|Israel Resource Review
||2nd April, 2008
"Tension in the North"
Senior Policy Research Analyst, Center for Near East Policy Research
Posted on April 2, 2008
"Tension in the North"
A report by a 'top military intelligence officer" to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee yesterday included a warning that Hezbollah is getting ready for new violence along the border with Israel.
A "change in preparedness" south of the Litani River has been detected, which UNIFIL is unable to prevent. While UNIFIL monitors open areas, it is prohibited from entering southern Lebanese villages and towns without coordination with the Lebanese army, and it is precisely in these areas that Hezbollah is increasing operations, with operatives dressed as civilians. (The ultimate outcome of this situation is painfully easy to predict, as we take on Hezbollah operatives and are condemned for hitting "civilians.")
This report clarifies Defense Minister Barak's motives in touring the northern border yesterday and making a statement that "Israel is the strongest country in the region, and I wouldn't recommend that anyone provoke us. Hezbollah is becoming stronger, but so are we. The IDF is prepared for all eventualities. We watch the pastoral calm, and we know that other things are seething beneath the surface."
While, today, al-Quds al-Arabi, in London, has reported that Damascus is summoning its reserves and concentrating its forces along the Lebanese border in anticipation of an Israeli attack on Hezbollah and Syria.
This has been denied by a member of Syrian's National Security Committee, which says Hezbollah is quite capable of taking care of itself.
None the less, Barak is taking it all seriously enough so that he has cancelled a trip out of the country. And Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Dan Harel said today that "anyone who attempts to attack Israel should bear in mind that the response will be harsh and painful." Both, however, at one and the same time, have indicated that nothing is imminent.
The paper additionally said that Hezbollah is currently refraining from exacting revenge for the murder of Mughniyeh at this time, so as to not give Israel an "excuse" to attack. If this is true, it would be a significant indicator of Israeli deterrence.
I offer here two cautionary notes regarding not believing everything you hear (or read):
In an interview published yesterday in Al Aayam, a Palestinian paper, Khaled Mashaal, political head of Hamas in Damascus says that Hamas accepts a state defined by '67 lines. Not spoken, but implied here is that Hamas accepts Israel within the Green Line. His source for this is the Prisoners Document, which was drafted in Israeli prison by Hamas and Fatah prisoners, calling for a Palestinian state on all the territories occupied in 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital.
However (and this is a huge 'however'), the document says nothing about accepting the right of Israel to exist within those '67 lines.
The second incident involves WHO (the World Health Organization) of the UN. At a press conference yesterday in Jerusalem, Ambrogio Manenti, the head of WHO in Gaza and the West Bank, said that Israeli policy with regard to bringing Gazans who require medical treatment into Israel was "inhumane."
Manenti's charge is that sick Gazans have to wait so long for security clearance that they die before they can be brought in.
Col. Nir Press, commander of the IDF's Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration, responded to these charges, saying that they were "one-sided, inaccurate and misleading."
He pointed out that while stringent security checks were necessary because on occasion there are attempts to smuggle suicide bombers into Israel using the ruse of illness, over 90% of those requesting treatment in Israeli hospitals receive clearance. And the other 10% is provided with an opportunity to utilize a shuttle across Israel to go into Jordan for treatment.
To illustrate the problem, Manenti had highlighted five cases of Gazans who had allegedly died waiting for clearance. Press said, however, that all five had clearance to come into Israel and two in fact had received treatment in Israel; the others had been held up by internal factors inside of Gaza and not by lack of clearance.
In 2007, 7,226 permits were granted to sick Palestinians to travel to Israel, an increase of over 50% from 2006 when 4,754 were allowed in. in the first quarter of 2008, 2,000 ill persons from Gaza have already been brought to Israeli hospitals. I recently wrote the story of premature twins of a Palestinian mother from Gaza, in Barzelai hospital in Ashkelon, who were brought into the bomb shelter when a Katyusha was shot near the hospital from Gaza.
Yet one other concession that Barak has indicated willingness to consider, at the prodding of Rice, is the granting of permission for the PA to monitor the Gaza side of the Erez and Karni crossings into Israel, if the violence stops. In this, he is would be on a collision course with the IDF, which is adamantly opposed. Two officers have spoken out: OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Yussef Mishlev.
As one defense official rightly explained it, "How can we let Abbas deploy forces there while Hamas is in control of Gaza?" Indeed, how can we? There is the suggestion that even Barak, who said it would be "considered," knows we cannot.
Posting: April 1, 2008
Even in the irrational environment with which we are coping, this gets a "most surreal" award:
Khaled Mashaal, political head of Hamas in Damascus, has given an interview. He explained that Israel has turned down an offer to restrict the attacks on both sides -- that is, by Israel and by Hamas in Gaza -- to only military targets, leaving civilians out of it.
This is a blatant set up, of course. For we here in Israel truly have military bases that might be targets and areas that are exclusively civilian. We are careful not to merge the two. But Hamas puts its terrorist activities and weapons inside civilian areas on purpose. Thus, if Israel were to commit to never attacking where there are civilians, there would be no opportunity to attack terrorists for fear of accidental injury to civilians. Hamas would have perfect cover and a free ride to do as it wished.
But read further for the surreal part of Mashaal's statement. Implying that with their current weapons Hamas would find it difficult to accurately target just military bases, even if that were its intention, he then said:
"We have primitive weapons. I ask the international community and the Americans to give us more advanced weapons so we can shoot more accurately."
I am not making this up.
Several things need to be clarified with regard to this:
Yes, Kassams are relatively simple home-made rockets. But they are also now in possession of Grad Katyushas and other more sophisticated weapons, and working every day to improve the accuracy even of the Kassam. When they hit places like Sderot, it is not because they aimed for a military base and accidentally hit civilians -- they are aiming directly for that civilian population; the inaccuracy means they can't be sure if they will hit a school, or a house three blocks away.
Mashaal maintains that Hamas has the right and the obligation to keep shooting to combat the "occupation." "This is ordinary behavior" -- as the Americans fought the British during the revolution, and the French fought the Nazis.
Mashaal also alluded to the third party negotiations with Israel on the release of Shalit, claiming that Hamas was ready to strike a deal but that Israel is the stumbling block. We refuse, you see, to OK everyone on Hamas's list of 1,000 prisoners it demands be released.
It should be noted that Marwan Barghouti, a Fatah terrorist leader, was on the list.
Lastly, Mashaal had words for Abbas : "We invite Mr. Abbas to come for unconditional talks in Gaza. Talks on how to address the reasons for the split, to return Gaza and the West Bank to unity and solve the security problem."
I believe it is only a matter of time until there are overt, public dealings (negotiations and cooperation at least if not a full unity gov't) between Fatah and Hamas. Abbas is currently playing both ends against the middle, avoiding that overt contact so that American largesse continues. But the fact that there is no overt contact doesn't mean that there is nothing going on in back rooms between the two groups.
What I noticed is that the agreement signed in Yemen has totally disappeared from the radar screen. Fatah backed off, saying there were "errors" in the signing, but to the best of my knowledge didn't totally disavow the understanding. And then, nothing further reported.
We must return to Rice and Barak and Olmert, for the scenario in which they are actors has not yet played itself out.
After finishing meetings here in Israel, and amidst a flurry of very "optimistic" statements about how well things were going and the possibility that there might be an agreement before Bush comes in May, Rice went off to meet with Abbas.
Even on the plane, as I understand it, she began to question our sincerity in enacting all of the concessions that Barak presented her with. She indicated that the US would be watching us very closely to make sure we did what we have said we would, and quickly. In fact, she has charged General Fraser with monitoring this.
"General Fraser will be following up on the specifics and will be also... making certain that in fact there are 50 [roadblocks] and they are being removed."
A nasty tone, after her expression of being "amazed" at what we offered. But will the US also be closely monitoring PA progress in stopping terrorism? She didn't say so.
To provide further evidence of our sincerity, Barak then made another announcement: He is considering allowing PA forces into Hevron and Tulkarm after the 700 already announced are deployed in Jenin. Hevron is the worst of options, as there is a Jewish community there, which is not the case in Jenin or Tulkarm. And that Jewish community recognizes this as a direct threat to their security.
"It would be extremely dangerous," said community spokesperson David Wilder. "The community is already under constant attack." He revealed that shots were recently fired at his apartment, leaving a hole in his son's closet. "Today a rock was thrown into the home of a family that lives next to me... The violence is continuing."
Additionally, the announcement was made that we have already removed two roadblocks in the Jericho area and are also removing the Rimonim roadblock near Ramallah. The Yesha council expressed anger at this. The change in the situation, allowing Palestinians more "freedom of movement," means they will be free to come into areas where presently they do not have access, and there is likely to be an increase in weapon smuggling. There is concern, as well, about drive-by shootings.
Yesterday, there was an attempted terrorist attack at a hitchhikers station near the community of Shilo. A Palestinian -- not immediately recognizable as such -- approached two Israelis at the junction. When he suddenly shouted "Alah Akbar" ("God is great" -- the standard cry of terrorists attempting to kill Jews) and pulled out a knife in an attempt to stab them, one of the Israelis -- Erez Bar-On of Ofra -- stepped back, took out his personal gun and shot him. Police later discovered a second knife on the terrorist, a student from Birzeit University, who died.
Bar-On, in interview, expressed great disapproval of the government decision, saying that providing Palestinians with more freedom of movement increases the likelihood of such incidents.
You may remember the story of David Landau, who was then, but no longer is, editor of Haaretz: At a dinner with Condoleezza Rice some months ago, he advised Rice to "rape" Israel, meaning forcing us into things we would not want to do.
Yisrael Medad, on his blog site today recounts this:
"I ran into David Landau yesterday at a funeral. I told him that he should watch the way he talks, referring to 'raping Israel' and all that.
"He smiled and retorted: 'I meant what I said and I understand Condi Rice has taken my advice.'"
No comment is necessary.
When Rice met here with Olmert, he told her (and I'll get to this below) that Israel would continue to build in major existing communities in Judea and Samaria as well as in neighborhoods of Jerusalem beyond the Green Line. In the subsequent press conference with Abbas, Rice lambasted us for this, saying that it was counter productive to "peace." (Note that she didn't lambaste the PA, when making her statement to the press here, for failure to clamp down on terrorism.)
What is happening -- which I've described before -- is that Olmert is caught between demands of Rice and demands of Shas. The only time he really says no to Rice (and it shows he can do so if he wishes to!) is when his coalition is threatened. Shas threatens to leave if building isn't done.
And so there has now been an announcement that 600 units will go up in Pisgat Ze'ev, a northern Jerusalem neighborhood. (I confess that this confuses me a bit, as I am sure I read about this some weeks ago; perhaps it was not finalized until now.) And there is word that Olmert has assured Shas that the freeze on building in the major community of Betar Illit, which is beyond Jerusalem, will be lifted as well, and that 800 units will go up there.
Shas members are patting themselves on the back for these accomplishments, and pointing to them, once again, as a reason to stay in the coalition. In point of fact, more would be accomplished if they left the coalition.
It is always to the good when Olmert is put in the position of resisting Rice's demands, and shows willingness to protect our right to build in Jewish areas. Israel's stance is that we have a right to build within eastern Jerusalem and Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria that we are likely to keep in a settlement, and that this is consistent with international understandings.
"It is not true that we are building in violation of our obligations," Olmert said to his Kadima faction at a meeting in the Knesset. "We are not building new settlements, everyone must understand this... "
"We don't hide our views on Jerusalem and major settlement blocs, we are being honest about everything throughout the negotiations," he said.
I would truly like to think this is so. The PA is demanding our return to the '67 lines, and word has come out that our negotiators are getting ready to accede to this -- which would be a horror. If we are truly holding out for Jerusalem and major settlement blocs, there will be no deal, because the PA simply does NOT compromise.
All of this said, and with acknowledgement to Shas for putting Olmert in this position, it must be noted that Shas is taking heat from its haredi (ultra-Orthodox) constituency, which is looking for more housing. The neighborhoods in which Olmert has approved building are thus haredi, and will serve Shas's constituency.
As to Rice's enthusiastic prediction that there might be an agreement by May, she has since backed off on this, and Olmert, as well, has made statements discouraging expectations of a quick agreement.
What is being sought is a general outline of what a Palestinian state would be like in terms of borders, control of Jerusalem and resolution of the refugee issue. This is to be called a Declaration of Principles, and it is supposed to be shelved until all pertinent road map commitments are met. As this requires the PA to eliminate the terrorist infrastructure and cease incitement, it means, in theoretical terms, no enactment of the principles, as least for a generation or more, as I said the other day.
But in reality this is an extremely dangerous process -- I believe so and every serious analyst I have read also says so. Once we've established the "principle" of a Palestinian state, the international community (and this very much includes the US), will cut the PA slack -- as the PA is ALWAYS cut slack -- and we will be pressured to give them that state before they've met their obligations. Thus it is fervently to be hoped that no agreement is reached in principle.
It is being said that "real progress" is being made in the negotiations, but no one outside the immediate process really knows what this means. The expectation is that because the PA cannot and will not compromise, that issues of control of eastern Jerusalem (including the Jewish quarter and the Temple mount) and "return" of refugees will present insurmountable obstacles to finalizing an agreement.
Yoel Marcus, writing in Haaretz, suggests that the clearest indication that the negotiations are mostly hot air is the silence from Shas.
Yesterday, to the surprise of many, Barak made a comment about leaving the coalition after all. He is, however, definitely full of hot air with regard to the reason he is giving: that Olmert is accountable for failures during the Lebanon war and that this remains unfinished business because the PM hasn't resigned. This is true enough, but if this were Barak's true concern, he would have pulled out right after Winograd was released.
Never-the-less, Barak, in a meeting with bereaved parents of soldiers, declared, "Elections in two or three years are not a possibility."
I would say he's moving according to his own timetable for maneuvering himself into position to be the next prime minister. One might even speculate as to how his dealings with Rice might have been structured to meet his own agenda.
Amir Peretz who is former chair of Labor and former defense minister, attacked Barak at a Labor faction meeting, saying he was out of touch with reality: "You have an obsession with being prime minister, but you have no agenda. What is your economic agenda? What is your social agenda? What is your political agenda?"
Polls, it must be noted, have Netanyahu and Likud well ahead of Barak and Labor.
It has been revealed by a Japanese newspaper, Asahi Shimbun, that when Olmert was in Japan in February, he told officials that last September the IDF operation into Syria targeted a nuclear facility built with North Korea's help.
I do not report on a daily basis regarding the attacks on Israel from Gaza, but please don't imagine that it is quiet. On some days 15 or 20 rockets may be launched. Today two mortars hit in the Ashkelon region, causing light injuries.
In a talk at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs yesterday, Professor Robert Wishtrich of Hebrew University stated that the UK is the center of European anti-Semitism. There is historical precedent for this, it didn't evolve in modern times: Since medieval times, Britain has been rife with anti-Semitism.
Posting: March 30, 2008
Well, it was unlikely that Rice, who is here, would have readily walked away without further concessions from Israel for the sake of the "peace process." Some concessions, of some sort, from our craven, appeasing government. But what has taken place is above and beyond.
After Rice met with Defense Minister Barak and PA Prime Minister Fayyad here in Jerusalem, she actually said she was "amazed" by the gestures being advanced by Israel. I don't wonder at her amazement, as this sort of one-sided, tushy-kissing effort to be nice to an entity that in fact wishes us gone is quite breath-taking. But, rather than being "amazed," I'm just plain shocked. And outraged.
Rice announced that a number of concrete actions will be taken to improve the situation.
Take a deep breath before reading this list of Barak's major offers:
 The establishment of a Palestinian city (or series of neighborhoods) north of the town of al-Bireh, outside of Ramallah, to be paid for by a Jordanian businessman, to alleviate housing shortages in the Ramallah area. It would house tens of thousands of Palestinians.
This strikes me as most offensive of all. After the PA screams bloody murder about building a few hundred units in existing communities, and just one day after Abbas lied about this and said we were doing unprecedented building, we make this offer?
 Increasing the number of laborers allowed into Israel to 5,000.
 Taking down one checkpoint and 50 roadblocks, in order to ease the movement of Palestinians between the cities of Jenin, Tulkarm, Kalkilya and Ramallah.
As I remember, these roadblocks went up because easy movement between these cities allowed weapons to be transported.
 Easing of restrictions on Palestinian public figures.
But just about a week ago a Palestinian official was caught smuggling large numbers of phones from Jordan.
 Easing security checks for Palestinian businessmen.
Of course, a businessman would never aid a terrorist.
Barak further suggested:
 Upgrading the infrastructure for aiding the Palestinians waiting at the crossings, the cost of which is estimated at NIS 8.3 million.
 Transferring 325 cars and logistic equipment from the IDF to the Palestinian security organizations, including generators, blankets and first aid kits.
I have on occasion commented that our leaders who take such actions are crazy. But I've been cautioned by some readers to avoid saying that, because truly crazy people are absolved of responsibility for their actions -- and the comment is on the mark.
What I will say, instead, is that this is very sick, but that Barak remains fully responsible for his decisions.
You may be wondering what the PA will be offering in all of this. After all, Fayyad and Barak met together to put forward suggests to improve the situation.
Well, it was agreed that the Palestinian security forces must assume "greater responsibility."
I did not note a precise delineation of responsibility for what.
They also agreed to step up efforts to "prevent terror."
Again, that vagueness. Nothing that could be quantified or measured -- the way Barak's promises on taking down 50 roadblocks or allowing 5,000 laborers into Israel can be measured.
I heard tonight, by the way, from a very reliable source that Rice said today that the US would be watching Israel closely to see that these commitments were honored.
But the Palestinians? Hey, they can say they made an effort to prevent terror, they gave it their best.
And Fayyad? This particular son of a bitch refused to make a public statement with Olmert and Rice. Take all that's offered, but not be seen to be too close to Israeli leader, who is an enemy of Palestine, after all. The photo op would not have served him in the street, which admires Hamas.
And as if this is not bad enough, Barak and Olmert are making gestures to Syria regarding resuming peace negotiations.
From a military perspective this is a disaster. I heard Maj. Gen (res) Yaakov Amidror -- former Commander of the IDF's National Defense College and currently with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs -- speak on a panel sponsored by Likud Anglo tonight. As Syria's demand for peace is return of the Golan Heights, his assessment was that negotiating peace with Syria might mean we would ultimately find ourselves fighting Iranians in the Galil.
Another panel member, Dan Diker -- Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs and a Senior Foreign Policy Analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs -- made this incisive observation: Timing is everything. We have just seen that heads of major Arab countries are snubbing Syria by not participating in the conference in Damascus. And now? Now is the time we pick to undercut that message and confer legitimacy on Syria by reaching out to Assad?
A theme of this panel was the recognition that concessions don't work. Israel, in 1993, had the notion that the more we gave the more the world would respect us. But the reverse has happened, as the world has lost respect for us and has stopped understanding that we have legitimate rights in this land. As we fail to stand up for ourselves, it is the Palestinian narrative that is being internalized internationally.
One last comment before closing: I heard it tonight from an American with major contacts (as I've hard it before from an international lawyer here with Washington DC connections): Rice is running the show, and she's doing the work of Saudi Arabia. But Bush's attitude towards Israel is not the same as Rice's. He is being seriously misled: By Rice, whom he trusts, and by the PA leaders, whose lovely words of peace he trusts, and by the Israeli leaders, who tell him how much we're willing to give up.
It may be futile. But it must be attempted at every juncture, calling on every possible political contact, sending every possible message: Bush needs to be provided with the realities.
Posting: March 29, 2008
Motzei Shabbat (after Shabbat)
An Arab summit is being held in Damascus this weekend, but is being boycotted by several Arab nations: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. The refusal to come was meant clearly to send a message of displeasure to Syria for its association with Iran, and its support of Hamas and Hezbollah.
According to an AP report that ran in the Post :
"'There are now two axes - Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah are on one side and the rest are on the other,' said Wahid Abdel-Meguid of the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.
"Arab summits are all about protocol and symbolism, and in that language, the show of disdain from top US-allies Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan could not be more clear.
"In an unprecedented move, they are sending minor officials rather than their heads of state - or even their prime ministers or foreign ministers.
"Even Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh decided Friday not to come, sending his vice president in his place... 'Syria is losing friends, one after the other,' said Mansour Hayal, a Yemeni political analyst."
Uh huh... But guess who didn't shun the conference? Our "moderate peace partner," Mahmoud Abbas. Tells us a great deal about which side he's on.
And let me share with you what he said at the conference:
"The coming couple of months are decisive. If we don't reach a solution by the end of this year, it means the whole region will be on the verge of a new era of tension and loss of confidence in peace.
"The last few months have witnessed unprecedented Israeli escalation in settlement expansion in Jerusalem and the West Bank. It has become clear that the Israeli government is imposing on the ground the political solution that it wants.
"Negotiations cannot continue under the Israeli bulldozers swallowing our land and building settlements and under the daily Israeli military operations."
He spoke of Israel "brutally" killing innocent Palestinians in Gaza, and he asked those present to "think seriously of Arab... protection for our people," by which he meant troops.
You'll forgive my absolutely undiplomatic and impolitic response. This son of a bitch lies through his teeth. "Unprecedented Israeli escalation in settlement expansion"?
Olmert had -- most regrettably --caved completely and put a freeze on any building in eastern Jerusalem or Judea and Samaria. That freeze was lifted minimally, and only in line with what had been approved well prior to Annapolis, because of Olmert's fear of losing his coalition. I do not believe for a second that Abbas doesn't know this. He is inciting.
But this charge allows me to return briefly here to the issue of settlements and why they do not constitute a stumbling block to peace.
First, it must be noted that the underlying assumption here -- which is outrageous -- is that everything outside the Green Line "belongs" to the PA, and is thus area upon which we have no right to build. That I've recently exposed as fallacious in terms of history and international law. Israel's final borders have yet to be negotiated.
What I want to advance here are a few other perspectives, which the world would do well to consider.
-- When Sharon decided to withdraw from Gaza in 2005, he pulled out all of the settlements of Gush Katif. I am not applauding this; I, in fact, deplore what happened. But it did happen, and it provides evidence for the fact that if there is Israeli intent withdrawals are possible.
My own position most strongly is that there should be no withdrawals and we should stand on our rights to the land. But the international community should begin to realize that stopping all construction is not necessary for peace negotiations to continue. Instead of making the "settlements" the whipping boy, let there first be a total elimination of terrorism, and let there be sincere negotiations with genuine desire on the other side for a two-state solution. Then let Israel and her genuine peace partner work out what should be relinquished by Israel and what not. Before that day comes (and we're talking more than a generation from now at a minimum), to demand of Israel that there be no building to accommodate natural growth in existing communities is nonsense. And natural growth in existing communities is all that has been sanctioned.
Then too, there is this thought: Why is it assumed by the international community that the PA has a right to a territory that is Judenrein? They charge us with apartheid, but this demand, which truly reflects apartheid thinking, elicits no reproach. It is a given: They want the land, and so Jews can't live there. Why is it that there would be hell to pay if we tried to move out all Arabs living in Israel, but that the same standard doesn't apply to the PA? Why cannot it be said that those Jews who remain in areas that would be going to the PA would be offered the option of remaining?
I feel driven to clarify again that I am not advocating any of this. I am merely pointing out the double standard that is at work and the unreasonable approach that is being taken with regard to this matter.
-- I will add here that while there is screaming about our building in eastern Jerusalem, Arabs are doing a huge amount of illegal building to which scant attention is paid. Double standard indeed!
Let's return to Abbas for just a moment. With everything else, according to Khaled Abu Toameh, reporting in yesterday's Post, Abbas's Fatah is contending with an unprecedented rash of scandals that further weakens it.
"Remarked [a] Fatah representative: 'Fatah has lost much of what's left of its credibility. If we hold a free election in the West Bank tomorrow, it's almost certain that Hamas will win.'"
The scandals include accusations that Ahmed Qurei, who heads the PA negotiating team, deposited $3 million of PLO money in his accounts. Additionally, large shipments of expired medicine that had been illegally smuggled into the West Bank have been confiscated, with "dozens of physicians, pharmacists and officials from the PA's Ministry of Health are currently being interrogated for their alleged role in the medicine scandal, which is believed to have resulted in the death of many patients."
For details on these scandals and others see:
Posting: March 28, 2008
The stupidity alluded to here pertains both to US and Israeli policy. And it is with regard to the practice of continuing to arm and train Fatah forces in Judea and Samaria.
There is some very irrational notion that it is necessary to "strengthen" Fatah so it can prevent a Hamas takeover. However, the evidence from the recent past provides absolutely no reason to believe that giving Fatah more weapons and more training is going to turn them into a fighting machine that will keep Hamas at bay and that will help to keep Israel safe from terrorists. In fact, the opposite is glaringly obvious to anyone who wishes to pay attention.
Repeatedly over the years since the PA was established, there have been incidents in which weapons and training provided by the US with Israeli sanction were turned against Israel. The very first time this happened was in 1996 and the severity of such situations increased with the second intifada starting in 2000.
But that's just one factor of concern. The other is the vast likelihood that these weapons will end up in Hamas hands. That's precisely what happened in Gaza. Fatah was heavily armed by the US so that it might stand against Hamas. When Hamas routed Fatah, they acquired these weapons, which are now being utilized against Israel, and which will make that eventual major operation in Gaza more difficult than it otherwise would have been. Hamas is now in possession of such Fatah equipment as machine guns, thousands of assault rifles, personnel carriers and night vision goggles.
What must be understood here -- what is of MAJOR concern -- is the fact that Fatah was not defeated in Gaza because of Hamas superiority. Fatah had better training, better equipment, and a larger number of troops in the field. What they lacked was the will to fight Hamas.
Consider this information from my report on Fatah from in January:
After the rout, The Observer interviewed Abu Obieda, head of the military wing of Hamas, who said, "I expected it to take one month. That is what we planned for and trained for. But then at the beginning all of the Fatah commanders escaped their compounds in ambulances and left for Egypt. They left their men to die. Who could do that?"
Amir Tahiri, reporting in the NY Post, confirmed this, saying that even the four chief bases, claimed to be impregnable, fell within hours as the defenders fled, leaving their equipment behind.
While according to the Economist, Abbas did not declare a state of emergency until his own Gaza house (very large and elaborate, it should be noted) was being ransacked. Middle level officers complained about a lack of leadership: "We had no orders to fight except in self defense."
That was in Gaza. Now in Judea and Samaria, even US generals have begun to complain about the lack of effort on the part of the PA to take on terrorism. This is something I've been writing about for months: the reports that security officers say they aren't given orders to shoot at terrorists, etc.
This pattern persists because Fatah (the PA) has no stomach for this fight. As they see it, Hamas and Fatah are all part of the Palestinian people, and there is at heart no disapproval of Hamas terrorism within the ranks of Fatah. The goals are the same, it is only the methods that vary, like a "good cop, bad cop" routine.
Months ago, the assessment of Israeli intelligence was that Hamas was as strong as Fatah in Judea and Samaria. Since then, Hamas has strengthened further and it is clearly understood that only the IDF stands between the PA and a Hamas takeover.
Yet, in spite of this, the US, which saw its policy fail so badly in Gaza, and which is in possession of information regarding Hamas strength in Judea and Samaria, and PA failure to fight terrorism... the US decides to adopt precisely the same policy that backfired in Gaza and to back the same losers all over again. The US is funding weapon supplies and training for the PA.
Where are the brains of Rice and company? Where is Bush in all of this? They are setting themselves up for a situation that is doomed to fail. They are making it possible for Hamas to secure better weapons than they would otherwise have had, and ultimately they -- US officials! -- are going to be responsible for Israeli deaths.
And those who head the Israeli government? They behave like US lackeys, instead of officials of a sovereign state. They give statements about how Israeli security must be their first concern, but they don't act in accord with these statements.
Now it is in the news that Defense Minister Barak has expressed to the US concern that Hamas may take over Judea and Samaria, and that Israeli gestures to the US may backfire.
Well, good morning! But why didn't he register this concern BEFORE making the gestures. Why didn't he flatly refuse to make the gestures (which are blatantly said to be gestures to the US) because his first responsibility is to protect Israel?
Yet Israel has signed on to allowing the PA to have armored personnel carriers, night vision goggles and a whole lot more.
All in the interests of peace, you understand.
Rice is due here tomorrow night. She is coming to push that moribund "peace process." And we must ask, here too, why she thinks Fatah is a viable peace partner for Israel, given the parameters outlined above.
What is particularly infuriating is that she is being "even handed," criticizing both Israel and the PA for "failures" to live up to their commitments. But what she criticizes Israel for are such things as not taking down "illegal outposts," while with the PA the criticism is not fighting terrorism.
These are not parallel issues. The bottom line is that without an elimination of terrorist infrastructure there will be no peace here. Everything else must be on hold until that is accomplished.
As to the issues of communities established beyond the Green Line being an "obstacle to peace," I will discuss this further in the next posting.
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The Israel Resource Review is brought to you by
the Israel Resource, a media firm based at the Bet Agron Press Center in
Jerusalem, and the Gaza Media Center under the juristdiction of the Palestine
You can contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.