A balagan is confused state of affairs . And that’s what we’re looking at right now. What may appear to be confusion in my reports is frequently a reflection of what’s happening on the ground — including game playing, deliberately misleading statements, multiple and conflicting motivations, reversals of position, and more. There is no score card in the Middle East, and yesterday’s enemy may be tomorrow’s ally.
Case in point: I relayed some days ago a report from Middle East Newsline that before the Hamas take-over of Gaza, Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan was working with al-Qaida in Gaza as a means of strengthening Fatah against Hamas. MENL said that the Egyptians — who are vastly uneasy about al-Qaida, which has launched terror attacks in the Sinai — on receiving this information were motivated to allow Hamas to continue to smuggle in weapons to stand strong against al-Qaida. (Never mind that Egypt undoubtedly has other reasons for permitting the smuggling.)
On doing further checking I found that the (Arabic language) Egyptian newspaper Al-Masriyoun, cited in English on several Internet sites, reported that the Egyptians were convinced that Dahlan was working with al-Qaida.
And what do we find in the news today? Fatah’s Abbas, in an interview with Italian TV, said that Hamas let al-Qaida into Gaza, and that this will prevent Fatah from cooperating with Hamas. Hamas is vociferously denying any al-Qaida connection; they say that this accusation is motivated by Abbas’s desire to convince international forces to come into Gaza.
Al-Qaida had cells in Gaza well before Hamas took control. Shortly after the "disengagement," when the Fatah PA had taken over, I reported on this presence. Al-Qaida and Hamas are both jihadist and al-Qaida is undoubtedly more comfortable with a Hamas-run Gaza: they are both seeking Sharia rule, for example. What is more, tenuous links between Hamas and al-Qaida were identified back some years. But Hamas, looking for international acceptance, has steered clear of connections with al-Qaida now and has of late rebuffed al-Qaida overtures.
Whether Dahlan was cooperating with al-Qaida as a military hedge against Hamas or not, it has been obvious for some time that he is the Fatah leader most hated by Hamas. Charges against him have been many, beginning with the accusation that he is cooperating with the US and Israel. This particular charge arises out of his role in "reforming" the PA security forces, with the sanction of Israel and the active support of the US via training and equipment. He is also accused of corruption and embezzlement of millions, most recently of US money given for that security reform.
Now a report comes from the PA that Dahlan , for health reasons, will be in Germany and unable to return to the PA areas for months. I would definitely concur that Dahlan is likely to enjoy better health in Germany than in PA areas, but I do not have in mind the knee surgery, epilepsy, or assorted other ailments that this report refers to.
There are analysts speculating that the PA gov’t has rendered Dahlan persona non grata (with a message to him not to return) in an effort to smooth things over with Hamas.
More important than Dahlan is the presumed intention of Fatah here. Didn’t I just report above that Abbas says that he will not cooperate with Hamas because they brought in al-Qaida? Balagan!
My betting, from many things I’m seeing , is that Fatah and Hamas will reach out to each other again — which doesn’t mean all will be sweetness and light.
Caroline Glick’s take is that Fatah is about to capitulate to Hamas. This is what Fatah has done repeatedly, most notably with the Mecca accords. In her column today, she writes:
"Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and US President George W. Bush are in for a big disappointment…
"…the US and Israeli plan to respond to the Hamas takeover of Gaza by strengthening Fatah has failed."
Let’s watch how the Israeli and US governments respond to this likely turn of events. And with Rice due here next week, paving the way for "peace."
Is Hamas about to be rendered "kosher"?
Whatever the issues regarding Hamas, al-Qaida, etc., they are ultimately all dwarfed by the issue of Iran, its ability to go nuclear, and its threat to the Jewish state. (Of course, there is a direct link between Iran and Hamas, Hezbollah, etc. — proxies in Iran’s war against us.)
Iran remains at the forefront of discussions here , and I confess to heartsick moments — especially when the Jerusalem Post runs a major article in its magazine on the possible repercussions to us in terms of missiles tipped with biological or chemical weapons. Talk about a balagan. There are charges that we are not devoting enough to our preparation, and reports on drills being done by our air force with in-air fueling practice. Conflicting reports emerge on how long we have until Iran achieves nuclear capability, and no one seems sure who will act, or when. Certainly a layperson such as myself cannot know — whatever the hints, the hopes and the fears. The greatest likelihood is that no one knows for sure yet how this will play out as too much remains uncertain. The question is whether preparations are being made now for all eventualities and whether there will be the courage to act militarily if other alternatives have been exhausted (and the courage to admit when they HAVE been exhausted). The US should act. If it does not, we must.
If ever we needed clarity of purpose and resolution…
The foreign ministers of Jordan and Egypt are due here this week, empowered by the Arab League to discuss the League’s "peace initiative" (calling for Israel’s return to the Green Line, a Palestinian state and return of "refugees" to Israel). This is an interesting state of affairs because (as I recently noted) the original initiator of this plan, Saudi Arabia, has admitted that it is moot at present because of tensions within the PA. More confusion. Precisely what sort of peace would be advocated at present? It may even turn out that the foreign ministers don’t show.
Israel has made a point of saying that this would be an historic visit — the first ever by an Arab League delegation. The League promptly responded that they have no relations with Israel and are not sending a delegation. Egypt and Jordan were tasked with this mission because they already have diplomatic ties with Israel. This is semantic game-playing and Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev isn’t having it. "This visit," he pointed out, "will be the first time foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan are coming not merely to represent their own countries. They are coming here to represent the larger Arab body politic." Given this spin, I would say it’s a reasonable bet that they won’t show.
When I wrote about humanitarian relief coming into Gaza, I explained that — while the bulk of what came in was via relief organizations — some products such as fresh fruit were ordered from Israel by Arab entrepreneurs in Gaza, who sold it. Well, Hamas has now banned the import of Israeli fruits and vegetables into Gaza. While this will certainly hurt Israeli farmers, it will also hurt the average Palestinian, wh
o will have much less access now to any fresh fruits and vegetables.
Hamas, in this regard as well as others , is quite content to exacerbate the difficulties of the average Palestinian for political purposes. Hamas is using mortar fire to keep the Keren Shalom crossing closed, claiming that use of this crossing represents a "conspiracy" between Israel and Fatah. Keren Shalom was being used by humanitarian organizations to send in relief. Hamas, it seems, would prefer to have the people suffer and then be angry.
Well, it was fairly predictable , and now it has happened: Russian billionaire Arkadi Gayadmak, who utilized his largesse for relief in Sderot, thereby embarrassing the government, has announced the formation of his Social Justice party. While he is in process (unilaterally, you should note) of compiling a list for election purposes, he says he will not run for the Knesset, but instead will attempt to attain the position of mayor of Jerusalem.
Because of the good works he has done (which are not to be denied), it is assumed that he will have a considerable measure of support. I myself am uncomfortable with him, as he tends to be autocratic and because the motivation for some of the projects he assumed must be considered.
Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi is here and was taken on a tour of Sderot yesterday. A senior intelligence officer provided a briefing, explaining that a genuine Hamas army of 7,000 to 10,000 existed in Gaza.
According to YNet, the prime minister was "shocked and dismayed to hear of residents’ suffering there [in Sderot]." Well, good he knows now. But for me this raises some serious questions: WHY didn’t he know before this? Because Israel does not do enough publicity on the issue? Because European media do not pick up on this story? Because there is a bias in Europe towards thinking just about the Palestinians as poor suffering victims, with not a thought to Israeli suffering?
Whatever the answer(s), there is a lesson here for us. It is our business to make sure the world has our side of the story.
Clarification: I asked some questions, rather rhetorically, in my last posting regarding Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades gunmen who want to take matriculation exams. Are these gunmen high school students? I mused. Now I have the answer, from Arutz Sheva:
"They are seeking to obtain high-school diplomas in preparation for being hired by Fatah’s security forces, which offer a higher salary for high-school graduates.
"Fatah will reportedly offer amnesty to terrorists who join the security forces, offering them a salary and the ability to keep their weapons in return for loyalty to Abbas and Fayyad. The terrorists who join the forces will presumably receive American military training together with the rest of Fatah’s armed groups."
Now this is not even remotely funny.