Motzei Shabbat (after Shabbat)
The plans to build further units in Har Homa — they would not extend Har Homa, but would be built inside the area already established — were laid a full ten years ago, even though the tender for the building was just put out now. The tender was routine, because decisions had previously been made — it wasn’t run by high gov’t officials. It is unlikely that Israel will back down on this (hope not!) even though there is a furor.
But the furor is worse than irksome — it’s enraging. As I’ve written, the meeting of potential donors for the PA will take place this coming week in Paris, and Abbas will be requesting $5.6 (sometimes I read $5.8) billion dollars. But according to a draft of Abbas’s speech acquired by Haaretz, Abbas intends to demand at the conference that Israel stop all building over the Green Line because this area belongs to the PA.
First, an economic conference is the wrong place to raise this issue. The Palestinians use any forum they can get, but their achieving economic reform and viability really does not depend on their acquisition of the Har Homa neighborhood, even though this is how they will represent it.
And then, there is the assumption that it’s a done deal, a given: that we will be turning over to them half of Jerusalem and all of Judea and Samaria. Hey! Isn’t that what negotiations are supposed to determine?
What concerns me the most, however , is a statement from an unnamed Israeli gov’t official cited in Arutz Sheva: "This affair has sabotaged negotiations and cast a shadow on the international donor states meeting next week. Because of a miserably timed, rash bureaucratic decision, we must prove anew that we are serious." Bells go off in my head with this. So, we won’t stop the building in Har Homa but we’ll make some other new concession to "prove anew" our sincerity.
"Sabotage negotiations": The Palestinians are saying (as they always say such things to gain leverage) that they won’t continue negotiations unless we stop the plans to build. WE are the ones doing them a favor, if we are discussing the possibility of giving them a state (G-d forbid!). Why do we have to prove anything more? Why is the onus not on them to prove that they deserve this state? Why are they not running to be conciliatory so that they can have it? As I’ve pointed out numerous times before, this whole scenario is upside down and backwards. You don’t go into negotiations on the defensive, but from strength.
Much more significant with regard to that meeting is whether the PA has gotten its act together in a manner that makes it possible to achieve economic development. Of course this is not the case, but Khaled Abu Toameh wrote a stunning article in the Post on Friday about the PA’s lack of preparedness.
Not only did PA officials admit that they have a long way to go with regard to reforming their security services, PA Civil Police commander Gen. Kamal al-Sheikh revealed that more that 600 Fatah policemen defected to Hamas last June and helped them take control of Gaza. But it was a small percentage of the 13,000 Fatah forces that were in Gaza, he insisted, playing down the significance of this.
PA officials also acknowledged that the US-backed plan to put PA police in charge of keeping law and order, which began with the 300 police sent into Nablus (Shechem), has failed to achieve most of its goals because of the incompetency of the forces.
One officer confessed (and I’ve reported on this before) that the operation hasn’t targeted gunmen connected to Fatah (in the main, Al Aksa Brigades). "These gunmen are continuing to operate freely in the refugee camps near Nablus and Tulkarem. We arrested citizens who stole olive oil three years ago and or fired into the air during weddings two years ago….We still have many officers who are involved in various crimes and corruption. We are still far from talking about real reforms in the security establishment."
I hope everyone is paying close attention to this , as news sometimes exaggerates the "success" of PA operations.
What was unsettling was that this PA officer said , "In the coming days we will launch a similar security operation in Bethlehem. But the real test will be in Hebron and Jenin, as well as in the refugee camps, where Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah militiamen call the shots." Bethlehem? Hebron? Jenin? Has this been promised to them by Olmert already? Does it not depend on the success of the operation in Nablus?
Most infuriating is that the PA security officers Abu Toameh spoke with indicated that in spite their lack of success in their security operations, they expect the donors in Paris to approve their request of $5.6 billion anyway. And, you know what? They probably will. No accountability. No demanding that they make the mark before more is given to them. Pour on the money anyway.
The only good thing I can say about the security situation is that on Thursday, during a meeting with Quarter envoy Tony Blair, PA prime minister Salaam Fayyad complained that Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak wouldn’t agree to remove roadblocks in Judea and Samaria.
Barak leaves a lot to be desired, but he knows full well what would happen if those roadblocks came down.
Well, after meeting with Barak on Thursday night , Sderot Mayor Moyal agreed to stay in office after all. Barak specifically asked him to rescind his resignation and has promised some sort of special attention to Sderot’s needs for protection. The problem is that we should not be talking just about doing things like reinforcing buildings there — we should be acting to stop the attacks.
On Thursday, a Kassam hit a home in Sderot and a woman was injured.
This should be of particular interest to America citizens:
After a report in The Washington Times about United States Aid for International Development (USAID) financing of Islamic University in Gaza, Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL), a member of the House Appropriations Committee) asked USAID to do an audit of its aid to the university. From 2002 to 2006, USAID had given Islamic University close to $1 million. During this time period USAID had conducted several inquiries into their funding of this institution and each time had concluded that there was no reason to curtail funding; Islamic University, for its part, consistently maintained that they did not support terrorism.
In response to the Kirk query, the inspector general of USAID checked on the matter and concluded that funding of the university did not represent a departure from US policy that forbad funding organizations associated with Hamas.
Kirk last Tuesday gave an interview in which he said that the failure of USAID to detect the university’s ties with terrorism represented "either incompetence or a complete breakdown of the vetting system as run by the State Department." (USAID, which is semi-autonomous, runs out of the State Department.) Ismail Haniyeh sits on the board of trustees of the university, and PA security forces seized rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles during a raid of the university last January.
Kirk’s interest in the matter has spurred follow-up audits , which had concluded that USAID has funded terror-linked groups on at least two occasions, and that USAID "did not always follow applicable federal laws" when providing funds to the university.
Shocked? Please know that lots more US tax money than you’d like to think ends up in the hands of te
rrorists. Mark Kirk is one of my heroes now.
At a ceremony initiating joint industrial projects with Iran, Syrian President Bashar Assad let it be known that his country’s participation in Annapolis in no way represented a weakening of ties with Iran: "I confirm, on this occasion, that relations will not be shaken for any reason or under any circumstance."
Let’s hear it for Rice’s plan to bring Syria to Annapolis in order to achieve steps toward moderation. Iran has now invested about $2 billion in Syrian industries such as automobiles, cement, and power generation, and in agriculture.
Dr. Reuven Koret, publisher of Israel Insider has written a superb open letter to Secretary Rice: "Applying Jim Crow to Israel." He calls her on the very mistaken analogy she drew between her childhood, during which she suffered as a black person, and the suffering of Palestinians today. And he castigates her in no uncertain terms for the hypocrisy of drawing upon her experience and its lessons of equality for all, yet acceding to outrageous Arab demands that Israelis at Annapolis be treated in a demeaning fashion.
It’s worth a read: