How much can one write about the moribund “peace process”? (Please read through, as I move to another very important subject.)
There is only one piece of good news regarding the “peace process”: Netanyahu and the Security Cabinet came through. After a prolonged meeting on Thursday regarding the appropriate response to Abbas’s rapprochement with Hamas, this announcement was released by the Prime Minister’s Office (emphasis added):
“The Cabinet today unanimously decided that Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas, a terrorist organization that calls for Israel’s destruction…
“In addition, Israel will respond to unilateral Palestinian action with a series of measures.”
According to one Israeli political source, cited by YNet: “The moment they announced that they were becoming one body, negotiations became impossible. Abbas has gone a step too far. There will be no political contacts with the Palestinians.”
This was good. Anything less would have been shameful. But what made the decision more satisfying was that the vote was unanimous. Even Tzipi Livni – the ‘gung-ho’ negotiator – and Yair Lapid (head of Yesh Atid) – who had been talking about leaving the coalition if progress wasn’t made in negotiations – voted to terminate current talks. In fact, Lapid laid responsibility solidly at the feet of the Palestinian Arabs, questioning whether they really want a state. To me, that is simply a rhetorical question, for obviously they do not. But it was satisfying to see even Lapid facing up to this fact.
The catch, however, is that talks were suspended and not irrevocably ended. This means that if the situation changes diplomatically they might be considered again. There was no declaration that any party that is willing to consider unity with a terror organization cannot be considered a good faith partner for peace negotiations, even if unity fails to materialize. There was not even a demand, at a minimum, that there must be a protracted period of time during which the PA would cease incitement, educate for peace, and stop paying salaries to terrorists.
So negotiations were rendered comatose. But not buried with absolute finality.
I hasten to point out here again that the difference between Fatah and Hamas is one of appearances and methodology, not final goals. The Palestinian National Charter, which was supposed to have been amended at the time of Oslo signings in 1993, was not. Arafat hoodwinked the international community, which was quite content to be deceived for the sake of “peace.”
The Charter reads (from Article 15): “The liberation of Palestine, from an Arab viewpoint, is a national [duty] and it attempts to repel the Zionist and Imperial aggression against the Arab homeland, and aims at the elimination of Zionism in Palestine.” (Emphasis added)
The first statement from the State Department last Wednesday, regarding the projected Fatah-Hamas unity, was mildly encouraging. Said spokeswoman Jen Psaki,
“It’s hard to see how Israel can be expected to sit down and negotiate with a group that denies its right to exist.”
OK, then, the US understands Israel’s position and Kerry is not going to trot back here and apply more pressure, right? Well…
Her description of the announcement of the unity plans as “disappointing” was an understatement of mammoth proportions. When you want to see a singer who has come to town and then discover that tickets are all sold out, that’s disappointing. But to thus describe Abbas’s announcement – right in the middle of attempts to salvage the talks – suggests a deliberate effort to soft-pedal the seriousness of the matter.
And sure enough: A day later Psaki was saying that both sides have taken “unhelpful steps.” The moral equivalency makes me see red.
“We view it as essential that both parties exercise maximum restraint and avoid escalatory steps.” This is a joke, right?
“We’re seeking more information from the parties and we’ll see what transpires over the coming days…There are many mechanisms for moving the process forward.”
Kerry, for his part, declared, “We will never give up our hope or our commitment for the possibilities for peace.”
So they are daft, perhaps certifiable.
As expected, Abbas and company began to make their own daft statements. The unity arrangements are only an internal Palestinian affair, they declared, and in no way interfere with the possibility of continuing “peace” negotiations.
Abbas has reportedly said that Hamas has agreed to all terms to which the PLO is committed: recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence, etc.
Please note that this is Abbas speaking for Hamas, which has said nothing of the sort. You might want to see what Palestinian Media Watch put out regarding Hamas threats while the unity agreement was being announced: http://palwatch.org/main.aspx?fi=157&doc_id=11284 .
Hamas says that the unity government will only be responsible for such matters as establishing a government and elections, and that the PLO is responsible for negotiations.
Watch for a lot of diplomatic fancy footwork here. And for ways in which the US will join the dance, attempting to show us why it’s OK to keep negotiating.
The best inside analysis I’ve secured to date on the unity government in the works is that if it holds, which is a dubious proposition, it will be only on paper. There will be no true unity, with unified security forces, etc. That would be near impossible to achieve. Hamas will manage matters in Gaza, and Fatah in Judea and Samaria.
The greatest motivating factor on both sides, I’m being told, is economic. And behind the scenes we can look to Qatar – which has strong Muslim Brotherhood inclinations – as having pushed this arrangement.
The moment at which I really, really wanted to throw up my hands, however, was last night, when I checked news after Shabbat. Seems Abbas had given a talk yesterday before the Central Council of the PLO, in the course of which he laid out, once again, his ultimatums for coming to the table. You know, the usual: freeze building, etc.
And, apparently, “Israeli officials” told AFP that Abbas “administered the coup de grace [the death blow] to the peace process today. [He] recycled the same conditions, after he already knows Israel won’t accept them.”
But that is the wrong response. The proper one is that we have frozen talks with the PA because it is in bed with Hamas, thus the terms Abbas lays out for continuing those talks are moot and irrelevant. The way this is worded, there is an unspoken implication that if Abbas laid out reasonable terms we’d be back at the table with him, and this makes me very very uneasy. We seem to have a constant, maddening tendency to exhibit our insecurity: See, see, he’s not being reasonable so we can’t sit with him. We don’t know how to take a stand with finality, secure in our right to do so.
So let us turn to another matter, which is not maddening, so much as enraging. I refer to the situation on Har Habayit [the Temple Mount], which is deteriorating rapidly. Arabs on the Mount know full well that they can block the Jewish presence there by rioting or threatening to riot. Israeli police then declare a security risk, and Jews are prevented from ascending.
Over Pesach, there was rioting – with rocks and Molotov cocktails thrown at police – when the Mughrabi gate (the only entrance to the Mount for non-Muslims) was opened. Riot police were sent up on the Mount, which was then closed. This was a particularly egregious situation during the holiday time.
To make matters worse, the Jordanian government then called in Israel’s ambassador to Jordan, Daniel Nevo, to protest that “assaulting Muslim worshipers and allowing [in] Jewish extremists.” must stop. Jordan, he was told, holds Israel, as the “occupying power,” responsible for the security of the…Muslim worshipers there.
Nevo was warned that “such violations and attacks are tantamount to a flagrant violation of international law and the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel and constitute an extreme insult to bilateral relations.”
An extreme outrage, considering that the Muslims started the riot.
The situation here is complex and very much to be regretted. A bit of background is in order:
In 1967, during the Six Day War, Israel liberated the Mount and all of eastern Jerusalem from Jordan, which held it illegally, “Har Habayit b’yadenu!” cried Gen. Motta Gur, on reaching it during the decisive battle: The Temple Mount is in our hands. If only.
Then Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, bending over backwards to be sensitive to the vanquished Muslim Arabs, went up on the Mount to meet with Muslim authorities there. What he determined was that, “The Israeli authorities were responsible for overall security, but we would not interfere in the private affairs of the Moslems responsible for their own sanctuaries.”
This quote is from his autobiography, and the relevant section can be seen here (one might be inclined to weep, on reading it):
Dayan ordered the Israeli flag taken down from the Dome of the Rock, and subsequently moved to prevent Jewish prayer on the Mount. He also stopped the Jordanian practice of censoring the Friday sermons delivered in the Al-Aksa Mosque on the Mount before they were broadcast on the radio. (Such rabble-rousing sermons emanating from the Mount are still broadcast.)
The only thing that was clear to Dayan with regard to Jewish prerogatives on the Mount was that: “it would be inconceivable for Jews not to be able freely to visit this holy place now that Jerusalem was under our rule.” (Emphasis added)
I ponder whether he would have done things differently, had he been able to see how the situation would have evolved. He was enormously naïve and did not foresee the extreme Muslim Arab reluctance to share.
It is not coincidental that he was a secular Jew with great devotion to archeology. For him the Mount and its remains represented primarily part of Jewish history. I am convinced that this attitude played heavily into the decisions he made.
The Muslim authority on the Mount is the Wakf, the Muslim trust. At various points in the last 47 years, there have been periods when the Jordanians controlled the Wakf and other times when the Palestinian Arabs did. Sometimes there were actually two competing Wakfs. Today, the Jordanians are in control.
When Israel signed a peace treaty with Jordan in 1994, there was a clause inserted at Jordan’s insistence that gave Jordan a special role with regard to the Temple Mount. Try as I have over the years, I have never been able to determine precisely what that means – beyond the fact that it is the Jordanian Wakf that will be recognized. It is unclear how much of what transpires is specified in the treaty, and how much is political/diplomatic overlay. I intend to continue to pursue this.
What I have observed is that our prime minister tends to be a bit obsequious with regard to taking care not to ruffle Jordan’s feathers on this issue. I have in mind in particular the issue of the rebuilding of the bridge going to the Mughrabi Gate.
Credit: Flash 90
A temporary structure put up after the permanent structure collapsed under snow, it was said to be unsafe and was scheduled to be replaced. Then King Abdullah objected and Netanyahu backed off. I didn’t even get it, really, because the bridge leads to the Mount but is not even on the Mount.
What I see is that Jordan threatens to rescind the peace treaty if Israel doesn’t give on these Mount-related matters. And this, undoubtedly, is a factor in Netanyahu’s reluctance to take the issue head on. But here we are into matters of Israeli sovereignty, and I believe they have yet to be adequately dealt with.
See this news report from February:
“[Jordanian] Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur warned on Wednesday that Jordan might review a 1994 peace treaty with Israel after the Knesset began a debate on allowing Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, according to AFP.
“’If Israel wants to violate the peace treaty in this issue, the entire treaty, its article, details and wording will be put on the table,’ Nsur told Qatar’s Al-Watan paper in an interview.”
This is the threat that unsettles our government. But Jewish prayer on the Mount does not put Muslim holy sites at risk, nor is it something about which the Wakf should have the slightest say. Will we be forever afraid to assert our rights? To pray on the Mount is a very basic Jewish right.
The High Court ruled, some while ago, that Jews have the right to pray on the Mount. It is the Israel police who prevent this – as I described above, calling it a situation that generates a “security risk,” which means it leads Muslims to riot. The presence of Jews going up on the Mount is monitored very tightly by Israeli security forces, and this is simply not how it should be.
Having said all of this, I want to share a horrendous video taken on the Mount very recently; it is accompanied by descriptive text.
Last Tuesday a group of Hareidi fathers brought their young children, some 25 in number, up on the Mount, an act to be much applauded. But they were assaulted both verbally and physically by Arabs. Small children, poked at and shoved and spit at. Arabs throwing shoes and sticks at them. How terrifying it must have been for them, and how brave they were.
The Israeli security forces simply did not adequately protect them. And I cannot help but wonder if it was because of the recent Jordanian threat, which would be shameful indeed.
When I saw this video, I wept.
This situation cannot be permitted to persist. Here I do not, absolutely do not, throw up my hands. Never. Here the fire of my activism – and my commitment to fighting for Jewish rights – burns bright.
This must be understood: Arab Muslim interest in the Mount and in control over the Mount is directly related to issues of Jewish sovereignty and rights. It hits at our core – at the essence of our ancient identity – and they know it. Jewish rights on Har Habayit must be firmly established.
A new organization has been established here that is taking on this fight: Haliba.
It is promoting Jewish rights on the Mount, with the idea that there is room for all and that sharing is possible.
In response to what has been going on – most particularly the harassment of the children – Haliba is calling an emergency meeting on Tuesday night at 6:30 PM, at the Begin Center in Jerusalem. Hebrew only.
I will follow in due course with more information as it becomes available.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.