I am now back at my computer after two weeks in the US, and hopefully will resume a normal routine, whatever "normal" means.
Commentaries about the impossibility of founding a viable Palestinian state continue to appear. There is, for example, a piece by Brett Stephens, who was editor of The Jerusalem Post, and is now on the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal. Wrote Stephens yesterday, in a piece called "Who Killed Palestine?":
"…make no mistake: No matter how much diplomatic, military and financial oxygen is pumped into Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, it’s oxygen flowing to a corpse…Israelis have held on to their state because they were able to develop the political, military and economic institutions that a state requires to survive…In its nearly 14 years as an autonomous entity, the PA has succeeded in none of that, despite being on the receiving end of unprecedented international goodwill and largesse."
And Martin Peretz, editor-in-chief of The New Republic, has just written an excellent article called "THIS IS THE END OF PALESTINE?" in which he says:
"…[People] cried even before Gaza was put through the trauma of civil war. For what was unraveling was the whole idea of the Palestine nation itself.
"No people moves without an elite committed to the whole. That the Palestinian elites were and are corrupt is a historic reality, a shabby reality.
"…Most of the Arabs of Palestine resented the Jews . But resentment is not a foundation for a nation…
"…One of the harsh truths that we have learned is that terrorism may be the prime expression of a fledgling nationalism, perhaps even its only collective expression…A suicide bomb…makes a big and incredulous splash, and with that comes to its instigators the sense that they can no longer be ignored.
"’Palestine’ is not the only place where the very idea of the nation is so weak that its violent eruptions seem to be dismal admissions of failure. But, however impoverished the reality, it has caught the fancy of many outside Palestine. The fact is that, had these outsiders–some cynical, some hopelessly muddle-headed–not embraced the cause, the cause already would have perished from its own exhaustion.
So what is Palestine? It is an improvisation from a series of rude facts. Palestine was never anything of especial importance to the Arabs or to the larger orbit of Muslims…
"…Then, there is the West Bank . The optimism about peace prospects there is, at least, very much premature. And, frankly, from what I know about locales like Jenin and Hebron, I wonder why commentators think that the Judea and Samaria territories are so different from Gaza. In fact, these Palestinian cities historically have been centers of Arab extremism, although–and this is a curious characteristic of Arab extremism–this rarely ties one locale to another. So what you have is the bane of fanaticism without the bonds of community. Indeed, the defining loyalty among many Palestinians is loyalty to family, clan, and tribe, not progressive social formations, as they say.
"…U.S. policy must not assume that there are facile ways to render the West Bank peaceful. Almost everyone has admitted, some with bitterness, that what keeps that area of Palestine more orderly than Gaza is the proximate presence of Israeli troops near Arab population centers.
"Would that there were a mature national will among the Palestinians. It might even be able to temper the rage of the Arabs against one another. Not until their sense of peoplehood conquers their rage against one another will they be in the psychological position to think of peace with Israel. I doubt this will happen any time soon. This is the end of Palestine, the bitter end."
Read the entire piece at:
Barry Rubin, Director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, takes a slightly different position, although the end he sees as likely is the same:
"…The message should not be: ‘Let’s save that wonderful moderate Abbas who is eager for peace.’ But rather: ‘Mr. Abbas and colleagues, you are on the verge of extinction. Give us some reason to save you if you want our help.’
"The way this issue is being presented in Washington and Jerusalem, however, would make one believe that Abbas is so wonderful that he is doing everyone a favor by accepting their money and support. Such a fantasy will lead to a continuation of Fatah’s habitual blindness and smugness, guaranteeing its intransigent behavior and eventual downfall.
"Aid should be contingent. Stop incitement in the PA media which Abbas controls; act decisively to stop cross-border attacks, and on that basis help can be provided.
"…If Israel and the United States are patronizing –poor guy, he just cannot help it–the situation will spiral into a new catastrophe."
My question: Who in the government of Israel or of the US is paying attention?
Once again I note that there is talk in various quarters about new "negotiations” between Hamas and Fatah. Hamas has been seeking this, while as yet Fatah has refused (but see below re: Abbas defense of terrorists in Gaza). What we are seeing currently is the doomed proposal by the international community that we negotiate with a rump portion of the Palestinian people, such as they are a people at all.
Far more realistic and to the point are proposals that a federation between Jordan and the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria be established. A Briefing on this subject for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs first done by journalists Dan Diker and Pinchas Inbari two years ago is receiving renewed attention. They see such a confederation as "the most natural political alternative from historical, cultural and ethnic standpoints." Many are not aware that Jordan has a primarily Palestinian population and that King Hussein used to say in the 1950s and 1960s that "Jordan is Palestine and Palestine is Jordan."
At the summit meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh on Monday , Olmert pledged to recommend to the government the release of 250 Palestinian prisoners, a move that many object to. It is not yet clear which prisoners would be released although they would certainly be Fatah affiliated. Abbas is reportedly "demanding" the release of Marwan Barghouti. Aside from the fact that I am extremely irked by any notion of Abbas having the right to "demand" anything at all of us (here’s the smugness Rubin refers to), I remain adamantly opposed to release of Barghouti, who is a terrorist. There is a clear message for those who are ready to listen: Abbas would consider himself strengthened by the release of a terrorist.
It should be remembered that originally Olmert was negotiating the release of Palestinian prisoners in return for the release of Shalit. And so here we see, as well, another loweri
ng of the bar. Abbas pledged a couple of times to secure Shalit’s release, and we said we’d release Palestinians in return (something that is in and of itself ill advised). Abbas couldn’t/didn’t achieve Shalit’s release? Hey! Let’s give him something anyway.
As to the original plan for Israel to release some 500 prisoners in exchange for Shalit, Egypt says this is not dead yet and that negotiations will be resumed once things quiet down. The thought in some quarters is that Hamas needs to do this to show it can produce a gain for the people. The catch is that Hamas has to, in turn, negotiate with those radicals who are actually holding Shalit.
Former US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton , a courageously honest man, has given an interview to The Jerusalem Post that ran today.
Bolton says the Bush administration does not recognize the urgency of the hour with regard to Iran becoming nuclear and is depending on sanctions and diplomatic contacts that are doomed to fail. Promoting revolution from inside of Iran might work, he says, but there may not be time. What remains is the military option — which must be forcefully pushed.
At the press conference held after Olmert met with Bush recently, Bush made a point of saying that all options are on the table with regard to Iran. I felt, quite honestly, Bush was seeking a trade-off on this with Israel: You want me to hit Iran, cooperate in bolstering Abbas. At any rate, news broke just days ago about long distance exercises that included fueling in mid-air that the Israeli Air Force has been doing. The implications are clear. If Bush doesn’t act, it falls to us.
Bolton referred to something that simply confirms what we have been seeing: That the Bush administration is "not the same" as it was three years ago, and that the State Department is dominating foreign policy. "The State Department has adopted the European view [on how to stop Iran] and other voices have been sidelined."
It continues to fall to American citizens who alarmed about this situation to stiffen Bush’s backbone. Please, let him know how you feel:
President George Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500
White House Comment line: 202-456-1111
TTY/TDD Comment line: 202-456-6213
I remind you that a letter is most effective — snail mail or faxed, and e-mail least effective. Act to the best of your ability.
Keep your message brief and to the point. It is essential to focus on US interests. And, in truth, US interests are very much at risk. If Iran gets nuclear weapons the balance of power shifts to the radical regimes in the Middle East and will threaten significant US interests and ultimately the US itself. Should — G-d forbid! — the status of nuclear nation be attained by Iran, it would be too late to act. There is no room for doubt here.
Today Israel launched an operation in Gaza , going after terrorists planning attacks. The Palestinians fought back fiercely and in the course of gun battles 12 Palestinians were killed. There are charges that these 12 include one child. If you see this in the news, be aware that Israel is denying that a child was hit. At least one Islamic Jihad leader was taken out.
Abbas is condemning what Israel did, saying ""The crimes that were committed in the Gaza Strip by the Israeli occupation must be strongly condemned. This bloody escalation, which was initiated by the Israeli government…will lead to a chain of retaliations and the prolongation of violence….This aggression…calls into question whether Israel really intends negotiate to end the occupation."
Interesting, no? Enlightening perhaps. Israel is not occupying Gaza but retains the right to go after terrorists as a matter of self-defense. Yet Abbas would not give us this right. Even more significantly Abbas, who caved completely in Gaza and took a bloody defeat from terrorist forces there, is now speaking in defense of these forces.