When we planted
trees, we received endless [Civil Administration] orders. There is a
distorted reality here, in which the political echelon, together with
the Civil Administration, do not defend the state lands."

"A lack of any response on our part invited further takeovers of state
[land] areas," Nadia explains. "The Arabs, without any doubt, keenly
smell weakness. It seems that in the end the responsibility for
guarding Israel's lands will fall, as usual, on the shoulders of the
little citizen. This is our message. When the government doesn't do,
then we, the 'little people,'must arise and act. It definitely is
possible to change. We call to everyone to join the struggle and aid
us in taking these hills."

Galilee on Behalf of Gush Etzion

"The beginning at Netzer was not at all simple," Nadia sighs, and
describes how, for many weeks, a stormy conflict was waged between the
Arabs and the Jewish inhabitants. The Arabs uprooted the dozens of
grape vines that had been planted by Women in Green activists. In
response, the Jewish activists planted a number of mature olive trees
that were donated by farmers from the north. Already the next day the
Arabs uprooted the trees, but the activists came back at night and
replanted them.

After a number of days, about ten Arabs came to the area, equipped
with axes and electric saws, and they began to very violently cut down
the olive trees. The Jewish residents of the area quickly ran toward
the plot, and physically defended the trees. "Since then, there has
been damage to the trees or to the irrigation pipes here and there. In
the last two years the Arabs, with extensive international funding,
have noticeably intensified the seizure of state lands. In order to
try and prevent the Arabs from taking over the lands, we plant more
and more olive trees and grape vines. What a wonderful feeling it is
to plant a tree in Eretz Israel. To feel the land with the palms of
your hands. With G-d's help, in this way we have already redeemed
dozens of dunams of state lands," Nadia states with satisfaction.

The professional assistance for the maintenance and nurturing of the
plants at Netzer is given, on a volunteer basis, by Uri Plasse from
the moshav of Sdeh Yaakov in Galilee. "Uri harnessed himself to the
mission with outstanding dedication," Katsover says, with esteem. "
Once or twice a week he leaves his large and flourishing farm in
Galilee and comes here to work in the field." Plasse, for his part,
relates to this totally naturally. "As far as I am concerned, this is
the natural continuation of Zionism and settlement in Eretz Israel.
Zionism is not a product with an expiration date, it rather continues
to this very day," he says, during the last preparations for the
coming plantings in the area, that will be conducted this week in
public in honor of Tu bi-Shevat.

A number of weeks ago, during a planting on Route 60, between the Gush
Etzion junction and Efrat, Nadia and Yehudit spotted a Palestinian
Authority police car driving freely. They couldn't believe their eyes.
Nadia quickly pulled out a camera and documented it. When the
Palestinian police spotted her, they unhesitatingly responded with a
"V" victory sign. "We rubbed our eyes. The Palestinian police is
traveling among us, with no problems, and in such a challenging way.
We immediately called the army to determine how this was possible.
This is a change in policy," Nadia notes, and explains that until
recently the Palestinian police were forbidden from leaving the bounds
of Area A, and in the transit points between one area and another they
were required to have coordination and an escort of IDF soldiers. "The
concessions granted to the Palestinian police are unreasonable, and we
must not become accustomed to this,"she states decisively.

An additional expression of the lack of Israeli rule in the field is
what the two call the "greenhouse intifada." Anyone who traveled in
the past two months in the Judea region could not help noting that
many dozens of large and brand-new agricultural greenhouses that were
built for the Arab inhabitants have sprung up like mushrooms after the
rain in Areas B and C. Within a short period, many dozens of
greenhouses have been erected. It should be clear - this is not by
chance. This is a new intifada - the greenhouse intifada, and this is
totally orchestrated and organized," Nadia Matar warns. "When I travel
on the road between Efrat and Tekoa, or in the southern Hebron hills
between Kiriat Arba and Otniel, wherever I look I see greenhouses.
They've surrounded the Adorayim camp, too, with a lot of greenhouses.
They're really choking the camp. This is an unacceptable situation,"
Matar says.

The Civilians Who Brought Back the IDF

Nadia, the mother of six and a resident of Efrat, was born in Antwerp,
Belgium. She came to Israel as an olah at the age of 18. She studied
education and Jewish history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem,
where she met her husband, Dr. David Matar. Together with her
mother-in-law Ruth, some 18 years ago, she established the Women in
Green organization. Matar, who gained fame in the past by her
conspicuous presence at demonstrations of the right, changed her
strategy over the years. Now she advocates focusing on action and on
establishing facts on the ground. "I reached the conclusion that in a
country like ours demonstrations alone are a waste of energy. It's
more effective to establish facts on the ground. To build, to plant,
to settle. True, the struggle for the lands is intensive and daily,
but we will triumph only if we demonstrate constancy and
determination. Quiet and organized demonstrations are not enough. The
whole world must understand that we are determined in the struggle for
Eretz Israel," Nadia says, with Katsover nodding her head in

Katzover (63), the wife of Zvi Katzover, the former head of the Kiriat
Arba Council, came to Israel as an olah from Transylvania, as a girl.
She has been living in Kiriat Arba "from the Kiriah's first day," and
was one of the women who settled with their children in Beit Hadassah
in Hebron in 1979 and lived there about a year, under extremely
difficult conditions. At present Katsover is the director of the
teaching program in the Kiriat Arba-Hebron College.

They began their shared path during the time of the upheaval that
followed the expulsion from Gush Katif, and since then they see eye to
eye in the diverse range of their activities.

The first struggle together was for the opening of the Zaatra bypass
road that connects eastern Gush Etzion with Har Homa and Jerusalem.
"The road was open for Arabs. Unlike them, the Jews had to travel via
Efrat and the tunnels road. Instead of a trip of approximately 6
minutes, they had to travel roundabout, for a trip of almost an hour."
After an extended struggle, together with many activists, the road was
opened to traffic.

Immediately afterwards the two geared up for the abandoned military
camp of Shdema in eastern Gush Etzion. Completely by chance, they
learned of the intent to annex the camp's lands to the town of Beit
Sahour. "We read a report in Hatzofeh that within the context of the
gestures [i.e., to the Palestinians], the Olmert government agreed to
transfer the location, that is a five minute drive from Har Homa, a
place which is the Israeli Area C, to the Palestinian Authority in
order to build an Arab hospital. The site was used as an IDF base
until it was abandoned two years earlier, in 2006," Nadia relates
about the beginning of the struggle for Jewish possession of Shdema.
"We took out maps, and we realized that this was an extremely
strategic location. We understood that if this camp were to be handed
over, it would endanger the Har Homa neighborhood and choke Gush
Etzion. Obviously, this is secondary to the fact that this is the land
of Eretz Israel, and it is absolutely forbidden to hand it over," she

"We unquestionably had divine help," Katsover observes. "We arrived at
the place the following day, and we found an Arab bulldozer already
working to prepare the land. We understood that we had to act, the
faster the better. The 'Committee for a Jewish Shdema' action
committee was founded, that devoted itself to this issue with all its
strength," Katsover says and quotes the words of Rabbi Harlap, who
says that Eretz Israel is the central point in our generation. "It
isn't enough to know these things theoretically," she adds, "rather,
they must be translated into deeds. To take possession of and to
expand in Eretz Israel."

The Palestinians asked to receive the camp at the top of the hill,
claiming that they want to establish there an orthopedic hospital and
a large playground. The site was even officially inaugurated in a
highly impressive ceremony in which the Palestinian Prime Minister
Salam Fayyad was present. Anarchists, leftists, and international
bodies came to the assistance of the Arabs. In order to remove Shdema
from Jewish hands, colossal budgets flowed from various sources in the
world. "They didn't really want to establish a hospital there, but
they understood that Israel could not say 'No' to such a humanitarian
request. Beit Sahour has dozens of dunams of land in their town, why
did they insist on receiving Shdema, specifically?" Katsover asks, and
explains that the camp controls Har Homa and the Tekoa-Jerusalem road.
"That's why they wanted it. It came to the stage that all that was
needed was the approval of the political echelon in order to finally
turn over the camp. Only a single signature of Defense Minister Ehud
Barak would have been enough for us to lose the struggle. We didn't
agree to just give up. We saw the struggle for Shdema as the struggle
for Jerusalem," she emphasizes.

The Power of an Additional Tree

In order to ensure the camp's future, a diverse range of lectures,
classes, and exhibitions were conducted at the site on weekends.
Hundreds arrived from all over the country to participate in the
activity, and thereby lend a hand to maintaining a Jewish presence at
Shdema. At the same time, a lobby was formed of Knesset members who
were involved in this matter. From the other side, much pressure was
exerted from the direction of European and American organizations and
the Palestinian Authority, with the intent of advancing the handing
over of the area. The Jewish presence there, along with attempts by
leftist activists, anarchists, and Palestinians to take control of the
area, often led to harsh confrontations between the sides.

After a stubborn two-year struggle, it was decided that the IDF would
reestablish the military camp at Shdema. Nadia and Yehudit warmly
praise the decision. We go to visit the soldiers serving at the base.
The IDF soldiers staying there receive us very nicely, and are
completely unaware of the lengthy struggle over the future of their
base, which was replete with international interests, that was waged
until recently.

During the course of the patrol, I am witness to a telephone call from
the residents of the Har Homa neighborhood who want to urgently report
about Arab tractors engaged in earthmoving close to the fence of their
neighborhood. A quick check reveals that this is indeed state land,
and the message by Nadia and Yehudit is clear: "Go into the field as
quickly as possible, and establish facts on the ground." "We have to
be aware of what's happening here," Katsover says. "The struggle for
the land is being waged everywhere. We have to leave behind our
apathy. We have to be alert. Another tree and another flower can
change reality."

Women For Israel's Tomorrow (Women in Green)
POB 7352, Jerusalem 91072, Israel
Tel: 972-2-624-9887 Fax: 972-2-624-5380

"Fighting That Persistent Lie"

Arlene Kushner

We might have expected WikiLeaks exposure to kill it: the Obama claim that cooperation with Arab states was dependent upon an Israeli-Palestinian negotiated peace.

But here we have it again, in somewhat different, and more outrageous, form:

A former CIA officer, Bruce Riedel, has just given a talk at a Middle East Policy Council event on Capitol Hill. The fact that legislators and their aides were privy to his "expert" words make them that much more damaging. What he said was that:

"American lives are being lost today because of the perpetuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." (Emphasis added) Frank Anderson, also a former CIA official, and president of the Policy Council, reiterated this sentiment, saying "we are paying an increasing price in blood for their [Israeli and Palestinian] failure and refusal to reach an agreement."

Riedel explained -- if you can call what he said an explanation -- that:

"The Arab-Israeli conflict is at the heart and center of Al-Qaeda's ideology and its narrative." (Emphasis added)


This is so offensively distorted, so far removed from the reality of the situation, that it cannot be allowed to pass without rebuttal.

Al Qaeda's -- and Bin Laden's -- quarrel is with the US and the West. It is a clash of civilizations, within which Israel plays a decidedly minimal role. Were Israel and the PA to forge an agreement, it would not affect Bin Laden's attitude towards American civilization.


I cite here from a Congressional Research Service Report for Congress that was released by the US Navy Department of History:

"Osama Bin Laden's experiences as a logistical coordinator and financier for...resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan during the 1980s are thought to have provided the backdrop for his belief that Muslims could take effective military action inspired by select Islamic principles. His exposure to the teachings of conservative Islamist scholars in Saudi Arabia and his work with Arab militants in Afghanistan provided the theological and ideological basis for his belief in the desirability of puritanical Salafist Islamic reform in Muslim societies and the necessity of armed resistance in the face of perceived aggression -- a concept Al Qaeda has since associated with a communally-binding Islamic principle known as 'defensive jihad.'

"In the early 1990s, Bin Laden emphasized his desire to secure the withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign troops from Saudi Arabia at all costs...Bin Laden was expelled from Saudi Arabia and his ire increasingly focused on the United States. Following a period of exile in Sudan and Afghanistan in which his radical views sharpened, Bin Laden issued a declaration of jihad against the United States in 1996 that signaled his emergence as an internationally recognizable figure...

"Following his declaration of jihad on the United States, Bin Laden released a series of statements that expanded the vision and scope of his self-declared conflict with the United States...Echoing U.S. academic Samuel Huntington's theory on the impending clash of civilizations, Bin Laden repeated his characterization of a so-called 'new crusade led by America against the Islamic nations,' and emphasized his belief that an emerging conflict between Islam and the West would be fought 'between the Islamic world and the Americans and their allies.'"

The report mentions two audiotapes released in 2005, which identify the bases of Al Qaeda's political ideology:

An Islamic state governed solely by sharia law is primary. Secular government is unacceptable and deemed contrary to Islamic faith. Muslims must resist and overthrow rulers who violate Islamic law and principles.

Then there must be a liberation of Muslim lands "from every aggressor." Israel is mentioned in this context, of course, but not only Israel: included are all Western forces, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere. And where Israel is concerned, the goal is most certainly not an Arab-Israeli peace, but the eradication of a Jewish presence on the land.


And where is all of this going? Why, the US government has to lean harder on Israel, of course. Israeli positions should be more in concert with American efforts to forge a deal.

Riedel suggested that a positive approach might be most effective: "Israelis need that hug. Implicit in the hug can also be, you'll get a cold shoulder if we're not moving in the right direction."

With "friends" like these...


Let us segue, then, to the obvious question: Just what is happening with that "peace process" these days?

Last week, Arab states submitted a draft resolution to the UN Security Council that reads, "Israeli settlements established in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace."

Although it has close to 120 sponsors, a vote on it will not be called any time soon because of fear of a US veto.

Last I wrote about this, I expressed concern about whether we would see such a veto -- my unease stemming from
a tendency by the Obama administration to appease the Palestinian Arabs. But the Americans do seem to be holding the line on this issue.


A couple of my readers have asked why there should be any expectation that the US would veto this -- which is presumably a forerunner to a request that the SC recognize a Palestinian state -- when Obama very much wants to see such a state established. And I think there are two answers:

First, the US may recognize that this route is fraught with diplomatic and legal difficulties. A Security Council vote not withstanding, the state would not emerge easily via a unilateral path. Thus the Americans are holding fast to the very legitimate position that issues can only be successfully resolved via face to face negotiations.

Then too, we must remember that Obama seeks a diplomatic success here. He still seems to hold fast to the delusion that he may be able to move the "process" forward in a way that would accrue positively to his reputation. This would not happen if the PA went the route of the UN -- for it would be taken out of his hands.


And so, while all of the talk of a unilaterally declared state may come back to haunt us, at the moment it is old news. For Abbas has now come out with an explicit statement (which we could see coming late last week) that the PA will not be unilaterally declaring the establishment of a state.

What he says, however, is that the failure to achieve a state via negotiations could lead to a popular uprising or a "revolution" -- a strange word in this context. As he put it to Al Jazeera on Friday, "it will have serious repercussions for the entire region."

I see this as a scare tactic: an attempt to frighten not only Israel but the international powers that be, so as to move them to further pressure Israel.

Included in his words we can find more than a hint that he might lead his people in the wrong direction. For what the PA said, and how officials handled the situation, would have a direct impact on the people's response. Remember, what had been identified as "spontaneous" Palestinian Arab fury at the presence of Ariel Sharon on the Temple Mount in 2000 was in fact pre-planned and carefully orchestrated by Arafat -- he brought his people to that "Second Intifada." And was Arafat not Abbas's mentor?


Even though Abbas is publicly ruling out a war against Israel, what makes the situation more worrisome this time around is the presence of better trained and equipped PA security forces -- thanks to the foolish and nearsighted US policy, which has been to build up these forces. The armed forces of the PA have a record of turning on Israel in times of frustration, and many of us have been concerned for some time about the possibility of it happening again.


Why is Abbas relinquishing the UN option, at least for now?

For me it appears fairly straightforward: Abbas thought he had Obama in his hand, and it's not quite turning out that way. We don't know what has been communicated privately to the PA by the American government. But we do know that the bulk of official public statements coming out of the US is in support of resolution of the issues only via two-party negotiations. And we know that indications are that the US would veto the "settlements" resolution. What chance then, that Obama would allow a SC resolution on Palestinian statehood to pass?


To make matters worse for Abbas, some European leaders have been getting cold feet about that unilateral declaration of statehood, as well.

Last week, British Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Alistair Burt, finishing up a Mid-East tour, told Ma'an News Agency that the British government cannot "recognize a state that does not have a capital, and doesn’t have borders."

"We are looking forward to recognizing a Palestinian state at the end of the negotiations on settlements because our position is again very straightforward: We wish to see a two-state solution, a secure and recognized Israel side by side with a viable Palestine, Jerusalem as a joint capital and agreed borders.

"That’s where we want to get to. When we get there, that of course will imply recognition of a state of Palestine."

Has Obama provided some sort of reassurance to Abbas with regard to increased pressure on Israel on the "settlements" issue? We may suspect this to have been the case, but I'm seeing no concrete evidence for this.


Abbas provided a whole litany of prior peace offers allegedly made by Barak and Olmert in the past. As we don't know the truth of what he claims, and as the situation is now different, I don't intend to visit that litany.

Both White House advisor Dennis Ross, and David Hale, top aide to George Mitchell, were here on Friday and, separately, met with Netanyahu. There has been no statement from Netanyahu's office.


I mentioned the PA security forces, above, and return here to take a look at these forces in another context. Important to know with whom we're dealing:

The Arab Organization for Human Rights, located in Britain, has released a report indicating that these forces have been using torture systematically for years. In a study that reviewed the years October 2007 to October 2010, it was found that an incredible 95% of those detained by the forces were subjected to severe torture, which included hanging techniques (such as hanging detainees upside-down from the ceiling), electric shocks, pulling out nails, beatings with cables, and more.

At least six Palestinians have died in the course of torture in PA prisons, the report said, while many former detainees are permanently disabled. Khaled Abu Toameh cited the report in the JPost today: "In order to put pressure on detainees, close relatives, even minors, are brought to the interrogation center, where they may be tortured in front of the detainees in order to try to force a confession."


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

East Jerusalem Arabs Prefer Israel to Palestine

Barry Rubin

A survey in which respondents are anonymous gave a better sense of how east Jerusalem Arabs wish their future to be. They preferred Israeli citizenship over that of Palestine by 35 to 30 percent. Forty percent said they would consider moving to another neighborhood to become citizens of Israel, while 54 percent said that if their neighborhood would be in Israel they would not move to Palestine.
This poll's main usefulness is not to set the fate of east Jerusalem in any peace settlement. Rather, it is an educational tool for how the Middle East works. Asked publicly what they thought, there's no doubt that 100 percent of east Jerusalem Arab residents would say that living in Israel was a nightmare of oppression, that Israel oppressed them daily and Israelis were evil, that they demanded east Jerusalem's turnover to a future Palestinian state, couldn't wait until it happened, and in fact insisted that it take place right now or else.

Keep this kind of thing in mind when hearing what people in the Middle East say publicly on these and other issues.