A change of pace: we will look first, briefly, at some political happenings here in Israel:
A new party, Hatikvah (the hope), has been formally registered. At its head will be MK Aryeh Eldad, who is still with National Union (Moledet branch) now but will move over. The party will be a nationalist party that is inclusive and hopes to attract secular people as well as religious. Eldad himself is traditional in his orientation but is not perceived by the public as "religious," which means he may appeal to a greater number of voters than an overtly religious group such as National Union. Eldad’s hope at this juncture is to do well enough in the next elections to become part of the coalition that will likely be headed by Likud, pulling that coalition to the right and helping to keep it honest. Eldad, a physician, it should be noted, has a reputation for integrity.
It seems that Shaul Mofaz — former defense minister in Likud and now transportation minister in Kadima — is launching a challenge to Olmert for the leadership of Kadima. He has in recent weeks consistently come out with positions that are critical of Olmert: He says that so many prisoners should not have been released, that Olmert is "letting Hamas into the heart of Jerusalem," that Olmert shouldn’t negotiate core issues with Abbas when he is weak, etc.
While I was never a big fan of Mofaz when he was transportation minister (and his bolt to Kadima bespoke a significant lack of integrity, as he had previously pledged to stay with Likud when Sharon split the party), everything is relative: compared to Tzipi Livni as a replacement for Olmert, Mofaz doesn’t look so bad.
The Labor Party is in disarray. It was in bad shape when Amir Peretz left the leadership position; Ehud Barak was supposed to consolidate forces and strengthen the party when he came in. But there is currently great discontent with him, so that the party is in a weak position. Labor MKs are fearful that Kadima has now assumed the mantle of "the peace party," and I laugh when I read that Barak — who offered Arafat an enormous amount in 2000 — is now being accused by the party’s left wing of being "more right wing" than Netanyahu.
I’ve written, with fury and with pain , many times about the left wing bias of the law enforcement and court systems in this country, which work very decidedly against "settlers." Well now there is a group called Human Rights in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, which has just issued a paper to mark International Human Rights Week. The paper outlines several areas in which the rights of settlers and their supporters were violated. Attorney Orit Struck serves as spokeswoman for the group.
A major focus of the group is the severe injustice done to the residents of Gush Katif, who were pulled from their homes and not provided with proper assistance. But here I present, from the paper, yet another glaring example of a way in which the government is causing "systematic and continuous harm" to Jews within Israel: In 1929, after an Arab pogrom in which dozens of Jews of the community of Hevron were killed, the British forced the Jewish survivors to leave the area. Those Jews retained ownership of property in Hevron. The Israeli Custodian of Abandoned Property, however, now declines to act to return this property to the Jewish families that own it, instead acting on behalf of the Arabs who rent the property. I will note that to return the property to the Jews would be to strengthen the Jewish presence in Hevron, which the government studiously avoids doing. Doesn’t fit the political goals, private human rights be damned.
According to Asharq Alawsat, a London-based paper , Khaled Mashaal, head of Hamas in Damascus, is said to be ready to return control of government institutions in Gaza to the PA. Meanwhile sources from both sides confirm that secret talks have been held in a number of venues in order to help Hamas and Fatah resolve their differences.
The PA is furious about an invitation — including a visit with the royal family — that the Saudis extended to a senior Hamas delegation right after Annapolis. Anyone with half a brain (which actually lets out a lot of people) knows that Saudi Arabia promotes Hamas: they hosted the negotiations that resulted in the Mecca agreement, forcing Abbas to bow to Hamas stipulations all the way.
Said one PA official: "Hamas is doing its utmost to undermine the authority of President Mahmoud Abbas. The timing of the visit – two weeks after the Annapolis peace conference – is also interesting. Hamas was strongly opposed to the conference and continues to issue threats to torpedo any peace process with Israel."
Bush and Rice, ludicrously, counted it a "diplomatic coup" that Saudi Arabia came to the conference, thereby presumably placing itself in the "moderate camp" that supported "peace." Yea, right.
I continue to monitor closely the rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas — which was clearly coming after Annapolis and which the Saudis are now fostering — and what it will mean for "peace negotiations." I have waxed cynical in the extreme, with good reason. One would expect that if Fatah joined again with Hamas, which is against peace with Israel, the US and Israel would wash their respective hands of dealings with the PA. That is, after all, what they have said they would do.
My fear is that the reverse might happen: That the parties will be so "eager" to push negotiations, that Hamas might be declared as having moderated by virtue of having joined with a "peaceful" Fatah. It will depend, I imagine, on what sort of arrangement is established. When I begin to read about new elections (which will be hailed as democratic process), I become increasingly uneasy.
Now I must return, once again, to Iran . Mohammad Mohaddessin, a spokesman for the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an opposition group seeking the overthrow of the regime in Tehran, came out with a statement today, in response to the US intelligence report saying that Iran stopped development of nuclear weapons in 2003:
"We announce vehemently that the clerical regime is currently continuing its drive to obtain nuclear weapons. The clerical regime leaks false information and intelligence to Western intelligence services, through double agents."
Mohaddessin said that Iran did shut down a weapons production center in Tehran in 2003 under international pressure, but shifted it to other sites and resumed work in 2004.
"These centers are working just now for producing nuclear bombs. This is contrary to the United States’ National Intelligence Estimate." Mohaddessin said the information came from sources inside Iran; sources were checked within the last week to confirm that the nuclear development was still going on.
Four years ago NCRI disclosed information about hidden nuclear sites in Iran that uncovered long-standing covert operations.
And lastly, I cite President Bush. After meeting with the Italian president today, he met with the press and said:
"Iran is dangerous. We believe Iran had a secret military weapons program, and Iran must explain to the world why they had such a program."
I confess, I am still scratching my head over this convoluted and nonsensical statement.
Note the past tense: "Iran had…" So, if Iran doesn’t have it anymore, why does it have to explain anything
? (As if it would be inclined to in any event.)
Seems as if Bush is trying to play both ends at the same time — he wants to sound tough, but is backing off from challenging Iran now.
This is pathetic and sickening from the president who declared a war on terror.