One keeps hoping — indeed, praying — that the news will get better. But it doesn’t.
Last week Iran President Ahmadinejad was in Damascus for meetings with Syrian President Assad. According to the London-based paper al-Sharq al-Awsat, Ahmadinejad promised Assad he would transfer funds totaling $1 billion for Syria to use for purchase of weapons in return for a promise from Assad that he would not enter peace with Israel.
Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beitenu) then called for a national emergency government to respond to this.
By last night, however, "key political sources" in Jerusalem expressed skepticism about the validity of the report, and aides to Olmert expressed his continued desire to have direct negotiations with Syria. [I.e., without the intermediary Assad had requested, and without pledging in advance to give up the Golan.]
Whether the report on the strategic alliance between Syria and Iran is true in all particulars or not, what seems to be escaping the notice of Olmert and his aides is the significance of Ahmadinejad coming to Damascus, where he met with not only Assad but also Nasrallah of Hezbollah and Mashaal of Hamas. This was definitely not a gathering of moderates. Syria is quite clearly on the wrong side here and under Iranian influence. After meeting with Assad, Ahmadinejad said Iran and Syria were allies and would remain so "united against the enemies of the two countries."
Teheran, by the way, denies that a strategic deal was struck with Assad, but this denial counts for nothing.
The IDF reports that most of Hezbollah’s weaponry has been moved to civilian Lebanese villages in the south of Lebanon. There is a three-fold reason for doing this. Now it provides camouflage — it’s more difficult to spot the weaponry. Then, in time of war it will provide cover, making Israel reluctant to shoot for fear of hitting civilians. Lastly, if Israel does aim at the weapons or launching sites, civilians are more likely to be hit, which will provide excellent PR opportunities for Hezbollah.
This is all part of Foreign Minister’s Livni’s excellent work negotiating a diplomatic settlement to the Lebanon War that put in place international troops to help keep Hezbollah unarmed and out of the south. We need to remember what fine results she achieves when she tells the nation that she should replace Olmert as prime minister.
Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik (Kadima) was in Jordan today, where she met with Abbas and Jordan’s foreign minister, Abdullah al-Khatib, in a closed meeting from which the media were barred
A representative of the Israeli embassy in Amman said the meeting focused on ways to restart Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.
This meeting follows by days a talk Olmert gave to farmers in the Jezreel Valley, in which he said that Israel was going to have to make some "tough decisions" and "needs to withdraw" from Judea and Samaria. He didn’t say from "parts of" Judea and Samaria. He didn’t talk about sustaining major settlement blocs (where some 1/4 million Jews live). He suggested that this would happen via negotiations with the Palestinians and not unilateral withdrawal as in Gaza.
Did I not say it gets worse and worse?
But, speaking of the Palestinians…
PA officials are saying that Abbas could arrange for next legislative elections within 90 days, except for one problem: They want to hold them in Gaza too and Hamas is not cooperating. Not cooperating? Hamas said it would attack any international peace keepers sent in to assure free elections.
The most unpalatable fact is that Hamas — which cites PA Basic Law that says legislative elections are held every four years — is in the right legally. Serious analysts feel that it will be impossible for Abbas to hold elections without a Fatah-Hamas agreement.
Without such an agreement Abbas would only be able to hold elections in Judea and Samaria, thereby entrenching the split between Fatah and Hamas. And this is something he does not want to do.
Just possibly this is news that is not all bad. Once there is a Fatah-Hamas agreement a lot of people who want to maintain the fiction that "moderate" Fatah must be strengthened "against" Hamas will have a very hard time making their case. Not only that, it would be almost impossible to pretend that money given to Fatah wouldn’t find its way to Hamas.
I recommend Caroline Glick’s column on Friday in The Jerusalem Post, "Bush the talented politician."
Bush, she says, manages to say what people want to hear even as his policy suggests something very different. In his recent speech regarding the Palestinians, Mr. Bush had some strong words: the Palestinians must dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, arrest terrorists, confiscate guns, etc. etc.
However, these words "were wholly disconnected from the actual policy that Bush is advancing and that he spelled out clearly in his address.
"…his policy is predicated on the basic assumption that the Palestinians must be bribed with money, American legitimacy and Israeli lands, and that Israel must be pressured to make more and more concessions to the Palestinians before one can expect them to change their terrorist policies, values and goals.
"…the administration has made preventing a Hamas takeover of Judea and Samaria its immediate goal. Since the Hamas takeover of Gaza, US intelligence agencies have concluded that the only thing preventing Hamas from taking over Judea and Samaria is the IDF. As one senior intelligence official put it, ‘Israeli military operations are the major factor restricting Hamas activity [in the areas].’ Yet rather than urge Israel to maintain its counter-terror operations, Bush said that the Israelis should find ‘ways to reduce their footprint’ in Judea and Samaria.
"…Bush told the Palestinians that this is a ‘moment of choice’ for them. It is time for them to decide if they are for terror or peace. But then, he said the same thing five years ago. Since then, at every decision point, the Palestinians chose terror. They have built terror armies and amassed terror arsenals. The have strengthened their ties to Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and al-Qaida. They overwhelmingly elected Hamas to lead them. But in the interests of advancing its policy of appeasement, the Bush administration abjectly refuses to acknowledge that the Palestinians have already chosen.
"…Abbas is the man that Bush believes will cause the Palestinians to have a change of heart. Bush places his trust in Abbas – the man who has pocketed billions of dollars in assistance from the US, the EU and Israel but has never lifted a finger against terrorists or done anything to end the corruption endemic in his government. Bush upholds Abbas, who equipped his US-trained forces with anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles which are completely useless for fighting terror cells but come in mighty handy for fighting Israel.
"…Israel’s assigned role in this diplomatic farce is the patsy. Due to the exigencies of democratic politics, and in the absence of leadership on either side, over the past few years, US-Israel relations have taken on a sado-masochistic quality. To endear himself with the State Department and Europe, Bush has chosen to insist that Israel endanger itself ."