The situation. Sometimes I see us simply going in the most frustrating circles, but now (very tentatively) I see a shift in some of what we’re dealing with.
We might start with the chances for an agreement with the PA. It’s been unsettling, to say the least. There has been fear of a divided Jerusalem and of forced withdrawal from Jewish communities beyond the Green Line.
But now, even though we must continue to be on our guard and to fight against the staged destruction of Israel, the chances of a negotiated agreement between us and the Palestinians seems much reduced.
I have already written about Abbas’s call to renew talks with Hamas (without demanding it first relinquish Gaza). But yesterday Abbas made his position even firmer: He is calling for talks based on the Yemenite initiative. That’s the initiative that brought about a signed document that Abbas walked away from within hours after the PA representative put his name to the paper.
At that point Abbas was walking a fine line between relationship with Hamas and keeping the West happy. This is what seems to have shifted at present. At a gathering in Ramallah yesterday, Abbas said if we want peace we must withdraw to the lines of June 4, 1967 (essentially the Green Line). He’s giving notice that no compromise will be forthcoming, and that with everything else he expects us to give them the Kotel and the Temple Mount.
Abbas says he will spare no efforts in restoring "national unity." He has thrown in his lot with Hamas rather than the West. Because of his enormous weakness, something like this was fairly predictable. He may backtrack again, if he sees loss of Western materiel and financial support. But my betting is that this is the way he’s headed.
According to Khaled Abu Toameh, most Palestinian analysts see this move by Abbas as a reflection of his disillusionment with negotiations. But, says Abu Toameh, there are those who believe this is a ploy to gain concessions from us. Said one such analyst, "Abbas is telling Israel, either you give me everything I want, or I go to Hamas."
In his dreams. There’s a signal lesson here. Each time efforts are made toward negotiations, there is talk of moderation, and hope for peace. But the Palestinians have never compromised. They always expect, somehow, to get it all and have prepared their populations to expect nothing less. As the Palestinian political rhetoric becomes more radical and Hamas influence is greater, the situation becomes less and less flexible. I do not believe Abbas wants to compromise, but even if he did, his throat (literally) might be slit if he tried to do so.
Olmert’s visit with President Bush has been declared a huge success, as the US-Israel strategic alliance is strengthened in the face of the Iranian threat.
Bush has agreed to connect Israel to an advanced US satellite system that warns of the launching of ballistic missiles immediately after they are launched.
Additionally, we are to be given permission to purchase F-35 single engine, single seater stealth fighter jets, which will upgrade our capabilities.
We may also be able to purchase F-22 "Raptor" single seater, double engine jets. Until now this hasn’t been possible because of a ban on their sale to foreign countries, which US House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), now indicated he’s in favor of lifting in Israel’s case. "I’m a strong supporter of Israel getting all the material and equipment they need," he said.
The F-22 is exceedingly important to the Israeli capability to hit Iran, as it can fly into enemy airspace without being detected. This, of course, is very much to the point in terms of US willingness to consider supplying us now.
After meeting with Bush, Olmert declared that he had "fewer questions" regarding the US determination and plans for dealing with Iran. "…every day we are making real strides towards dealing with this problem more effectively."
Perhaps Bush has reassured Olmert on US intentions to hit Iran. What is clear is that the US is making it more possible for us to do so if the US does not. And the betting here is that we will if, indeed, the US does not.
Yesterday morning, a mortar shell killed Amnon Rosenberg of Kibbutz Nirim and wounded five others. Hamas has claimed credit.
I’m almost embarrassed to report that Olmert , headed back to Israel, has declared that the day of reckoning is close and there may be a major Gaza operation soon. How many times can he say this without actually doing it? What has happened how, interestingly, is that Barak, who had been pushing for that ceasefire is now said to be in favor of an operation as well, declaring that Hamas will pay a price before there is a ceasefire. So perhaps (just perhaps) the political climate has shifted here.
Members of Labor are now saying that unless Kadima holds a primary soon to remove Olmert from the head of the party, they will support Silvan Shalom’s efforts to pass a bill to dissolve the Knesset.
With all of the political jockeying, this is a wait and see situation. Wait and hope, perhaps.
Obama. I had not intended to start writing about him so soon, but what he has done is so blatant, so indicative of the problems he presents, that I must.
At the AIPAC (American-Israel Public Affairs Committee) meeting the other day, he declared, to rousing cheers, that he was for an "undivided Jerusalem."
But now he has backtracked in a clarification. Explained a member of his campaign: "Jerusalem is a final status issue, which means it has to be negotiated between the two parties." Obama, it was explained, is certainly in favor of Jerusalem remaining Israel’s capital. But he does not rule out Jerusalem also being the capital of a Palestinian state, or Palestinian sovereignty over certain neighborhoods.
So, what does a "united Jerusalem" mean? "…it’s not going to be divided by barbed wire and checkpoints as it was in 1948-1967."
Huh?? "United Jerusalem" universally refers to Jerusalem remaining united under Israeli rule. To have used this term to mean something else, without clarification, was misleading and rings all sorts of bells.
My own guess is that when Obama spoke at the AIPAC meeting, he was, in essence, shooting from the hip, providing a vision that would appeal to his audience. And then, when pro-Palestinians expressed fury (this I know happened), he needed to have his campaign "clarify" to mollify them. Indeed, this rings all sorts of bells regarding sincerity as versus lip service, and raises serious questions about what his "real" positions are.
Before closing, I want to look at one other aspect of Obama’s campaign that is exceedingly troubling: His choice of Daniel Kurtzer as a key advisor on Middle East issues (and someone who would likely get a major post should Obama win).
For those of us in the know, Daniel Kurtzer is recognized as very problematic for Israel:
When Kurtzer did his Ph.D. at Columbia, he blamed Israel for the "radicalization" of the Palestinians, and he referred to the terrorists as "guerillas." A bad sign. A worse sign: He was a speechwriter for James Baker, who is a hater of Israel and the Jews. According to Joseph Farah, "Probably more than any other State Department official, K
urtzer has been instrumental in promoting the goals of the Palestinians and in raising their grievances to the center of the U.S. policymaking agenda."
In a recently written book, co-authored with Scott Lasensky, Kurtzer expresses the following opinions:
— that the US is "overly deferential" to the stated political problems of Israel
— that the US should work to balance "asymmetries" in the power between the Palestinians and Israel
He further expresses the attitude that the perpetuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the key to peace in the Middle East. This is patent nonsense as it ignores Shiite-Sunni tensions, and the Jihad goals of militant Islam, which will persist no matter what Israel does. But he actually sees fit to place blame on Israel for inclinations among militant Islamists to attack the West — Daniel Pipes has just written about this, and puts the onus on us for resolving this conflict (which means he would just as soon see us disappear).
A Middle East structured as Kurtzer would have it would weaken all US goals and interests in this part of the world and actually foster extremism. The Islamists see Israel as the "little Satan" — a tool of America, and America as the "big Satan." If we are weakened, then the radicals are encouraged that they are winning the battle against America. And you can believe it, the battle IS against America.