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August 4, 2009: On Return

August 30, 2009

My beautiful grandson was born on Tisha B’Av and now I have returned from helping with the care of his seven siblings.

This is, first, a message just to let everyone know that I’m back to routine. A fuller posting should follow tomorrow. Here, as is my style on occasion, I would like to touch upon a couple of major issues, and share some articles of significance.


The big event in this part of the world right now is the Fatah Congress in Bethlehem, with at least 2,000 delegates in attendance. Some 40 members of Fatah will not be present, because they are in Gaza and not being permitted out by Hamas. Hamas had demanded the release by Fatah of all 1.000 Hamas prisoners as the price for letting the delegates to the convention out.

This is the first such meeting in 20 years, and will provide the venue for determining leadership of the party — most notably the Central Committee.


We might say that the issue that will predominate at the Congress is whether the moderates will hold sway — for there is going to be a battle over modifying the Fatah charter to renounce armed resistance, and it very much appears that the radicals will predominate.

But, put another way, we could say that this will be the opportunity to demonstrate to the world that there truly is no “moderate” wing of Fatah.

Former Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei opened the Congress in “In the name of the shahidim (martyrs) and in the name of Jerusalem, the capital of the Palestinian state…”

PA President Mahmoud Abbas, for his part, declared, “Although we have chosen peace, we maintain the right to launch an armed resistance, which is legitimate as far as international law is concerned.” (Note: They invoke “international law” freely in a variety of situations — it means nothing.)


Last night, Former Shin Bet chief, MK Avi Dichter (Kadima) warned of the possibility of a third intifada following the decisions made at the Congress:

“It is very clear, even now, that the Palestinians have no intention of missing an opportunity – to miss an opportunity.

“What I find particularly disturbing is that it’s the moderates that plan to have the convention vote on an article titled ‘continuing the fight against Israel by all means necessary.’ Sixteen years after the Oslo Accords, it’s Fatah’s way of saying they see an armed conflict as a legitimate way to conduct dialogue with Israel.

“If they intend to see that article through, they would be leading to the next armed conflict… It is inconceivable…the PA’s leadership, headed by Abbas, still believe an armed conflict would lead to a Palestinian state.”

Note: just days ago, the so-called moderates were saying they would oppose the motion to retain the right to armed conflict, but since then there has been a reversal.


Information Minister Yuli Edelstein (Likud) speaks more strongly still, saying that what is going on in Bethlehem is a “declaration of war.”

“We must not act as if we haven’t heard,” he explained to Ynet. “We must emerge from the circle of illusions that these are moderates who want peace. They explicitly say that they support continuing the armed struggle.

“Are these the moderate leaders the world wants us to hold negotiations with? My feeling is that we are not interested in listening to the voices calling for an armed struggle, for the right of return and for the establishment of a capital of their own in Jerusalem.

“We are pretending not to hear the clear trend demonstrated by Abu Mazen (Abbas) and his people to adapt themselves to Hamas.” (Note: for a couple of years now I’ve tracked the increased radicalization of Fatah, as Hamas sets the political agenda.)

“This is Fatah we are talking about, those who the international community is allegedly pushing us to negotiate with. If anyone should talk about settlements endangering peace, the most violent and extreme settlement is the Palestinian state, which [would] be established and run by the ‘moderate’ speaking today at the Fatah conference.

“…The competition is not over who will control the area and manage peace, but rather who will lead the struggle against Israel. Those who really seek peace are not talking today in Bethlehem about an armed struggle.”



You will find a more in-depth analysis of what is likely to go on in Bethlehem in a new piece for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs by Pinchas Inbari, who is Arabic-speaking and a long-time journalist on Palestinian affairs — as well as an analyst with the JCPA. Note, in particular, his differentiation between the document used by the Palestinians for international consumption, and another for internal use.



I end today by recommending Barry Rubin’s latest piece, “Obama Middle East Policy: Clueless is an Understatement.”

Speaking of “Obama’s plans for a comprehensive peace agreement,” Rubin says:

“…Imagine the bizarre idea that what the region has lacked is the voice of Obama explaining things to them. What hubris! What chutzpah! What a joke.

“…Almost everything the administration says about the Arab states is wrong. The fact is that relatively moderate Arab regimes believe very radical things and benefit by using the conflict for demagogic purposes. They fear the radicalization of their population, Iranian-Syrian aggression, and radical Islamist groups at home. They do not desperately need formal peace with Israel; Egypt and Jordan don’t need more normalization; Syria desperately needs the conflict to continue.

And, no, the Arab-Israeli or Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the key to regional politics.

Then there are the Palestinians. Where does one begin? Hamas running the Gaza Strip and subverting the West Bank; the dominant radicalism in Fatah; the PA’s corruption, incompetence, and lack of eagerness to make peace by the PA leadership, the fact that they haven’t even begun to prepare their people for compromise. Then there’s the PA strategy–unintentionally encouraged by the Obama administration–do nothing, make no concession, and wait for the U.S. government to deliver to you Israel bound hand and foot.

Underlying all of this is the reality that the vast majority of Palestinian leaders and masses prefer trying to wipe Israel off the map to getting their own state.

The huge problem is that none of these factors—and many more which are [not] listed—are taken into account by the Obama administration. It is assumed that Israeli-Palestinian peace is central, that everyone in the region wants it, and that it can be quickly achieved.

The administration’s Middle East policy is doomed to failure in the most incredibly obvious of ways.


With the Congress in Bethlehem, I would say that Obama’s failure looms closer. But it has been announced that he will be unveiling a peace plan in some weeks.




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