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August 4, 2008 : Update and Onward

August 4, 2008

Well, seems Abbas has been convinced to take the members of Fatah who fled from Gaza, saying that he recognizes their lives would be at risk if they were forced to return.  This decision was made after overnight discussions between our Ministry of Defense and Abbas’s office.  At first it was said they would be sent to Ramallah, but now it appears their final destination will be Jericho.

Khaled Abu Toameh, of the Post, has provided some insight into Abbas’s reason for not wanting them:  The Hilles clan is, in Abu Toameh’s words, a bunch of “Fatah thugs.”  The PA is having trouble maintaining law and order in Judea and Samaria as it is.  The presence of this gang, which was pretty much a law unto itself and had its own military training  base — which is why Hamas was after its members — is bound to cause trouble for the PA.  What is more, there is hostility between Fatah people of Gaza and Fatah people of Judea and Samaria.


This last reason shines a light on what is becoming more and more obvious: There is no “Palestinian people.”  There are only various factions.  Never mind that Hamas and Fatah don’t get along, there are cultural differences and animosities between the Arabs in Gaza and those in Judea and Samaria, even if they are both loyal to Fatah.

With this latest action against Fatah in Gaza, which completes the Hamas takeover there, it is also clear that the PA is growing ever weaker.  Hamas is biding its time in terms of a takeover in Judea and Samaria.

According to Pinchas Inbari, writing for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Hamas is planning this after the release of Shalit, which will secure the release of Hamas parliament members and cadres who will go back to the West Bank and strengthen the infrastructure there.

If you remember, I reported the other day that Abbas said he might disband the PA if Israel releases these Hamas members in an exchange.  It is something he very much fears.


Just two days ago there was a report that Hamas is thinking of freezing negotiations on Shalit until the political uncertainty here in Israel passes. 

However, here yesterday formation of a panel on prisoner release criteria was announced — to be headed by Vice Premier Haim Ramon, and including Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann and Minister-without-Portfolio Ami Ayalon.

As I understand it, in an effort to have more flexibility regarding who might be released, they are going to reconsider the definition of who has “blood on his hands.”  Right now those who do have blood on their hands are not released.  What is being considered is removing from this category those who organized and dispatched others to carry out attacks that failed. 

This is cowardly game-playing based on a technicality.  The person who planned an attack intended to kill Jews is not necessarily any less evil or dangerous because the attack failed than someone whose attack succeeded.  But such is the hunger within the government to be done with the Shalit issue at last.

Even this “redefinition,” I am certain, will not totally satisfy Hamas demands.  We’ve agreed to fewer than 100 of 450 being demanded.

The problem at this point is that we are negotiating from weakness. After what we agreed to in the negotiations with Hezbollah, Hamas is emboldened.  They are convinced that we want Shalit badly enough so that if they hold out, they’ll get what they want from us.


Indication of the need to bring back Shalit was highlighted by a small incident today:  When Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi greeted new IDF recruits at an induction center, he held a question and answer session.  One new inductee said, “…after we complete our recruit service and advanced training, we will be on the front line. But in the meantime, Gilad Shalit is in captivity and this is a very disturbing issue.” 

Replied Ashkenazi:   “Gilad Shalit has been held hostage for more than two years and we must return him and make every effort on this matter. We know that Gilad Shalit is alive, where he is being held and by whom.

“…I can’t go into details, but efforts are being exerted on the Gilad Shalit issue on all levels. 

“[soldiers] must always remember that if anything happens to them, we will make sure they are returned to their families.

An IDF spokesman promptly rushed to explain that there is no new information, and there are no plans for a rescue operation.  Lt.-Gen. Ashkenazi, he explained, simply meant that Shalit was being held by Hamas in Gaza



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