When it comes to twisting arms, Condoleezza Rice is a world champion, and right now she’s on a roll. In Saudi Arabia, at the beginning of her current Middle East tour, she managed, after all, to get the ruling regime to say they would participate in the US-inspired peace conference in the fall.
Rice and Secretary of Defense Gates, who is traveling with her, then made a showing at Sharm el-Sheikh for a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Gulf Co-operation Council. At the press conference at the end of the meeting, she participated in a joint communiqué with Egypt, Jordan and six Persian Gulf states that recognized the Arab initiative as one of the foundations for Middle East peace.
Her duplicity is breathtaking. The Arab initiative calls for return to pre-67 borders, return of "refugees" to Israel, and a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. She would gladly sell us down the river if she imagined this would motivate the Arabs to help extricate the US from Iraq.
Currently she’s here, and meeting with various officials. More arm-twisting. Her goal while in Israel is to get Olmert to make more concessions to "strengthen" Abbas and advance "peace." Or, as one official put it, to move "to the next level," which, we’ve been told, means that Washington is eager to "expand the range of things discussed" between Olmert and Abbas.
Explained an Israeli official, "They’re more than testing the waters. The Americans are trying to see how much they can expand the envelope of ‘political horizon.’"
Not surprisingly, the US government has been very pleased with recent Israeli government indications of a willingness to pull out of major parts of Judea and Samaria. Now it’s a question of just how far Olmert will go.
I’m waiting, and will wait a very long time , for balanced arm-twisting, with Rice insisting that Abbas has to really dismantle the terrorist infrastructure and stop incitement.
Said President Shimon Peres today: "When Condoleezza Rice arrives in the region she brings hope and freshness, this time more than ever." He declared that because of Rice we are now closer to peace with the Palestinians than ever.
If this weren’t so terribly pathetic , it would be funny. A quintessential "alternate universe" statement that shows total lack of awareness of what’s happening on the ground. When Rice arrives in the region, my blood pressure goes up several points.
Remember all of the material and data that Hamas seized from Fatah in Gaza when they took over? It was inevitable that this would be used to weaken Fatah, and, while it has taken time, indeed, the process is under way.
Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar has just released to the Arabic press evidence of the corruption of the PA under Fatah. There will be more to follow, but the documents released now primarily show bribes, payoffs and similar improper use of funds authorized by Yasser Arafat from 1994 – 2004. There was $40,000 given to a Fatah official for his son’s wedding, artwork worth $66,000 given to someone in Paris, etc.
Most damning for the current situation is that fact that some of these "improprieties" took place while Salaam Fayad, currently PA prime minister, was serving as finance minister under Arafat. Fayad is routinely touted as the cleanest of the PA officials.
Fatah offered two defenses. First, they claimed that the documents were forged. But Arab journalists who were permitted to exam the documents indicated that they seemed quite legitimate, as, I am quite sure they are.
Then a Fatah spokesman charged Hamas with not being able to account for monies it had received. This is a case of the pot calling the kettle black, if ever there was one. Even if Hamas is guilty of corruption (and all indications are that Hamas is considerably less corrupt than Fatah), this does not remotely absolve Fatah.
What I’m interested in is how the international community will continue to justify support for a Fatah-run PA in the face of such documentation. This, most certainly, is just the beginning.