Prime Minister Olmert has informed us that President Bush is committed to realizing his dream of a Palestinian state before he leaves office in January 2009.
Quite frankly, the hypothesis that these “leaders” are operating in an alternate universe seems to me as good an explanation of this statement as any other I can come up with. (There are, of course, other explanations: prime among them that Bush and Olmert don’t remotely believe in the possibility but choose to adopt this fiction for political reasons.)
At any rate, aside from being a dangerous thing to promote, a Palestinian state by the end of 2008 is an absolute impossibility. Within 18 months, we are not going to see a stable, non-terrorist, economically viable, government founded upon a civil society in Palestinian areas (even within Judea and Samaria only). I frankly doubt that this would be a possibility within 18 years – but fervently hope that by then another paradigm will have replaced this notion, so that it will no longer be a consideration.
One of the key problems with regard to how the international community deals with the Palestinians is the failure to hold them accountable. Their feet are never held to the fire. There is no requirement that they honor commitments, no expectation that there will be genuine transparency in terms of how aid has been used before more aid is given. Always there are excuses accepted. Always, there is a willingness to turn a blind eye. This is not only condescending – for the assumption is made that the Palestinians cannot be accountable, are not responsible – it is also pathological. And, as I indicated above, dangerous.
In the US not so long ago, there was an adjustment in welfare regulations because of a concern about welfare mentality, and a generation of recipients with their hands out. Well, with the Palestinians, the world has created the ultimate welfare people. They don’t have to do their own development, they simply have to demand their international assistance.
Meanwhile, Olmert is drafting proposals that he will bring before the Cabinet on Sunday, and which he expects to pass: He wants to formally recognize the emergency government of provisional prime minister Salam Fayyad, and release $400 million in frozen tax funds. (Europe and the US are to begin funding of the PA again as well.)
I laugh (a bitter laugh) when I read that tax funds “will be transferred to the Palestinians…through a mechanism that will ensure none of the funds reach terror organizations, or any groups associated with terror, including Hamas.”
This is a joke of colossal proportions, for Al Aksa Brigades, a terrorist organization, is part of Fatah. There is a long history of money going to the PA ending up in terrorist hands. What makes this time different?
A summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, is now scheduled for Monday, to be attended by Olmert, Abbas, King Abdullah of Jordan and President Mubarek of Egypt. Discussion, of course, will focus on how to further a Palestinian state. Olmert intends to bring an outline for his “assistance” plan to the meeting. It includes provision of weapons to Fatah to build their arsenal for further actions against Hamas, as well as the already mentioned release of funds. He is additionally considering (Heaven help us) “easing of travel restrictions,” a euphemism for taking down some of the checkpoints that allow us to stop terrorists.
Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beitenu) strenuously objects, saying that, “Even if we provide Abbas with F16s, he isn’t capable, and doesn’t have a chance to control Hamas. It has already been proven that giving weapons and money to Fatah go towards strengthening terror and not towards fighting it."
While he is absolutely right, and would argue that his presence in the government is important so he can voice these objections, I find it disturbing that he remains in the government instead of pulling out and trying his best to bring it down.
A large number of credible analysts have taken a position against supporting Abbas now as a “moderate” hope for the future. But the most interesting take on the situation that I’ve seen is from Daniel Pipes, Director of the Middle East Forum. Two rival factions have now replaced the single Palestinian Authority, says Pipes. As Palestinian nationalism is a recent phenomenon with an expedient nature, this bifurcation may have great import. What Pipes sees is that Palestinian allegiance may cease being to Palestinian nationalism and alternate affiliations may emerge: with pan-Islam, pan-Arab nationalism, Egypt, Jordan, or their own tribes and clans. That is with regard to the internal Palestinian situation. From an international perspective, the Hamas-Fatah rivalry may have damaged “the myth” of a Palestinian state.
I would add — Pipes didn’t say this, but it is an irrefutable corollary of his analysis — that “the myth” of a Palestinian people has also been damaged.
Reportedly Gaza is now calm again. But it must be noted that there is a movement towards the institution of Sharia – stringent Islamic law.
Unrealistic though it may be (because there isn’t the courage in this country to act), I rather like the suggestion of Michael Freund, who has written:
“The existence of a rogue, Taliban-style terrorist state along Israel’s southern border is a recipe for disaster…
“So let’s finally shed our delusions…and let’s just ‘take Gaza,’ once and for all.
“Israel should reassert complete control over the area…
“We should methodically uproot the terrorist infrastructure, and rebuild the rubble of Gush Katif and its once-thriving Jewish communities. In other words, take Gaza back, take all of it back, and don’t ever give it up again.
“…Those who preached concessions and withdrawal have been proven painfully wrong, again and again, and the people of Israel have suffered terribly for their shortsightedness and frailty…
“ The pullout from Gaza has proven to be a disastrous mistake, one that has claimed numerous Israeli lives – and Palestinian ones, too…
“We need not accept the present situation, nor should we. It is not too late to correct the error of withdrawal, and to declare at last an end to the delusions of reaching a false peace with those who seek our demise.
“We should never have left in the first place, and the time has now come to return. Like it or not, the choice between Israel or Hamas ruling over the area really doesn’t leave us with much choice at all.”