|Israel Resource Review
||19th September, 2006
Commentary on Rice-Livni Encounter
It seems sometimes a rule of thumb that if I wait a day, the news changes.
So it is with what I reported yesterday, from The Jerusalem Post, regarding a linkage being made by the US between progress on Israel-PA "peace" negotiations and progress in putting together a moderate Arab anti-Iran coalition.
Seems today the Post is reporting that when Sec. Rice met with FM Livni yesterday (this was their second meeting since Livni went to the States last week), she assured Livni that no such connection would be made. What is more, Rice raised the issue and did so in the presence of Philip Zelikow, one of her top advisers. Seems Zelikow indicated such a linkage in a speech he made at a conference run by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (which I am assuming was the source for the original Post story). At that time he said that there was a need for a coalition -- which would include moderate Arab and European states -- to confront the Iranian threat, and that progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track was an essential element for getting Europeans and Arabs on board. It would appear then that Rice has overruled him as a matter of policy. But when I look at this statement by Zelikow, I confess to being astounded by the stupidity of it all: Iran is a risk to moderate Arab and European states. It will be a risk whether Israel and the PA are presently attempting to reach an agreement or not. To decline to act against this risk because such an agreement is not being negotiated would be breathtakingly, even suicidally, shortsighted.
And, in fact, Barry Rubin's latest column addresses precisely this issue. Says Rubin -- and this is very good news -- the Arab world is sufficiently alarmed by the prospect of the ascendancy of an Iranian-Syrian axis so that some very surprising things are happening. What has led to this is the war in Lebanon, which aroused strong reactions (that in fact make Hezbollah not a winner at all):
"Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, all the Lebanese non-Shia communities, and others, are coming together to fight radical Islamist forces. While none say this publicly, their interests parallel those of Israel and the United States and they know it . . .
"Almost all Arab regimes view Syria and Iran to be the kind of threat Saddam Hussein was in the 1980s, which eventually led them to side with the United States in a war against him. Moderates don't want to see their societies transformed into second-rate imitations of Afghanistan under the Taliban . . . "
A spokesperson for the Saudis "writes that Arabs are held hostage in the name of fighting Israel. Hezbollah and Hamas are representing the ambitions of Iran and Syria, ignoring their own people's needs . . .
"Even Sunni Muslim holy-war-fighting types . . . are declaring that the fight against Iran and Hezbollah is as important as that against the evil Crusader Americans and the Zionists."
Advises Rubin, "The United States should support the anti-totalitarian forces. True, they don't want open American support, but there are many ways to help indirectly and covertly. The United States must also crush misguided attempts to sell out Lebanon and Israel as a way of trying to buy off radicals who seek total victory and view concessions as a sign of weakness prompting escalated attacks.
"People all over the Middle East understand the danger posed by the terrorists far more than do naive Westerners. What is needed is not appeasement but a united front against the fascism of our time."
Glory be! If Rubin is correct, we may be seeing an outbreak of reason in the Middle East, of all places -- reactions based on genuine national self-interest and not the insane preoccupation with Israel.
In light of this, Rice's position is the only one that makes sense.
I would specifically like to call attention to the fact that a Saudi spokesman has made the tie between Hamas and Iran. This needs to be remembered when Hamas is touted as having moderated.
And then we have this report: Pollster Stan Greenberg says that support for Israel has risen in the US and Europe since the war in Lebanon. According to Amir Gissin, Director of Public Affairs at the Foreign Ministry, people in the West have stopped seeing the Israel-Palestinian conflict as the root of all Middle East instability. More people are now seeing Israel as a moderate force in a battle with extremists. Gasp! Can this be? More logic?
Please G-d, let it be real (it will take more than this to convince me), and let it hold and increase.
The bottom line seems to be that we may have won this war in spite of ourselves. The news coming out about how the war was fought makes me cringe. For example, different maps were used by air forces and infantry, making it difficult for the air forces (who had more recent maps) to provide cover. The Winograd Committee was approved by the Cabinet on Sunday, and held its first closed-door meeting to investigate the war yesterday; we will hear a good deal more in due course.
But with it all, we are most assuredly the good guys and that has apparently been perceived in some surprising quarters.
Mahmoud Abbas, who met with FM Tzipi Livni yesterday, reportedly told her that the unity government he was negotiating with Hamas would recognize Israel. More meaningless words and confusion. Abbas has put a hold on the unity government negotiations and is now calling for early parliamentary elections. PM Haniyeh's car was attacked yesterday, and after the melee, a session of parliament, which Haniyeh was to address, was cancelled.
What is more, according to Haggai Huberman of Arutz Sheva, Khaled Mashaal, the fiery head of Hamas in Damascus (who is under the thumb of Damascus), has sent word that if Haniyeh signs a unity agreement with Abbas that doesn't sanction the continued use of terrorism and recognize the "right of return," Haniyeh "will find his body tossed in a ditch on the side of the road."
Meanwhile, President Bush, who will meet with Abbas tomorrow, is planning to tell him that the US will not recognize any PA government that does not adhere to basic stipulations: officially recognize the State of Israel, honor past agreements, and renounce violence and terrorism. When hell freezes over . . .
We're looking here at a situation in flux, that has yet to play itself out. So stay tuned . . . . Tomorrow I may be writing something else.
You may hear it elsewhere later, very possibly in a distorted version, and so I want to set the record straight here now: A pregnant Palestinian woman died at a checkpoint. However, she did not die because she was held up at the checkpoint or denied care. Three months pregnant, she told soldiers she wasn't well as she was waved through the checkpoint of Tapuah. According to an IDF statement, Israeli medics were quickly sent for, and began to treat her without delay. A Palestinian ambulance was called and when it arrived Palestinian medics joined in efforts. But she could not be saved. (I have no information on what her condition was.) Said Eyad Alkam, the Palestinian ambulance driver: "No one is guilty in this death since the woman arrived at the checkpoint in serious condition."
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INTERVIEW WITH SPOKESMAN OF ISRAEL FOREIGN MINISTER TZIPPI LIVNI FOLLOWING LIVNI-ABBAS MEETING
On Monday night, Israel's Foreign Minister Tzippy Livni met with the Machmud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen. Abbas has two identities, both of which he inherited from his mentor, Yassir Arafat - as the president of the Palestinian Authority, the political entity that represents the Palestinian Arab people in negotiations with Israel and the rest of the world, and as the head of the Fateh Al Aksa Brigades, defined by the US State Department as a terrorist organization which continues to conduct violent actions against the state and people of Israel.
On Monday, only a few hours before the Livni- Abbas meeting, Abbas's Al Aksa Brigades took responsibility for firing mortar rounds into the Israel's Western Negev city of Sderot, where two people were injured and hospitalized. Since Israel's dismantlement of the Jewish communities in the Katif sector of Gaza, Arab terrorist organizations have conducted 930 missile attacks on the Western Negev, according to statistics compiled by the Israel Defense Forces spokesperson's office. Al Aksa has been one of the prime terror groups that have instigated these attacks.
Over the past six months, Al Aksa has taken responsibility for a series of lethal attacks in Israel, including the attack in a Tel Aviv restaurant on April 19th, where ten people were killed, including an American teenager,
Before the Livni-Abbas meeting, this reporter posed the following questions to Livni, through her spokesperson, Ido Aharoni, and through the spokesperson of the Israel Foreign Ministry, Mr. Mark Regev.
Those questions were:
1. Did Livni rebuke Abbas for formally endorsing Hezbollah, as reported
and confirmed by The Voice of Israel Radio and confirmed by both the Evening
Bulletin and by Israel Resource News Agency?
(In an interview on al Arabiya TV on Sunday [August 6th, 2006], the
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas voiced strong support for "the
resistance" in Lebanon. Abbas said that he and his people "definitely
perceive the resistance in Lebanon as noble Arab resistance.")
2. Will Livni ask that Abbas cancel his school curriculum, as translated at www.intelligence.org.il/eng/default.htm, which trains school children of the PA to make war on Israel, with no recognition whatsoever of the Jewish state?
3. Since Abbas is the head of the Al Aksa Brigades, will Livni rebuke Abbas
for Al Aksa taking credit for murder attacks and for mortar attacks on
4. Will Livni raise any issue concerning the news report that Abbas will
name Khaled Mashal, leader of
Hamas as his no.2?
Following the Livni-Abbas meeting, Aharoni gave a telephone interview with this reporter in which he responded to these questions posed by this reporter the day before. The quotes are from Aharoni. The questions inserted are from this reporter.
1. "The issue of Hezbollah did not come up during the meeting". And Abbas's
support for Hezbollah? "This also did not come up"
2. "The school curriculum of the Palestinian Authority did not come up.
There is only so much time allotted for meetings like this"
3. "Abbas accepted the idea that Hamas must cease all terror activity" What
about the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades, which is under Abbas's direct command?
"Abbas accepted the idea in principle that all terror has to cease. There
was no direct mention of Al Aksa Brigades".
4. "We are looking into the news story that Abbas will be appointing Mashal
as his number two"
Israeli Foreign Minister Livni, however, had this upbeat statement which she made to the "Voice of Israel"
Radio newsreel following her meeting with Abbas:
" . . . We have progressed quite a bit with the Palestinians in past years, since the
beginning of the peace process, based on the idea of two nations. If we now
we ignore the fact that at the head of the government of the Palestinian
Authority is a Hamas government, we will find ourselves going backward and
facing a situation in which this government does not recognize our
existence. If we want to establish any kind of political process it must
start at a point of mutual agreement"
Dr. Aaron Lerner, the director of IMRA (Independent Media Review and Analysis), an on-line news service, challenged FM Livni's statement that: "We have progressed quite a bit with the Palestinians in past years" with the following items:
Before: Lightly armed and poorly coordinate local terror groups subject to
a constant struggle to survive as they operate from within areas under the
control of the IDF.
Progress: Heavily armed - including rockets, anti-aircraft missilles,
massive tunnel networks, coordinated assaults, etc. Many of them drawing
salaries from the PA and enjoying support from various foreign countries and
groups as they operate from within areas under Palestinian control.
Before: Right for Israel to insist on both an end to terror activities and a
clearing out of illegal weapons as a precondition for "progress" considered
reasonable (though Palestinian noncompliance typically ignored).
Progress: The "Prisoner's Document", now presented by the Fateh, "focuses" armed attacks against Israel to the "occupied territories" and puts all terrorists on the PA payroll.
Livni has been in her position as the foreign minister of Israel for five months. She had no previous experience in any diplomatic role on behalf of the State of Israel.
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