Well, no anticipation of true reconciliation , but something superficially approximating it. This is not a surprise; in fact, it was expected:
Brigadier General Ronen Cohen of IDF Intelligence provided a briefing yesterday for the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. For the first few days after the Hamas coup in Gaza, he said, Fatah acted strongly against Hamas in Judea and Samaria, but that this action slowed promptly and has now stopped. "The dust has settled and life has returned to normal."
I wrote yesterday about the fact that in Gaza Hamas had acquired intelligence material that belonged to Fatah, and I speculated about how Hamas would use this for extortion purposes. I have read nothing further on this, but cannot help but wonder how this might be a factor in what is going on. But then, there is also the fact that Fatah doesn’t really want to do Hamas in, anyway. Much of the anti-Hamas action is for show.
General Cohen said that a Hamas political rehabilitation in Judea and Samaria was still possible in areas where it won elections, but that the IDF presence in the area (note: not Fatah!) prevents Hamas from attaining full military strength.
Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi , who was also at the briefing, predicted that Hamas and Fatah would ultimately renew connections: "There will be communication between Abbas and Maashal [Hamas chief in Syria], and there will be joint activity between the two groups."
Where, then, will this leave Israeli and US efforts to bolster Abbas as a bulwark against Hamas? And when will Western assistance to Fatah be terminated? Olmert has specifically predicated support for Abbas on his having no connection to Hamas.
Watch and see how this is hedged.
Right now we seem to be standing on our heads to "strengthen" Abbas.
Not enough that there is the possibility of renewed security cooperation — something that essentially stopped with the Palestinian violence in 2000. The Post today said that talks that have taken place in an undisclosed location, "according to Israel sources are the very beginning stages of what could ultimately lead to a return of security control over West Bank areas to the PA." A little premature to speculate on this, is it not?
Yesterday it was revealed that we have relayed messages to the king of Morocco in recent weeks urging him to travel to Ramallah and meet with Abbas in order to increase his legitimacy. (We have no diplomatic ties with Morocco, but there are channels of communication.)
Willingness of Arab leaders to grant Abbas legitimacy would carry considerable weight, but this appears unlikely as these leaders are afraid to arouse the ire of Islamic radicals in their own countries. This tells us a good deal about the state of the world (see more below).
Saudi Arabia , Jordan and Egypt have admitted in closed door meetings with Israel that, in light of the chaos in the PA, the Saudi initiative is dead. An internal document of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, cited by Maariv, says there is a significant change in the Saudi policy towards Israel and the PA: "Saudi reluctance to express clear support for Abbas and his new government reflects Saudi opposition to Abbas’s policy to isolate Hamas."
This reinforces what has been discussed here previously : The Saudis, fomenters of terrorism, sided with Hamas in the Mecca agreement negotiations.
The Saudis want Israel to stop using the term "Saudi Initiative."
I have spoken today with Shlomo Dror , who is with the IDF operation at the crossings into Gaza. What he tells me is that the various humanitarian supplies are being brought in with Israeli facilitation, primarily via the auspices of several UN humanitarian organizations: UNRWA, UNICEF, the UN World Food Program, etc. There is a stock of food supplies sufficient for 2-3 weeks on hand in Gaza, with more coming in daily. No one would claim things are marvelous, but there is no humanitarian crisis.
In addition some private individuals — store owners and entrepreneurs with commercial contacts in Israel — have arranged to bring in products, fresh fruits perhaps, that are then sold in Gaza.
The International Red Cross is involved with regard to medical relief. They bring in medical supplies, and locate people in Gaza who need to be brought out to Israel for care; they have also acted to bring in a small number of doctors. Dror says it is clear that there is no lack of medical supplies in Gaza, because the Red Cross actually brought some out of Gaza to use in Judea and Samaria.
UNRWA, which is viewed as a primary relief organization in Gaza because of its work with the refugees there, actually had to scale back its operation when it came under attack by Islamists, and two Arabs who worked for UNRWA were killed. Some of its clinics, for example, had to be closed for a time.
Dror indicated that Israel is an active participant in relief efforts. Some two or three weeks ago, when things began to quiet down in Gaza, Israel took the initiative of calling together the various relief groups in order to assess how relief might be best provided.
I have also spoken with David Wilder, who is a spokesman for the Jewish community of Hevron. Seems the police have put out a statement — immediately picked up by the press — that the deed to the house taken over by Jews in Hevron seems to have been forged, although the residents are saying it was purchased legally via Jordan.
It’s a shame, said Wilder, that the police didn’t wait until they were done with their investigation before making any comment. The people in Hevron involved with this are confident that everything is legal and in order, and they wait for the final results of the investigation. The fact is that the Arab who is claiming that he owns this house has made contradictory statements, at one time saying that he arranged to sell it, and then saying that he changed his mind — but not providing any proof of this. (The fact that his neck may have been on the line for selling to Jews may well have had something to do with his statement that he changed his mind.)
Head of Likud, Binyamin Netanyahu has decided to move up Likud primaries, in anticipation of possible general elections early next year. After some internal jockeying, they have now been set for September; Silvan Shalom is Netanyahu’s biggest challenger.
Olmert has done a major reshuffling of his cabinet . Haim Ramon — in the face of stiff opposition because of his conviction for forcibly kissing a female solider — is now a deputy premier, replacing Shimon Peres who has become president; Ruhama Avraham has been sworn in as the minister in charge of liaison between the government and the Knesset. Interior Minister Ronnie Bar-On (who is a friend of Olmert’s without financial experience) will become minister of finance, while Housing Minister Meir Sheetrit will take Bar-On’s position at the ministry of interior. Immigration and Absorption Minister Zeev Boim will take the housing portfolio. Ya’akov Edrey, previously a minister without a portfolio, was appointed to replace Boim in immigration and absorption.
If you find this confusing, I don’t blame you in the slightest. If you find some of the appointments distressing, you’re also on the mark.
Remember the huge fuss made by Muslims about the construction of a new bridge Israel was going to build to th
e Mughrabi Gate to the Temple Mount? It was to replace a stone ramp that had led to the Gate but collapsed. The Muslims — for purposes of political agitation and without a shred of evidence or logic — claimed that we were undermining the Mount itself, which they said was in danger of collapsing. We maintained our right to do this construction and continued with legally mandated preliminary salvage excavation to make sure that construction would do no archeological damage.
Well, the plans for the bridge have now been scrapped . The bridge, as it was envisioned, was going to go through an archeological garden at the southern end of the Mount, and leading archeologists here were protesting the possibility of damage to artifacts. Something of a more modest nature, that would circumvent the archeological garden, is being considered.
Our right to construct an entry path to the Gate is incontestable; this gate is the only one designated as an entryway for non-Muslims. And it is certainly the case that Muslim claims about danger to the Mount were unfounded. What I cannot understand, or explain, is why such a grandiose plan, that led through the archeological garden, rather than a more modest construction, was envisioned in the first place.
As most of you undoubtedly know, British journalist Alan Johnston, who had been kidnapped by a small group called the Army of Islam 16 weeks ago, was released last night. That release was important to Hamas, which is currying favor with the international community. Hamas is making much of it from a PR perspective: "Now, after we lifted the siege on Johnston, we hope to see the international siege on the Hamas government lifted as well." However, after seizing Johnston it will not be confiscating the weapons of the Army of Islam.
Ali Waked, writing in YNet, raises some interesting questions : Why is it that Hamas could achieve this, when Abbas, with superior security forces did not? "Ever since Johnston was abducted, Hamas claimed that the abductors were supported by official elements within Palestinian security apparatuses."
And now, what about Shalit? Today the Army of Islam — which claims to have kidnapped him in concert with Fatah’s Al Aksa Brigades and the Popular Resistance Committees — announced that they turned Shalit over to Hamas, reportedly in exchange for money and weapons. Haniyeh is now talking about the "deal" with Israel that would allow Shalit to go free.
An opinion piece called "False Hopes of Peace" in YNet has particularly caught my eye:
"The common thread tying our Palestinian neighbors together is their hatred towards us and their desire to see us harmed, and this is not sufficient to turn them into a nation.
"It can be surmised, therefore, that if the State of Israel had never existed, a Palestinian state would not have existed just as it never has…
"It is no coincidence that a Palestinian state was never established prior to Israel’s foundation…
"Even recently, when it still seemed to many of us that there was a central government among the Palestinians, they chose not to establish a state of their own, even though such a state would have been recognized by the world at large, including Israel.
"The truth of the matter is that Palestinian nationalism is the byproduct of our Zionism. This is the way it is, whether they like this fact or not. Namely, this is not sufficient to become a nation that shares a history, a culture and a common vision…
"There is no point – as it has been demonstrated over and over again during the past 13 years – in reaching an agreement with any key Palestinian element. This is futile.
"It suffices to look at the vast number of ceasefire agreements the Palestinians have signed among themselves during the infighting in Gaza (they even signed the Mecca Deal, which was supposed to give it some religious validity.) Every one of the agreements was breached even before the ink had dried on the documents they signed.
"If this is the value they attribute to agreements among themselves, what then is the value of agreements signed with us, which of course were never adhered to? There is also no point to the choir of voices here calling to bolster Mahmoud Abbas, so that the murderers of his camp can defeat another murderous camp in their midst. Such talk is futile."
The author of this piece? Gilad Sharon, son of Ariel.
To all my American friends , Happy July 4th!