Mahmoud Abbas is going to meet Hamas head Khaled Mashaal in Qatar for one last effort to achieve a unity government. Qatar, it seems, has taken over as mediator from Egypt, which failed to bring the two parties together. Apparently both Abbas and Mashaal have a good relationship with Qatar leaders. I note in particular, however, that when Mashaal was booted out of Jordan in 1999, it was Qatar he went to, and he still divides his time between Damascus and Qatar. This tells us something about Qatar, which is the only Arab member of the Security Council. There is some speculation that Qatar is eager to get in on the diplomatic front because of rivalry with Saudi Arabia. The government is saying that it will deal with the release of Gilad Shalit, as well, which Mashaal has been holding up — to great Egyptian annoyance.
At any rate, Abbas’s adviser, Nabil Amr, is saying publicly that Abbas is wasting his time because Hamas will never agree to key points required by the Quartet. He speaks, as do some others, about finding a way for Abbas to dissolve the PA gov’t, something Hamas would not sit still for.
So, here we go… Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice is coming to town in an effort to "renew" the "peace process," as Bush pledged to do. What is happening here is the courting of the moderate Arab states — Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan — via a demonstrated attempt to deliver an Israeli-Palestinian agreement in order to solidify an anti-Iran coalition. She will visit with leaders of these three states and stop here for 24 hours to meet with Olmert and Abbas. She will not be bringing any new ideas to the table, but simply showing her personal involvement. The key, as I see it, is whether that "personal involvement" will involve pressure on Israel to be more "forthcoming." If she comes, says, "OK guys, I’m here, I know it’s a tough time, do your best. We’re behind you," and leaves, that is fine.
If truth be told, unless there is a huge breakthrough with the unity government, this is decidedly not a diplomatically propitious time for pushing renewed "peace process," as the PA is in disarray. The idea of dealing with Abbas when Hamas would have to sign off on what he agrees to has always struck me as ludicrous — more game playing. If it weren’t for that desire to forge the coalition, I tend to doubt Rice would be doing this now.
And if an even greater truth be told, there is no partner for peace no matter how the situation in the PA shapes up. Negotiations — which would require Israeli concessions and provide further international legitimization of the PA — are simply not in Israel’s best interest. As long as I am writing I will continue to say this. The goal of Fatah and Hamas alike is the destruction of Israel, they simply have different approaches. Hamas tells it like it is and embraces terrorism overtly, calling it "resistance." Fatah plays the game, but intends to weaken Israel with reduced borders and "return" of refugees — all via negotiations, of course — and then take Israel down in stages. The charters of both Fatah (of which Abbas is a founding member) and the PLO (which Abbas heads) call for Israel’s destruction.
I will add here that a preliminary requirement of the Road Map, which is what Rice presumably will be trying to invigorate, is the dismantling of terrorist infrastructure. Everyone, but everyone, knows that Abbas will do no such thing; he has agreements with Hamas. A hudna, or temporary ceasefire used to strengthen fighting capacity, is not the same as dismantling terrorist infrastructure, although the Palestinians try to pass it off as such: "See? We’re quiet. We adhere to understandings. Let’s proceed." Beware!
I was surprised to read that opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu says Olmert should meet with Abbas. In fact, while Olmert says he won’t meet with him until Shalit is released, Netanyahu says he would meet with him even before. He speaks of an alliance of extremists against an alliance of moderates and suggests that we initiate an alliance between ourselves and "moderate" Palestinians such as Abbas. Huh? This is a sell out and not at all in line with what one would expect of the head of Likud. In fact, opponents in the Likud charged him with moving left for political reasons. Said the Manhigut Yehudit forum within Likud: "Now…when everyone knows there is no partner and the survival of Israel is at stake, Netanyahu is giving a certificate of kashrut [condition of being kosher] to the enemy."
This comes to remind us once again that Netanyahu, who really does have a good sense of security issues, cannot be trusted and will sell out for personal political gain. What we need most now is a leader of integrity, and he ain’t it.
We all need a laugh from time to time, so let me share this: The EU’s ambassador to Israel, Ramiro Cibrian-Uzal, has told The Jerusalem Post that the EU is willing to do peacekeeping in the Philadelphi Corridor (between Egypt and Gaza, where the smuggling goes on). If the international forces succeed in Lebanon, he said, then this might be another place where they can productively operate. Great. They can stop weapons coming into Gaza from Egypt just as forcefully as they are stopping weapons being brought from Syrian into Lebanon.
Speaking of Lebanon… Head of UNIFIL General Alain Pelligrini has told a Lebanese paper, an-Nahar, that Israel will be leaving Lebanon on Sunday. Haven’t heard the same from the IDF. Israel has demanded that before a final IDF pullout UNIFIL alter its open-fire regulations to be more aggressive in controlling Hezbollah, and UNIFIL has declined to do so. There is deep concern about the situation on the part of military intelligence and if the IDF does leave on Sunday, it will be reluctantly. Just yesterday there was every indication that the IDF wasn’t not going to pull out in a hurry.
This seems to be a case of "things as usual." Hezbollah, the aggressor, was supposed to be dismantled. Not only is it not being dismantled, but it is being rearmed and storing weapons in new bunkers being built in Palestinian strongholds in Lebanon, and is again at the border with Israel.
But… when Israel protests and does not want to proceed because the situation is dangerous and not as it was supposed to be, it becomes our fault. Hey! It’s always our fault, isn’t it?
This posting can be found at: https://arlenefromisrael.info/current-postings/2006/9/29/posted-september-29-2006.html