This Wednesday evening begins Rosh Hashana . And so there will be a hiatus in these postings. To all I wish a year of peace and fulfillment.
For Israel I pray for leaders with the wisdom to understand their responsibility to protect the land and the people, and to treat our heritage with reverence.
This year begins a Shmita or Sabbatical year here in Israel, which entails a sense of increased holiness concerning the land and its produce, and requires a series of stipulations in its observance.
Barry Rubin’s latest column, "Influence in the Mideast," is an eye-opener that provides important information and perspective.
Iran held a meeting of Palestinians recently , he tells us. Hamas was there, of course, and Islamic Jihad. But also Farouk Kaddoumi. Who is Farouk Kaddoumi? A big man in Fatah and the PLO. Never accepted Oslo. I’ve been writing about him recently with regard to his control of the Fatah Central Committee.
"What was Kaddoumi doing in Teheran? Well, he has long been an ally of Syria which is Teheran’s closest ally. But there is something else going on here which is of historic importance and which shows the difference between reality and what is said in the Western media or governments. Not Egypt, not Saudi Arabia, but Iran is now the mediator between Hamas and Fatah." (emphasis added)
"…Perhaps you thought the United States is now Fatah’s sponsor and good buddy. Well, Fatah is an equal-opportunity embezzler. "
Yea, says Rubin, keep talking to Fatah , but "a strong dose of cynicism and some tough bargaining is needed."
The problem is that Americans keep thinking that Middle Easterners will act like Americans: "The White House strategy is: We’ll be good to moderates so they’ll work with us against the bad guys."
"But the American method is up against the Iranian method. Iran employs the appeal of intoxicating revolutionary rhetoric, a seductive use of Islam…a cathartic orgy of hatred, an appeal to macho heroism, money into one’s pocket…direct provision of social services to supporters…".
"Policy must be tough, cynical, and involve equal trade-offs, rather than proofs of good will or flattery designed to win friends…flattering Mahmoud Abbas, showering money and arms on Fatah, and thinking one can turn the West Bank into a showcase of economic progress isn’t going to work. Nor will persuading the Arab world that America and Europe care about the Palestinians, want to give them a state, and don’t like Israel.
"A reasonable strategy requires showing how unprofitable it is to be an enemy…It means not having to apologize but getting those who ignore your interests to apologize to you. It requires taking into account regional realities rather than sentimentalizing them into morality plays. It includes not expecting to solve neatly problems which have no solution."
To confirm Rubin’s description of Fatah as double-dealing, we have this news as well:
Abbas is due to go to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia tomorrow, where he will tell King Abdullah that he still backs the unity government — the power sharing deal between Hamas and Fatah brokered in Mecca last February — as a way out of current tensions in the Palestinian areas. All he requires is that Hamas return to the situation before they took over Gaza (something Hamas has already partially offered to do).
This according to a statement made yesterday by the Palestinian ambassador to Riyadh, Jamal al-Shobaki (which hasn’t show up broadly in liberal media that is pushing the image of Fatah as a peace partner).
This is the same Abbas, of course , who is supposed to be working on a peace deal with Israel. He is playing both sides at the same time. I keep praying his hand will be fully exposed, as he joins forces with Hamas again, before Olmert is committed to something disastrous.
And, indeed, Olmert and Abbas met today to advance that "peace process." This time they were joined by PM Fayyad.
At the end of the meeting they put out a bland joint statement: "Both leaders wish to contribute to the success of the upcoming international conference."
With regard to a document spelling out "principles" or final issues, it’s clear that nothing was accomplished. Even before today’s meeting, Olmert’s spokesperson warned that there should be only modest expectations about what was likely to be accomplished, and in recent days there has also been a proviso that all issues may not be resolved before the conference.
It indeed seems that, in spite of Olmert’s eagerness to give away a great deal, what he offers falls short of what Abbas is demanding, which is just about everything.
One Israeli official explained that "What we are seeing is a difference of approaches. We want to focus on the steps the Palestinians need to take to be able to govern, which will be a step toward statehood. They want to talk about the state, and jump over all the issues pertaining to governing."
This makes it difficult to draft a document to take to the conference, for sure.
But, more, this is a huge and critical issue. What sort of seriousness is there on the Palestinian side if they want a "state" before they are prepared to govern? And what does this say about US policy, if there is scant attention paid to the Palestinian ability to govern, as the "process" is hurried along?
And what does it say about us, that we would be involved in a "negotiation" that is so one-sided? Unless Abbas WANTS peace enough to make some concessions to get it, it is all pointless.
Olmert and Abbas said (saying is easy) that they are both committed to the two-state solution and will appoint teams to further the process.
As to the "good will" gestures that Israel is constantly being asked to make, there was discussion, of course.
There is, first, the question of more prisoners to be released for Ramadan. There had been talk of 100 to be released and it had at one point been expected that Olmert would announce this at today’s meeting. But he did not. What he did, in essence, was agree to take the request for prisoner release under advisement — he would bring the request to the Cabinet. There was no mention of a specific number of prisoners.
Then, naturally, there was the perennial request for "easing the restrictions" on the movement of the Palestinians, otherwise known as taking down checkpoints. To this Olmert responded that the Ministry of Defense was working on a plan.
Perhaps he was alluding to Barak’s plan for mobile checkpoints, ostensibly to be put into use some time in the future. But the fact is that the IDF and the Shin Bet are both adamantly opposed to removing roadblocks, which save Israeli lives.
Please note here: The IDF and Shin Bet are making the saving of Israeli lives the priority. Olmert is putting concessions to the PA (and to the US) first.
Finally, Fayyad made a request for aid to Palestinian prisoners (aid?), so that they might be provided with food, drink and cigarettes. This
is stomach-turning. Clearly we feed people who are in our prisoners. What Fayyad is alluding to is a little something extra, I am assuming to compensate for what the PA is not in an economic position to provide, as it once did. Does it tear your heart out, as it does mine, that these people who are in prison for maliced acts against us, have to do without "extras"? I will not look kindly upon this if Olmert, who has at this point just said he would consider the request, ultimately honors it.
Several members of the Cabinet have expressed opposition to releasing more prisoners to strengthen Abbas, and some six have already indicated they will vote against it. Said Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beitenu), "It’s the Palestinians’ turn to make goodwill gestures." He further suggested prisoners not even be permitted visits from their families until the Red Cross is allowed to see Shalit. Eli Yishai, head of Shas, indicated his party’s disapproval of this gesture, and Shaul Mofaz spoke about the instability of the PA.
MK Gideon Sa’ar (Likud — not a minister) also commented that, "the ease with which [Olmert] releases terrorists hinders Israel’s war on terror and may put our citizens’ security in jeopardy. No other country battling cruel terror against its citizens would be so hasty in releasing terrorists."
MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) today expressed concern over the continuing meetings between Olmert and Abbas, observing that, “The government will give everything, while endangering the state, and will not receive a thing.”
Steinitz is particularly concerned about the fact that Olmert, who once pledged himself to a united Jerusalem, is now ready to divide the city, which would bring an Iranian presence into our very heart.
He maintains that Olmert is making all of these concessions because “he is willing to do everything” to stay in power. As painful as it is to confront what this indicates regarding the morals (or total lack thereof) of our prime minister, Steinitz has it right. He says that Olmert is courting the left with his actions, in the expectation that they will support him.
And guess what? Barak has just announced that even though he had originally said he was going to pull out of the coalition, he sees that Olmert is working towards a "peace process," so Labor will stay in the government.
What I’d like to know is what Steinitz, and others like him who understand the realities here, are doing to stop Olmert before it’s too late. I don’t accept that nothing can be done.
Members of Olmert’s coalition who really know better have a particular responsibility to the situation. If Lieberman pulled Yisrael Beitenu and Yishai pulled Shas from the coalition, it would collapse. Included here as well are former members of Likud — Shaul Mofaz prime among them — who bolted to Kadima with Sharon and should now come to their senses and leave.
All of these people have a great deal to answer for, as they allow the madness of Olmert’s government to persist.
Yesterday I alluded to a report about a daring IDF capture of a Hamas leader in Gaza who was connected to Shalit’s kidnapping. The IDF had denied the report.
Today I read that Public Security Minister Dichter has said that this person we didn’t capture could supply information and might be a bargaining chip for getting Shalit.
OK. There are surely solid reasons for the denial . But the report as I read it — with entry into Hamas territory of our soldiers, dressed as Hamas soldiers, who grabbed this guy, after his car had to stop because "an old man with a cane" happened to collapse in front of it — was inspiring.
This is good for Israeli deterrence, projecting the sort of courage, careful planning and derring-do for which the IDF was long known: You fool with us and, rest assured, we’ll catch up with you.
May we make good use of this man we didn’t capture . If he exists and turns out to be valuable.
It does seem that the incident with Syria will not lead to war, whatever bellicose statements may be coming from Syria.
There are some analysts who are drawing a parallel between this incident and the possible capture of the Hamas official, described above: Without commenting on anything publicly, we let it be known that they should be on their guard because we were able to slip into their air space and out again. Don’t know. Too much is obscure. And the fact that EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana has told Al Hayat that Olmert assures him IDF forces on the Golan will now be reduced makes this less likely.
Turkey is still not happy, still waiting for a response from Israel about the fuel tanks allegedly dropped by us at the Turkish border. But Turkey is not going to go to war with us.