PA Prime Minister Haniyeh has now accepted the resignation of Interior Minister Hani Kawassmeh; Kawassmeh had tried to resign two weeks ago and was urged to wait. A compromise candidate on whom Hamas and Fatah presumably agreed, he was supposed to oversee security services but says he was constantly frustrated in his efforts to establish law and order.
A new interior minister will now be chosen, but the filling of this post was a bone of contention from the beginning and held up formation of the unity government. Now Fatah officials are saying that tension with Hamas is so high that the unity government could fall apart at any moment.
After considerable Hamas-Fatah violence yesterday, Egypt was supposed to have mediated a ceasefire last night. But today two more members of Fatah have been murdered and 12 wounded.
It’s looking less rosy now, unfortunately. There was a considerable buoying of hope in recent days with the election of Nicolas Sarkozy to the presidency in France. Reports promptly circulated about Sarkozy’s Jewish roots and pro-Israel statements he has made were shared widely. Here in Jerusalem expectations were high that we were beginning a time of more positive Israeli-French relations.
Maybe he will still be better than Chirac — which is not necessarily saying much. But Sarkozy has just offered the position of foreign minister to Hubert Vedrine. A Socialist, Vedrine served as foreign minister from 1997-2002 (under Jospin and then Chirac). When Palestinian Arab violence exploded in September 2000, Vedrine advocated economic sanctions against Israel. He also advocates dialogue with Hezbollah and Hamas.
A variety of reasons are being advanced now as to why Sarkozy has done this, not the least of which being the fact that Vedrine has strong connections in the Arab world.
One Israeli diplomat has pointed out that Sarkozy isn’t thinking about Israel in making this appointment, but rather his own political position, which means, among other things, showing an openness to the political left. But if these are Sarkozy’s priorities, it would be foolish for us to expect much at all.
Right now it’s wait and see, as Vedrine has not officially accepted yet. But the situation is looking grim, as Vedrine was one of the worst French foreign ministers with respect to Israel.
A report released just yesterday by BESA (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies) anticipated precisely what is happening now in France. Tsilla Hershco, who specializes in Franco-Israeli relations for BESA, wrote (emphasis added):
"The election this week of Nicolas Sarkozy as President of France is unlikely to lead to a substantial shift in French policy towards Israel, although the tone of French-Israeli relations can be expected to improve. Even the most favorable French administration will continue to take into account France’s traditional ties with the Arab world, France’s significant Muslim population, and public opinion in France – which is not at all favorable to Israel. Sarkozy’s promise to affect a transatlantic
rapprochement does not necessarily mean a positive shift in French policy towards Israel."
An interesting take on Syria. Meir Dagan, head of Mossad, says that the current diplomatic stalemate between Israel and Syria maintains stability. Syrian bids to begin peace negotiations are only tactical, according to Intelligence. And so, says, Dagan, if those peace negotiations were to fall apart, it might lead to war. As things are now, Dagan does not believe Syria will attack us, as they know they cannot win.