According to Al-Hayat in London, which cited an Israeli "senior government source," Olmert and Abbas have set up a secret channel for discussing final status issues. These include establishment of an independent Palestinian state, the refugee issue, the question of settlements and the future of Jerusalem, although — according to the report — there have been no breakthroughs.
Olmert’s office is denying this. But I have picked up similar inklings from another source and I consider this within the realm of possibility. Those of us who have been monitoring Olmert are aware that he is focused on this: a desire to give away part of the land. He came into office speaking of "realignment," which was to be the Judea-Samaria version of the Gaza disengagement. When that didn’t play because of the political situation, he pulled back temporarily. Now, with "peace talk" in the air, he may believe he has the opportunity to give our land to the Palestinians more directly.
After considerable publicity about Olmert’s possible readiness to allow Jordanian regular army forces from the Badr Brigade — which consists of Bedouins with experience in fighting terrorists — into Judea and Samaria to help the PA, Jordan has responded: Nothing doing.
Said a Jordanian spokesman: "To discuss such a notion is shooting down Palestinian aspirations of independent statehood and implies that the Palestinians aren’t capable of taking responsibility for their own security. We aren’t contemplating anything like that."
Translation: We have no intention of getting involved at this level now.
Round and round we go… But there’s no clarity, no sense of anything really happening (because in truth nothing is happening):
The Arab states — which had presumably been promoting "peace" via the Arab League initiative (from which the Saudis have since withdrawn) — are now saying that they’re not terribly enthusiastic about Bush’s plans for a peace conference. Such an effort, they are saying, should be "all-inclusive," meaning that it should work on peace between Syria and Israel at the same time. A new wrinkle.
When the Arab governments met in Cairo on Monday to discuss their response to Bush’s proposed conference, representatives of Syria stormed out, angry that fellow Arabs would even discuss it. It would, they said, "liquidate the Palestinian cause."
So much for that. Let’s hope.
A number of terrorist Palestinian groups — most notably the Palestinian Resistance Committees — have expressed fury with PA Prime Minister Fayad for dropping the term "armed struggle" (mukawama) from his newly announced platform. One PRC representative, Abu Abir, said they would target Fayad and "his treacherous gang."
"We will target them in the field the same way we attack Israel. We promise to put an end to all the American-backed Palestinian personalities in the near future because of their decision to side with the Israeli enemy."
And so, guess what?
When Fayad was at the Arab League meeting in Cairo on Monday, he held a press conference and further explained his stand: Palestinians have a right to resist the "occupation" even if the word mukawama didn’t appear in his platform (for semantic reasons and because of the possibility of misunderstandings): "What is the essence of resistance, especially in light of the current occupation? Does it not begin with all possible efforts to strengthen the permanence of the Palestinian citizens on their land? That is precisely the government’s agenda."
Oh. Right. That was a close one for Fayad.
Word came out from the Lebanese paper An-Nahar the other day that one of the two Israeli soldiers being held by Hezbollah is dead. This information reportedly came from Germans who had been in touch with Christian Lebanese Michael Aoun, an ally of Hezbollah.
Israel is not giving this undocumented report credibility. In truth, we just don’t know.
It would seem that Bush has made pretty much of a mess of things with his latest diplomatic gambit. Over the weekend the US announced that it is planning to sell Saudi Arabia $20 billion in advanced weapons systems, including JDAMs that turn regular bombs into "smart" bombs, which present a potential strategic threat to Israel.
He is doing this to secure Saudi cooperation in Iraq. But it seems fairly short-sighted (exceedingly myopic?) to establish such a policy made in the expectation of an alliance with the Saudis. Of late, they promoted the unity government in Mecca, favoring Hamas; then they withdrew support for the Arab League peace initiative, instead pushing renewed negotiations between Fatah and Hamas, something that the US solidly opposes.
Far more significantly, Saudi Arabia — home of radical fundamentalist, virulently anti-Shiite Islamic Wahhabism — is directly connected to terrorism in Iraq. Saudi Arabia has permitted Sunni radicals to cross into Iraq, and has provided funding for them; Wahhabi clerics have encouraged them. The New York Times reports that "Of an estimated 60 to 80 foreign fighters who enter Iraq each month, American military and intelligence officials say that nearly half are coming from Saudi Arabia."
And Bush has failed to notice this?
Addressing the issue of how the American government views the Saudis, Stephen Schwartz, a senior policy analyst with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, writes, "The (Saudi) kingdom is an unwavering nerve center of ideological indoctrination, incitement, and terrorist financing…Washington needs to end its delusion that the Saudi royal family is a moderating force…
"…Saudi Arabia has never been subjugated by the West, instead it has only been cuddled and bribed to ridiculous extremes. And in turn the West has received a torrent of violence and hateful venom."
Resistance to this sale has been stiffer than Bush had anticipated, for the prospect of increased risk to Israel does not sit well here in Jerusalem or among supporters of Israel in Congress; there is no adequate Israeli defense for these "smart" bombs.
In an attempt to sweeten the situation , the US has announced an increase in military aid to Israel, from $2.4 to $3 billion annually. Along with this came promises of continuing US commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge and guarantees that limits would be put on the Saudis regarding use of their equipment ("restrictions on the range, size and location of the satellite-guided bombs," including a commitment not to store the weapons at air bases close to Israeli territory).
Whether the US is truly committed to Israel’s qualitative edge remains to be seen. Israel’s request to buy the US’s most sophisticated stealth bomber has been denied.
As to restrictions on the use of the equipment, a report today indicated that this may make it more difficult for Condoleezza Rice to get the Saudis to cooperate publicly with supporting the Israeli-Palestinian process. Is this not unreal?
Reps. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) and Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) have announced that they will introduce a joint resolution to block the deal when Congress is formally notified. Said Weiner, "The reputation of the Saudis has taken quite a beating since 9/11, and despite the fact that the administration has done everything to portray them as part of the moderate Arab world, me
mbers of Congress of both parties are increasingly skeptical."
A Palestinian Arab was caught at a checkpoint (yup! one of those checkpoints again) near Shechem with 22 pounds of explosives.
This is an interesting news item: The Prison Service has decided to cancel matriculation exams for Palestinian Arabs in Israeli prisons. Seems there have been several incidents in which Arabs brought in to administer the tests attempted to bring letters to, or accept letters from, the prisoners.
Matriculation exams for Palestinians in Israeli prisons?