Saturday, April 01, 2006

Hamas takes command of forces

From DEBKAfile March 31, 2006, 10:27 PM (GMT+02:00) ....

Two days after taking office, Hamas moved to show Fatah who is boss of the Palestinian Authority and its 40,000-strong security force

Hamas interior minister, Said Seyam renamed his office "Ministry of Interior and Internal Security," thereby sweeping the official Palestinian security force under his command. The question is whether or not the security personnel will switch its loyalty from Fatah. Our Palestinian experts predict the contest will be over and done by next week. An Israeli official who has been dealing with Palestinian colleagues commented: The men will take orders from whosoever pays their wages on April 1. He expects Hamas to get the funds together by then following efforts by the incoming prime minister Ismail Haniya, the interior minister and finance minister Dr. Omar Abdel Razek.

Those sources report that the Fatah leader and former minister Mohammed Dahlan called on Egyptian intelligence minister Gen. Omar Suleiman in Cairo Thursday, March 30, to ask for help to raise money to cover the PA payroll. Without those funds, he warned, Fatah would quickly lose control of the security forces and by default the Palestinian Authority. Suleiman did not argue the point. Neither did he respond to Dahlan’s appeal.

DEBKAfile’s Palestinian sources also note that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas spends most of his time abroad and appears to be making a point of not standing in Hamas’s way. He touched down in Ramallah for one day Wednesday to swear in the Hamas government before taking off for South Africa.

Cancel my subscription!

Here's a great letter to the London Review of Books, that published an edited version of "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" By John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt (see our post earlier today) ...

Perhaps you know, perhaps you don’t, that the longer, unedited version of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s essay posted on Harvard and Chicago University websites is being distributed by the PLO in Washington, and is being hailed by Abdul Moneim Abul-Fotouh, a senior member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and by David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader. He had this to say about it: ‘I have read about the report and read one summary already, and I am surprised how excellent it is. It is quite satisfying to see a body in the premier American University essentially come out and validate every major point I have been making since before the war even started.’ He added that ‘the task before us is to wrest control of America’s foreign policy and critical junctures of media from the Jewish extremist neo-cons that seek to lead us into what they expectantly call World War Four.’

I don’t want to be in such company, and neither should you. Please cancel my subscription.

Michael Taylor
Old Malton, North Yorkshire

Go to the Letters page of the London Review of Books for other responses to the Harvard paper...

Who needs enemies?

Follow the link to download a copy of the pseudo academic piece of conspiracy theory that Greg Sheridan derides in today's Australian. From the Harvard Web site...

The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy
By John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt
Working Paper Number:RWP06-011 Submitted: 13/03/2006

In this paper, John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago's Department of Political Science and Stephen M.Walt of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government contend that the centerpiece of U.S. Middle East policy is its intimate relationship with Israel. The authors argue that although often justified as reflecting shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives, the U.S. commitment to Israel is due primarily to the activities of the “Israel Lobby." This paper goes on to describe the various activities that pro-Israel groups have undertaken in order to shift U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction.

Here are some quotes directly from the paper (I've emboldened one of the quotes)....
  • Even if Israel was a strategic asset during the Cold War, the first Gulf War (1990‐91) revealed that Israel was becoming a strategic burden.....Israel is in fact a liability in the war on terror and the broader effort to deal with rogue states.
  • the United States has a terrorism problem in good part because it is so closely allied with Israel
  • Viewed objectively, Israel’s past and present conduct offers no moral basis for privileging it over the Palestinians.... The United States has overthrown democratic governments in the past and supported dictators when this was thought to advance U.S. interests, and it has good relations with a number of dictatorships today. Thus, being democratic neither justifies nor explains America’s support for Israel.
  • Israel’s 1.3 million Arabs are treated as second‐class citizens....Israel’s democratic status is also undermined by its refusal to grant the Palestinians a viable state of their own.
  • The mainstream Zionist leadership was not interested in establishing a bi‐national state or accepting a permanent partition of Palestine....Israeli leaders have repeatedly sought to deny the Palestinians’ national Israeli government has been willing to offer the Palestinians a viable state of their own
  • the tragic history of the Jewish people does not obligate the United States to help Israel no matter what it does today.
  • In terms of actual behavior, Israel’s conduct is not morally distinguishable from the actions of its opponents. .....the creation of Israel in 1947‐48 involved explicit acts of ethnic cleansing, including executions, massacres, and rapes by Jews......Israeli personnel have tortured numerous Palestinian prisoners, systematically humiliated and inconvenienced Palestinian civilians, and used force indiscriminately against them on numerous occasions.
  • Palestinians have used terrorism against their Israeli occupiers, and their willingness to attack innocent civilians is wrong. This behavior is not surprising, however, because the Palestinians believe they have no other way to force Israeli concessions.
  • Were it not for the (Israel) Lobby’s ability to manipulate the American political system, the relationship between Israel and the United States would be far less intimate than it is today......Jewish‐Americans have formed an impressive array of organizations to influence American foreign policy.....The Israel Lobby’s power flows from its unmatched ability to play this game of interest group politics.....the Lobby strives to ensure that public discourse about Israel portrays it in a positive light, by repeating myths about Israel and its founding and by publicizing Israel’s side
  • A key pillar of the Lobby’s effectiveness is its influence in the U.S. Congress, where Israel is virtually immune from criticism......The bottom line is that AIPAC, which is a de facto agent for a foreign government, has a stranglehold on the U.S.‐Israel forces make sure that critics of the Jewish state do not get important foreign‐policy appointments
  • Manipulating the Media -In addition to influencing government policy directly, the Lobby strives to shape public perceptions about Israel and the Middle East. It does not want an open debate on issues involving Israel.... Accordingly, pro‐Israel organizations work hard to influence the media, think tanks, and academia, because these institutions are critical in shaping popular‐Israel bias is reflected in the editorials of major newspapers.....To discourage unfavorable reporting on Israel, the Lobby organizes letter writing campaigns, demonstrations, and boycotts against news outlets whose content it considers anti‐Israel. .....Pro‐Israel forces predominate in U.S. think tanks, which play an important role in shaping public debate as well as actual policy.
  • The Lobby has had the most difficulty stifling debate about Israel on college campuses.....the Lobby has gone to considerable lengths to insulate Israel from criticism on college campuses. It has not been as successful in academia as it has been on Capitol Hill
  • Anyone who criticizes Israeli actions ... stands a good chance of getting labeled an anti‐Semite. In fact, anyone who says that there is an Israel Lobby runs the risk of being charged with anti‐Semitism .... This tactic is very effective, because anti‐Semitism is loathsome and no responsible person wants to be accused of it.
  • Europeans have been more willing than Americans to criticize Israeli policy in recent years, which some attribute to a resurgence of anti‐Semitism in Europe.
  • criticize Israeli policy and you are by definition an anti‐Semite
  • THE TAIL WAGGING THE DOG - ... the Lobby has ... sought to shape the core elements of U.S. Middle East policy. In particular, it has worked successfully to convince American leaders to back Israel’s continued repression of the Palestinians and to take im at Israel’s primary regional adversaries: Iran, Iraq, and Syria.
  • in the fall of 2001, and especially in the spring of 2002, the Bush Administration tried to reduce anti‐American sentiment in the Arab world and undermine support for terrorist groups like al Qaeda, by halting Israel’s expansionist policies in the occupied territories and advocating the creation of a Palestinian state. ....Yet the Bush Administration failed to change Israel’s policies, and Washington ended up backing Israel’s hard‐line approach instead. ...The main reason for this switch is the Lobby.....In short, Sharon and the Lobby took on the President of the United States and triumphed.
  • Pressure from Israel and the Lobby was not the only factor behind the U.S. decision to attack Iraq in March 2003, but it was a critical element......Within the United States, the main driving force behind the Iraq war was a small band of neoconservatives, many with close ties to Israel’s Likud Party...... there is little doubt that Israel and the Lobby were key factors in shaping the decision for war.
    Without the Lobby’s efforts, the United States would have been far less likely to have gone to war in March 2003.
  • Pro‐Israel forces have long been interested in getting the U.S. military more directly involved in the Middle East, so it could help protect Israel.
  • Gunning for Syria - Israeli leaders did not push the Bush Administration to put its crosshairs on Syria before March 2003, because they were too busy pushing for war against Iraq. But once Baghdad fell in mid‐April, Sharon and his lieutenants began urging Washington to target Damascus....Congress insisted on putting the screws to Damascus, largely in response to pressure from Israel officials and pro‐Israel groups like AIPAC.
  • Putting Iran in the Crosshairs - Israelis tend to describe every threat in the starkest terms, but Iran is widely seen as their most dangerous enemy because it is the most likely adversary to acquire nuclear weapons .....The neoconservatives also lost no time in making the case for regime change in Tehran.The Bush Administration has responded to the Lobby’s pressure by working overtime to shut down Iran’s nuclear program......the United States has its own reasons to keep Iran from going nuclear...but Iran’s nuclear ambitions do not pose an existential threat to the United States. If Washington could live with a nuclear Soviet Union, a nuclear China, or even a nuclear North Korea, then it can live with a nuclear Iran.... if the Lobby did not exist...U.S. policy would be more temperate and preventive war would not be a serious option.
  • Summary - It is not surprising that Israel and its American supporters want the United States to deal with any and all threats to Israel’ security. If their efforts to shape U.S. policy succeed, then Israel’s enemies get weakened or overthrown, Israel gets a free hand with the Palestinians, and the United States does most of the fighting, dying, rebuilding, and paying.
  • Can the Lobby’s power be curtailed? One would like to think so....But that is not going to happen anytime soon. AIPAC and its allies (including Christian Zionists) have no serious opponents in the lobbying world......This situation is deeply worrisome, because the Lobby's influence causes trouble on several fronts......Thanks to the Lobby, the United States has become the de facto enabler of Israeli expansion in the occupied territories, making it complicit in the crimes perpetrated against the Palestinians.....the Lobby’s campaign to squelch debate about Israel is unhealthy for democracy. Silencing skeptics by organizing blacklists and boycotts—or by suggesting that critics are anti‐Semites—violates the principle of open debate upon which democracy depends.
  • Finally, the Lobby’s influence has been bad for Israel. Its ability to persuade Washington to support an expansionist agenda has discouraged Israel from seizing opportunities ‐‐ including a peace treaty with Syria and a prompt and full implementation of the Oslo Accords ‐‐ that would have saved Israeli lives and shrunk the ranks of Palestinian extremists. Denying the Palestinians their legitimate political rights certainly has not made Israel more secure, and the long campaign to kill or marginalize a generation of Palestinian leaders has empowered extremist groups like Hamas, and reduced the number of Palestinian leaders who would be both willing to accept a fair settlement and able to make it work. This course raises the awful specter of Israel one day occupying the pariah status once reserved for apartheid states like South Africa. Ironically, Israel itself would probably be better off if the Lobby were less powerful and U.S. policy were more evenhanded. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! with "friends" like these, we don't need enemies....

Olmert's gamble under sustained hostility to Israel

From The Australian April 01, 2006 by Greg Sheridan, Foreign editor ...

....Olmert is not a charismatic military figure like Sharon, Ehud Barak or Yitzhak Rabin. But Israel's greatest prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, was a civilian and he made the right political and military judgments.

Olmert will try once more to negotiate a settlement with the Palestinians, but he will not deal with Hamas and a final negotiated settlement looks unlikely. He wants Israel's final borders determined by 2010 so the country will no longer be held responsible for the quality of life in the Palestinian areas.

This is driven in part by the sustained hostility to Israel in much of the Western media and overwhelmingly at Western universities. Olmert and other Israeli leaders realise that Israel is in danger of losing much Western support, though support seems solid in the US and Australia.
A telling example of the toxic anti-Israel atmosphere at Western universities was a recent essay in the London Review of Books by two US academics, John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt, entitled The Israel Lobby.

This is a quite disgusting screed of juvenile conspiracy theory which posits that the pro-Israel lobby is the all-powerful driving force behind all US policy towards the Middle East. It is a ridiculous piece, with faux-academic footnotes and patently absurd assertions, such as the idea that concern for the Palestinians was a prime motivator for Osama bin Laden when in fact the al-Qa'ida leader added Palestine very late to his menu of causes.

Similarly, the authors' line of causation is ludicrously simplistic, as though no other factor has ever weighed with American policy-makers except Israel.

The article, full of half-truths and misrepresentations, is a first cousin of anti-Semitism in the way in which it posits a vast, predominantly Jewish conspiracy apparently ruling the world. It seems to be motivated more than anything by a hatred of US neo-conservatives and a desire to damage them by attributing to them a motive for supporting action against Iraq that was not the motive they themselves cited. But in its bilious hostility to Israel and its simplistic and ridiculous assertion that Israel is the cause of Muslim hostility to the West, it is a perfect exemplar of the temper of even US universities towards Israel.

Whether Olmert's bold gamble can counter the attacks on Israel's legitimacy throughout the West is another thing. The Israeli electorate is committed to disengagement purely on pragmatic grounds. One way for Hamas and others to sabotage it, therefore, is to raise the level of trouble that greets disengagement. Such a strategy would not lead to an independent Palestinian state but, in a worst-case scenario, it could lead to a renewed Israeli occupation, which would certainly put Israel firmly back in the dog house of international opinion.....

Friday, March 31, 2006

Suicide bombing in Kedumim

From JPost Mar. 30, 2006 after By YAAKOV KATZ AND JPOST.COM STAFF ...

The IDF increased security measures in the West Bank on Friday after a suicide bomber exploded himself near the settlement of Kedumim on Thursday, killing four Israelis.

....The suicide bombing occured when the attacker blew himself up inside an Israeli car near a gas station at the entrance to the northern West Bank settlement.

Two of the four Israelis killed included an elderly couple - Rafi and Helena Halevy - who lived in the settlement for 20 years. Their funeral was scheduled to be held in Kedumim on Sunday. They are survivied by their four children, one of whom is a Lieutenant Colonel in the IDF.
Another victim was Reut Feldman, a 20-year-old youth from Herzliya who volunteered for national service in Kedumim. Her funeral was conducted in Herzliya on Friday afternoon.
Israel Radio reported that Feldman was on her way from a course in Ra'anana back to Kedumim to work a night shift in the West Bank town, when she was killed by the suicide bomber.

....The fourth victim was Kedumim resident, 16-year-old Shaked Laskar. His funeral ceremony took place in the settlement on Friday afternoon.

The IDF said it appeared that Israelis traveling in the car apparently picked up a Palestinian wearing an explosive belt, dressed as a haredi hitchhiker. A Kedumim official said that there was no way that the passengers could have known the man was a terrorist.

....The suicide bomber was identified as 24-year-old Ahmad Mashrake. He was released from a Palestinian prison less than one month ago.

The Aksa Martyrs' Brigades took responsibility for the attack. A spokesman for the terrorist group said that Israel should prepare a large amount of body bags for the terrorist attacks that his organization planned to execute if Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert continued with his plans.....

Reut Feldman (front) was killed by a suicide bomber in Kedumim on Thursday. Photo: Courtesy

Rafi and Helena Halevy who were killed in Thursday's suicide bombing in Kedumim. Photo: Courtesy

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Israel's political Parties

The following summary of results, from Arutz Sheva, 29/3/06, also has links to the parties' Englich Web sites. Go study ......

Kadima – 28 seats
Shas – 13
Likud – 11
Pensioners – 7
Meretz – 4
Labor/Meimad – 20
Yisrael Beitenu – 12
National Union/NRP – 9
United Torah Judaism – 6
United Arab List – 4
Balad – 3
Hadash – 3

Election Results in detail

Follow the link for detailed Israeli election results from the Jerusalem Post.

Elections earthquake

From Ynet news, 29/3/06, by Attila Somfalvi ...

...This election was dramatic, perhaps the most dramatic we've had here for many years. It was nothing short of a political earthquake. As expected, Kadima won the largest number of seats. Ehud Olmert will apparently put together and head the next government. A man who just a year ago was one of the most unpopular politicians in Israel has become prime minister, riding on Arik Sharon's shoulders, while Sharon himself lies unconscious in a Jerusalem hospital.

.... But the real surprise, the real story here, is the Labor Party, the Pensioners Party, the Likud and Israel Our Home. These parties provided the real drama .... They surprised us, and how. Some good surprises, some bad.

The Likud, for example, has completely disintegrated. The electorate took its revenge on the party that has become the filthiest political body, the most hated party in the country. .......

Even before polls closed, Kadima was talking about foregoing major government ministries. ..... Kadima now has to reconcile itself to the results that have been made sharp and clear: The Labor Party and Amir Peretz, who placed social and economic issues at the fore of this campaign, will determine the future character of Israel.

Labor will not sit idly by the government table. It will join the government as a senior partner, with major portfolios, and Amir Peretz is the first person since the late Yitzhak Rabin to strengthen the Labor Party.

The Likud, on the other hand, has been thrown in the garbage by the Israeli public. Tonight's results were terrible for the party that has run the country since 1977. Many people will point the finger at party chairman Benjamin Netanyahu for the party's failure, but he is not the only guilty party.

The entire Likud, with the way it conducts its affairs, with its attitude to Arik Sharon, with its haughty arrogance, made itself an unwanted entity to the Israeli public. This is absolutely clear.

The Pensioners Party, who tonight became the biggest surprise of the elections, is a protest party. As bizarre as it may seem that an old folks party could have some relevance for legions of young people around the country, it has actually happened. Tens of thousands of Israelis who couldn't bear to vote for the same people who have made politics disgusting voted for the retirees. The Pensioners could yet find themselves sitting in government.

Last but not least is Israel Our Home, which tonight became the new Likud, Israel's new right-wing party. Israelis, headed by new immigrants, came out in droves to put their faith in Lieberman. Tonight, strange as it may seem, Lieberman is seen as more pragmatic than the Likud.

Kadima leads with 28 seats

From The Australian, March 30, 2006, by Martin Chulov, Middle East correspondent ....

THE surge to power of the fledgling Kadima party has set Israel on course towards the most dramatic shift in its 58-year history, the pullout of up to 60,000 Jewish settlers from the occupied West Bank.

Kadima leader and Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will be sworn in as the Jewish state's 12th prime minister after the party he inherited from fallen leader Ariel Sharon in January picked up 28 seats in the new parliament. The result fell short of Kadima's expectations, but gives it enough of a bloc to take a dominant role in the coalition that forms the next government.
Immediately after exit-poll figures were released, Mr Olmert claimed he had won a mandate to deliver on his key platform, the unilateral withdrawal of Israeli settlements from the West Bank that would allow Israel to draw its final borders without consulting the Palestinians. However, after two months of uncompromising campaign rhetoric, Mr Olmert offered an olive branch to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, inviting him to take part in negotiations on the new border.

In remarks addressed to Mr Abbas, Mr Olmert said: "We are ready to compromise, to give up parts of the beloved land of Israel and evacuate - under great pain - Jews living there, in order to create the conditions that will enable you to fulfil your dream and live alongside us."
From the sidelines of an Arab summit in Sudan, Mr Abbas responded by urging Mr Olmert to abandon plans to set Israeli-Palestinian borders unilaterally. "The result was expected. But what is more important now is that Olmert change his agenda and abandon his unilateral plans to fix the borders," the Palestinian leader said.

However, Mr Olmert pointedly snubbed Hamas, which Israel refuses to deal with. The new Hamas Government said Israel would set a dangerous precedent by going it alone. "This plan is rejected by the Palestinian people," Prime Minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh said. But Mr Olmert said that if "the Palestinians are wise enough to act, then in the near future we will sit together at the negotiating table to create a new reality. If they do not, Israel will take its destiny in hand. The time has come to act".

The election marked the resurgence of the leftist Labour Party and a social welfare platform that had long been sidelined in favour of security and peace. Labour, under new leader Amir Peretz, picked up 22 seats, all but guaranteeing it will become Kadima's key coalition partner.
One of two surprise packets was the emergence of the Pensioners' Party, which is set to pick up seven seats in the new Knesset. The party campaigned solely on the rights of Israel's ageing population and has never before been a major political player.

....Likud slumped from 40 seats to 11 seats in the new parliament, all but relegating it to a minor party. At the same time, another right-wing party, Yisrael Beiteinu, soared to prominence, picking up as many as 14 seats. Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu said he would continue to head the party despite its poor showing.

In an election blighted by apathy, fewer Israelis than ever before turned up to vote. Only 63 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots, in what many analysts believe was a protest at the choices on offer.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Tony Blair: We must stay united

This is an edited extract from British Prime Minister Tony Blair's address to federal parliament yesterday, from The Australian [March 28, 2006] ...

Tony Blair: We must stay unitedAustralia and Britain have to stand together in defence of universal values against Islamic extremism

THE struggle in our world today is not just about security. It is a struggle about values and about modernity, whether to be at ease with it or in rage at it. To win this struggle we have to win the battle of values as much as arms. We have to show that these are not Western, still less American or Anglo-Saxon, values, but values in the common ownership of humanity, universal values that should be the right of the global citizen.This is the challenge I believe we face and ranged against us are, of course, the people who hate us; but beyond them are many more who do not hate us but question our motives, our good faith, our even-handedness, who could support our values but believe we support them selectively. These are the people we have to persuade. They have to know that this struggle is about justice and fairness as well as security and prosperity.

If we want to secure our way of life, there is no alternative but to fight for it. That means standing up for our values not just in our own countries but the world over. We need to construct a global alliance for these global values and act through it. The immediate threat is from Islamist extremism.

We will not defeat this terror until we face up to the fact that its roots are deep and that it is not a passing spasm of anger but a global ideology at war with us and our way of life. Their case is that democracy is a Western concept we are forcing on an unwilling culture of Islam. The problem we have is that a part of opinion in our own countries agrees with them.

We are in danger of completely misunderstanding the importance of what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. ... in each case we have nations engaged in a titanic struggle to be free of a legacy of oppression, stagnation and servitude. In each case, the people have, for the first time, been offered a chance to vote. In each case they have seized it despite obstacles we can scarcely imagine. In each case also the forces of reaction are at work, trying through the most evil of means, terrorism, to destroy this hope.

...Every reactionary element is lined up to fight us. Why? They know if they lose a message is sent out across the Muslim world that strikes at the heart of their ideology. That is why they are fighting us hard.

We must not hesitate in the face of a battle utterly decisive as to whether the values we believe in triumph or fail. Here are Iraqi and Afghan Muslims saying clearly, "Democracy is as much our right as yours" and, in embracing it, showing that they too want a society in which people of different cultures and faiths can live together in peace. This struggle is our struggle. If the going is tough, we tough it out. This is not a time to walk away. This is a time for the courage to see it through.

But though it is where military action has been taken that the battle is most fierce, it will not be won by victory there alone. Wherever people live in fear, with no prospect of advance, we should be on their side, in solidarity with them, whether in Sudan, Zimbabwe, Burma or North Korea. Where countries, and there are many in the Middle East today, are in the process of democratic development, we should be there extending a helping hand.

This requires, across the board, an active foreign policy of engagement, not isolation. It cannot be achieved without a strong alliance. This alliance does not end with, but it does begin with, America. For us in Europe and for you, this alliance is central. ...the strain of, frankly, anti-American feeling in parts of European and in world politics is madness when set against the long-term interests of the world we believe in. ... We need them involved. We want them engaged. The reality is that none of the problems that press in on us can be resolved or even contemplated without them. Our task is to ensure that, with them, we do not limit this agenda to security. If our security lies in our values and our values are about justice and fairness as well as freedom from fear, then the agenda must be more than security and the alliance include more than America.

Once the Israeli election has taken place we must redouble our efforts to find a way to the only solution that works: a secure state of Israel and a viable, independent Palestinian state. It is why we must continue to mobilise the resources and will to turn the commitments of 2005 into action to combat the ravages of conflict, famine and disease in Africa, where literally millions die every year preventably.

In 1939, when Britain declared war on the Nazi tyranny, that same day your prime minister announced you were at war too; no ifs, no buts, just solidly with the world. How magnificent and how typical of Australia. We needed you then and we need you now. Today's struggle is of a very different nature, but it will determine our collective future. I believe it is one together that we can win.

Delusions and permanent borders

From Ynet News 27/3/06 ...

Our leaders are making plans based on optimistic scenarios. The consequences will be heavy
Elisha Hass

The politicians currently running the Israeli government have asked us to approve a plan with one main point – setting permanent borders for the State of Israel within a relatively short period of time, with a stated goal of solving the demographic problem and separating from the Arabs.
Voters who support these politicians will bear a heavy responsibility for setting the fate of this country and its ability to exist for more than a few terms of office for zippy politicians.
Setting borders is a weighty issue that will affect the fate of generations to come. All plans start by identifying goals, according to which a program is set to give long-range direction to the plan, which provides a framework for setting policy for one term.
Does the platform of those who say they will set permanent borders within a short period of time ensure the existence, sovereignty and independence of the Jewish state?

National security
The first principle of planning relates to national security: We must consider the worst-case scenario. We must not base our plans on rose-colored visions of what might happen if everything goes well.
The conflict that has threatened Israel's existence since the beginning of Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel is a religious one. It is a clash that will not disappear in one generation.
Religious clashes have strong roots; thus, they do not disappear by diplomatic magic. Therefore, diplomatic plans must assume the conflict will continue.

Geo-political reality
A decisive planning consideration, one that stems from the geo-political structure in the western Land of Israel, requires that in order to ensure our ability to withstand outside pressure during times of peace and war, we must prevent ourselves from becoming a narrow, beachfront strip of land.

No fence will be able to save us in that eventuality. ...

Eastern 'spine'
We must plan and make large investments in creating cities and towns that will make it possible to move 25 percent of the country's Jewish population to the eastern part of the country – a 15-20 kilometer wide strip some stretching from the Golan Heights through the Jordan Valley, town to the Judean Hills and the Arava Desert.....

... IDF patrols along the river do nothing to ensure Israel's existence during war time, and contribute nothing to Israel's stability during peace time.....

Setting borders
The time-worn principle of Zionism – that the plow would set the borders of our national home – continues to be true. No advanced military technology can change that.....

....By destroying Jewish communities in one section of the country without building at the same time in other, strategically important areas prevented the creating of any future goals map, and led the enemy to conclude that all Jewish homes in Israel, including those in Tel Aviv and Haifa, are temporary. The continuation of this procedure is an irresponsible gamble with the very existence of our national home.

....Each and every person who votes for a party that supports the continuation of this process but refuses to commit to developing the eastern spine of the country under Israeli sovereignty while setting unilateral borders, will bear responsibility for consequences that will be burden generations to come.....

Monday, March 27, 2006

Half of Palestinians want PA dismantled

From Ynetnews 26/3/06 by Hamas Ali Waked

Following Jericho prison operation, Fatah senior officials call on Abbas to dismantle PA after what they call 'the humiliation.' Poll shows 75 percent of Palestinians satisfied with government assembled

Almost half of Palestinians support the dismantlement of the Palestinian Authority, a new poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, headed by Dr. Nabil Kukali showed. .... the number of those who supported the move was surprising and significant......

Ynet published calls by senior Fatah officials for the PA to be disbanded , due to what they said was "the humiliation" it and PA security members experienced following the IDF's Jericho prison raid. Following the same event, 85.5 percent of 1,068 respondents said that they did not trust Israel's commitment to stick to the agreements it signed with the Palestinian Authority. The poll also showed that 88 percent of those asked demanded that the United States and Britain pressure Israel into freeing PFLP chief Ahmed Saadat and the remainder of prisoners taken from the Jericho prison two weeks ago.

With that, 50.7 percent of those asked said they opposed harming innocent civilians or striking EU offices, or those of other offices, incidents which took place after the Jericho raid.

Satisfaction with Hamas
..... Some 74.4 percent of respondents are satisfied with the government assembled by Hamas, and 64.8 percent said they believed that Hamas must distinguish between its plans as a political party and its platform as a ruling party. About 52 percent of those asked do not want Hamas to recognize agreements signed with Israel, as PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas demands.

A further statistic strengthening Hamas shows that despite the lack of Fatah participation and PLO factions in the new government, 60.8 percent said they were optimistic about the future, compared with 36.5 percent who said they did not foresee good days for the Authority. Nearly 50 percent said they believed the unilateral steps planned by Ehud Olmert will cause a continuation of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Some 30 percent of those asked said that a unilateral withdrawal by Israel from the West Bank will strengthen Hamas and weaken Fatah, compared to 12 percent who believe that it will strengthen Fatah and weaken Hamas.

Regarding the Israeli elections, 18.6 percent said they thought the Labor party was the best party for a solution to the conflict, while 17.6 percent said they thought Kadima is more appropriate for the mission. Some 15 percent said the Likud was best equipped to do it.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Abbas will disband cabinet if needed

From Jerusalem Post Mar. 25, 2006 15:15 By KHALED ABU TOAMEH RAMALLAH ...

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday he would use his "constitutional powers" against the new Hamas cabinet unless it altered its political program and honored all agreements with Israel.

The warning was yet another indication of the growing tensions between Hamas and Fatah ....
The latest crisis came as Hamas prepared to seek the approval of the Palestinian Legislative Council for its new cabinet. The PLC is expected to meet on Monday for a vote on the 24-member cabinet, which is comprised solely of Hamas members.

Hamas officials dismissed the warning as "undemocratic," saying it contradicted the will of the majority of the Palestinians ....

... Abbas's threat was included in a strongly-worded letter he sent to Palestinian Prime Minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh... (he) expressed deep regret because the cabinet's program does not take into consideration the main points that appeared in his letter of appointment [to Haniyeh]. The president stressed that the democratic choice does not authorize [Hamas] to overturn the political and legal commitments of the Palestinian Authority and the PLO.... Abbas made it clear ... that he would go ahead with presenting the cabinet to the PLC for a vote of confidence only if Hamas agreed to change its political program....

... the letter warned that unless Hamas changed its program, the Palestinians would face international sanctions, a move which....would provide Israel with an excuse not to honor its commitments and to pursue its policy of land grabs by imposing its own solutions and drawing its borders unilaterally. .... Abbas's specific demands included recognition of the PLO as the sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinians, as well as recognition of the PA's Basic Law and "Declaration of Independence."

Top PA officials here told The Jerusalem Post that since the Basic Law authorizes Abbas to fire his prime minister and form a new cabinet, the PA chairman would not hesitate to take such a move if Hamas does not meet his conditions. "Abbas was elected by a majority of Palestinians that considers the PLO the sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinians," said one official. "Those who voted for Abbas also support the peace process with Israel....Hamas must change if it wants to form a government," he said. "Otherwise, we will have to take action against them. We won't permit them to destroy all the achievements of the Palestinian Authority."

In a bid to avoid a crisis with Hamas, Abbas on Saturday dispatched outgoing Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei to Gaza City for urgent talks with Haniyeh and other Hamas leaders. Following the talks, which were attended by incoming Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, Haniyeh announced that his cabinet would be presented on Monday to the PLC for a vote of confidence and said the new ministers would be sworn in on Wednesday.

Haniyeh acknowledged that differences had erupted between him and Abbas, but said they would be resolved only through dialogue and understanding. "There won't be a constitutional crisis," he told reporters. "I have a good relation with Abbas and any disputes will be resolved in a manner that serves the interests of the people." He also denied reports that Abbas had warned him that the new cabinet would have no future unless it agreed to negotiate with Israel.

Atef Adwan, a Hamas official who is expected to serve as Minister of State in the new cabinet, warned that Abbas's stance could increase tensions among Palestinians. ....(and) expressed hope that the latest crisis would not lead to a severe power struggle between the various branches of the PA. "The letter places an obstacle on the road to a smooth and quiet transition of powers," he said.

Nayef Rajoub, a Hamas legislator who is also expected to serve as a minister in the new cabinet, lashed out at Abbas for threatening to dismiss the Hamas cabinet. "There's no doubt that Abbas was elected and has certain powers, but the Hamas cabinet, which won the confidence of 60 percent of the Palestinians, also has powers and a mandate," he said. "On the basis of this mandate, Hamas will fulfill its pledges to the voters."

Abbas: Hamas must deal with Israel

Ynetnews and AP 25/3/06 ....

Palestinian leader warns Hamas: In letter to designated Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, Abbas says new Hamas-led government has no future unless it chooses to deal with Israel

The new Hamas-led government has no future and will be undermining Palestinian interests unless it is willing to deal with Israel, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas warns in a letter to Prime Minister-Designate Ismail Haniyeh set to be delivered Saturday, British newspaper the Guardian reported.

In his letter, Abbas warns that Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel undermine "diplomatic achievements," provides Israel with an excuse for refusing to negotiate with the Palestinians, and would affect foreign aid to the PA, the Guardian reported.

The Palestinian leader also charged Hamas' uncompromising stance on Israel thwarted a possible Palestinian national unity government with Fatah and other factions.
However, the letter was also meant to warn western countries against cutting off aid to the Palestinians, a source close to Abbas said.

"To avoid the perception they (Hamas) fail because of a foreign conspiracy we need the world to show that it is still willing to support the moderate line and not just cut us off," the source said.

Abbas to set up new border crossings agency
Earlier, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said a Palestinian investment fund that controls hundreds of millions of dollars will remain under Abbas' control in a bid to prevent Hamas access to the money.

Abbas also plans to set up a new presidential agency that would exercise control over border crossings between the Palestinians and Israel, Erekat said, adding he has been designated as the agency's director and that the new body would aim to resolve any disputes with Israel in order to ensure the crossings remain open.

The latest moves mark further Abbas attempts to consolidate his power ahead of the formation of the new Hamas led government.

Abbas and Hamas appear to be headed for confrontation over the Islamic group's insistence to form a new government based on some principles rejected by the Palestinian leader.

Earlier this week, Hamas challenged Abbas by insisting on forming the government before the upcoming Israeli elections, despite a series of objections voiced by the PLO to Hamas' government principles.

Hamas members denied they were interested in a confrontation, but a senior Palestinian official told Ynet the PA was nearing a 'political and legal crisis.'