Well, the various "good will" gestures that Olmert announced he would provide to Abbas in order to strengthen him are moving along at varied paces.
The release of 250 prisoners is being held up because there is trouble finding 250 Fatah prisoners who have already served the bulk of their sentences and don’t have blood on their hands. The security services have been combing the list of 10,000 Palestinians in our prisons to find the "right" people, who, if released, would presumably strengthen Abbas. There is a feeling that releasing common criminals such as car thieves will not strengthen Abbas. And now there is talk of perhaps changing the criteria so prisoners with blood on their hands might be let go. The problem, according to today’s news, is convincing the "security minded" people in the government that this was all right. Do we assume then that, by their own admission, those who would approve such a move are not security minded?
Meanwhile tax and custom monies that had been held by Israel since Hamas entered the PA are in process of being released. The first of six monthly payments of $59 million will take place shortly. It is reported that there will be a mechanism to ensure that none of this money ends of in Hamas hands, but, as such assurances have never worked before, I fail to take it seriously.
And…presumably the removal of some road blocks in Judea and Samaria will take place. In a briefing that Olmert provided for the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee today, he said he would be approving this. I have no information on the precise number or location to be removed, but I can tell you that Olmert said: "The political clout we will gain is worth the increased risk."
I’d like to know precisely what political clout he is speaking of. The Palestinians take what we are foolish enough to give, but they do not have a history of responding with reciprocity or increased attention to our requests. And as to it being worth the increased risk… He’s talking about risking innocent Jewish lives. Risking? It’s almost a sure thing. Every time we remove roadblocks, Jews get killed.
Part of what is supposed to be going on is that Abbas’s provisional government is clamping down on militias and trying to put in place a single security force. Abbas pledged to do this at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit. There have been reports that he was going after Al Aksa Brigades, a terrorist branch of Fatah, and demanding that they turn in weapons. In fact, Olmert is claiming that weapons have already been turned it. This has brought praise from several quarters, and has been used as a justification by Olmert for providing assistance to a new, improved Fatah.
But I had difficulty believing it. For I have researched Abbas’s clandestine connection to the Brigades, which he claims is separate from Fatah. Security sources — some off the record — have told me that Abbas protects the Brigades. (I wrote about this in http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=28658).
And now Aaron Klein of WorldNetDaily has run a piece in which he quotes an Al Aksa Brigades leader who denies that Abbas ever asked them to turn in their weapons:
"’No one from Abbas’ office ever asked us to disarm,’ Nasser Abu Aziz, the deputy commander of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the northern West Bank, told WND. ‘We will never disarm until all issues are settled, including a complete Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Jerusalem and the right of return for all Palestinian refugees.’
"Abu Yousuf, a leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Ramallah and a member of Fatah’s Force 17 militia, told WND Abbas’ claims the Brigades will disarm ‘are more of a message meant for the Israelis, the Americans and the international community.
"’No one (from Abbas’ office) addressed a single member of the Brigades and asked us to turn in our weapons,’ he said.
"Zacharias Zubeidi, leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the northern West Bank city of Jenin, told WND the decree from Abbas’ office for armed groups to be dismantled ‘has nothing to do with the Brigades. It’s meant for Hamas. Abbas recognizes the Brigades as a legitimate source of resistance.’
"Sources in the Al Aqsa Brigades said officials from Abbas’ office encouraged them in recent days to tell members of the international news media they are ready to hand in their weapons.
"’But on the ground, not a single weapon has been turned in and it will remain this way,’ a Brigades source said.
"Brigades sources said Fatah officials have invited some Brigades leaders to seek shelter in PA security buildings in the West Bank."
None of this will come as a surprise to anyone who knows Abbas’s propensity for presenting one face to the West and then doing something completely different. The question is, who in the West is paying attention here? Seems everyone official is all too eager to be taken in.
A very serious business. The Shin Bet (Israeli secret service) has announced that Hamas has been recruiting Arabs in east Jerusalem who have Jerusalem identity cards in a major attempt to gain control of the Temple Mount. They have been infiltrating its members into the various staffs that work on the Mount — custodial, religious, tour guides, etc.
Additionally, they have been investing funds into the Mount, using money transferred to Jerusalem via a charity called the Union of Good, which is headquartered in Saudi Arabia; in the last 18 months 1 million shekels was moved into Jerusalem via this charity, utilizing a complex of money changers and couriers.
The Hamas goal was to wield increased influence in the Muslim world, but the Shin Bet has foiled their plans. In a year-long operation, 11 Hamas members were arrested in Jerusalem, 10 of whom held Israeli identity cards. “If it wasn’t for this operation, Israel could have been dealt a harsh blow,” said a senior Shin Bet official. Constant vigilance is required.
The IDF spokesman is releasing information daily on what humanitarian goods are being moved into Gaza with Israeli facilitation. From time to time I will make note of this, so that the record remains clear (and false charges can be readily refuted). Today alone, the following went into Gaza:
Through the Sufa crossing went 556 tons animal feed ; 530 tons straw; 360 tons sugar; more than 300 tons flour; 205 tons salt; 78,000 liters oil; 61 tons spices; 48 tons rice; 49 tons halva; 39 tons bananas; 54 tons jam;, 23 tons carrots; 30 tons barley; 29 tons humus; 40 tons corn; 14 tons canned meat, 6.5 tons tea, 100 tons powdered milk. Via the Kerem Shalom crossing there were 20 trucks carrying summer fruits, milk products, baby diapers, meat, medical supplies, fertilized eggs and more oil.
I will observe that when we start seeing things like 49 tons of halva and 54 tons of jam, we are definitely not looking at crisis conditions.