Well, the High Court did not accept the petition of the Almagor Terror Victims Association that the slated release of 250+ Palestinian prisoners be blocked. Because of the political predilections of the court, I didn’t expect that it would. The reason given is that this is a political decision by the government in which it could not interfere. The problem with this argument is that the court often interferes; two out of three of the justices hearing this case simply opted not to in this particular instance.
The one dissenting justice, Elyakim Rubinstein , observed, "I reviewed the list of the candidates for release published by the Justice Ministry on the internet, which I believe most of the public does not review. A significant number of them were convicted for the most severe and serious offenses, such as shooting at a person…not to mention offenses of using weapons or planting a bomb."
Ziad Abu Ayn, PA director of prisoner affairs , today released an announcement, reported by YNet, that among the 256 released are thirty from Hamas and two from Islamic Jihad.
We have been led to believe that the prisoners were mostly Fatah, with some 15% from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). We were further led to believe that the purpose of this was to strengthen Fatah against Hamas. So why include Hamas prisoners?
An Israeli officer is cited by Arutz Sheva as denying this completely. Although I’ve read nothing about an official Israeli government denial, there has been an announcement that only 255 and not 256 prisoners were released because in a final security check it was discovered that he had Hamas ties. After all the talk, and all the checking, they noticed this just as he was about to leave? Surely there is more to this story. Could it be that this man was held back to make the point that we don’t release Hamas prisoners? ;
Hamas says Abu Ayn’s statement is "baseless and has nothing to do with the truth."
Abu Ayn says that they are proud that these prisoners were included: "they are all our prisoners, all our sons." Fatah, it would seem — whether this is true or a fabrication — is seeking leverage with supporters of Hamas, in effect showing them who can benefit them — showing itself to be the party of "all the people." And Hamas, in any event, would be inclined to play down this claim by Fatah.
I hope this is a PA fabrication, because otherwise the Israeli government will have a good deal to answer for, in not having provided full disclosure to the public, and in releasing 30 Hamas people.
At any rate, they’ve been released and are on their way to or already in Ramallah. And what are they slated to do there? Lay a wreath on Vasser Arafat’s grave. Isn’t that sweet?
A protest is being held outside of Olmert’s residence in Jerusalem.
Perhaps even more distressful than all of this is the news that the ministerial committee that approved the release of these prisoners also discussed the names of prisoners not on the list, in anticipation of future releases. Haim Ramon was the one who promoted this discussion. And, indeed, Abbas today assured crowds in Ramallah that there will be more prisoner releases.
It is reported that Ramon is now pumping for Olmert to appoint a committee for negotiations that would include him, Foreign Minister Livni and Defense Minister Barak. The stuff of nightmares, quite honestly. Ramon thinks Olmert should develop a staged diplomatic plan with regard to the Palestinians. With proper spin regarding how safe this is and how wonderful for the country, I am certain. I consider Ramon a dangerous man.
And it gets worse and worse. According to a Channel 1 report last night, when Olmert met with Abbas earlier this week, he discussed final status issues (Jerusalem, borders, refugees) — something he insisted he would not do.
I feel as if we have at the helm of the government people who are determined to undermine the nation no matter what.
At least the Israeli government is absolutely denying the report from the PA that we are about to turn over security control of Jericho and Kalkilya to them. Senior officers in Central Command are opposed to turning over even Jericho to the Palestinians. One officer said the IDF has been told that PA security is not even capable of entering homes to confiscate weapons: "Until they prove their capabilities, we shouldn’t transfer security over the city." I think an essential point is missed here. They have the capabilities — that is, the trained forces with adequate weapons — but what they lack, as in Gaza, is the will. They must demonstrate intentions as well as capabilities.
There is a suspicion that the PA leaked this news about transfer of security responsibility to Al Quds, an Arabic paper in London, in order to apply pressure to Israel.
I’ve been monitoring the comments of various academics and political analysts regarding the current situation in the PA and President Bush’s speech. And I’ve occasionally had some fun doing this — encountering commentators who tell it like it is.
There is, for example, John Podhoretz , in "Bribing Abbas," who says:
"Bush [on July 16] essentially told the Palestinian people that American money would rain down on their heads – kind of like the manna that fed the Jews in the desert thousands of years ago – if they just renounced terror.
"What Bush said is simply a matter of fact. Right now, America is raining half a billion dollars on the Palestinian government solely because it’s kinda-sorta acting a little bit like it’s maybe possibly giving up on terror."
After summarizing the various amounts pledged for Palestinians by the US, he writes,
"That’s $498 million – half a billion solely because Abbas is not Hamas.
"Now, imagine just how much there would be if, as a general rule, Palestinian politics managed to get beyond the death-worshipping, martyr-seeking, Jew-hating, genocide-craving lunacy that has both seduced its people and trapped them in a cycle of pointless, self-defeating despair for decades now: Half a billion would be the merest drop in the bucket.
"But it’s not likely that there’s going to be much more than that half-billion.
"In the first place, we have no reason to expect that a single cent of that money is going to go anywhere helpful or do anything good.
"President Bush may believe Abbas has it in him to be the Gandhi of Ramallah and the Martin Luther King Jr. of Hebron – but Abbas was also Yasser Arafat’s trusted aide, and one thing about Arafat and his trusted aides is that they were and are a bunch of shameless, slimy, monstrous thieves.
"The history of Western aid to Palestinians is an unending and repugnant tale of graft, theft and pilferage."
Then there is Shlomo Avineri, professor of political science at Hebrew University, who, writing in Lebanon’s Daily Star, deals with the fact that "For Palestinians, a coherent body politic is wanting." Nothing funny about this, as he reco
unts a history going back the better part of 100 years, documenting how the Palestinians have failed in this respect — failed to establish "an embryonic state structure" or "coherent political solutions." The Palestinian people, he says, now stand at an historic crossroads. "…whether they will be able to transcend their tragic heritage depends on their own actions. No one can help them if they cannot come up with a coherent, consensual, and reasonably united leadership…"
Lastly here I mention the July 17 editorial in The NY Sun, "Beyond the Illusions." Mr. Bush has lowered the bar for the Palestinians, says this editorial: They have not met the criterion for American support he spelled out in his famous 2002 speech — "embrace democracy, confront corruption, and firmly reject terror" — and so he now is focused on simply helping Abbas survive. Most of the millions he has pledged will disappear. Weapons will be turned against Israel. Pressure, via the international conference will be brought to bear on Israel. Mr. Bush’s call to Israel to "reduce their footprint without reducing their security" (to cut back on checkpoints, but still protect the Israeli people) is essentially a request to Israel to "square the circle," i.e., an impossibility that seeks to embrace conflicting goals.