An Arab summit is being held in Damascus this weekend, but is being boycotted by several Arab nations: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. The refusal to come was meant clearly to send a message of displeasure to Syria for its association with Iran, and its support of Hamas and Hezbollah.
According to an AP report that ran in the Post :
"’There are now two axes – Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah are on one side and the rest are on the other,’ said Wahid Abdel-Meguid of the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.
"Arab summits are all about protocol and symbolism, and in that language, the show of disdain from top US-allies Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan could not be more clear.
"In an unprecedented move , they are sending minor officials rather than their heads of state – or even their prime ministers or foreign ministers.
"Even Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh decided Friday not to come, sending his vice president in his place…’Syria is losing friends, one after the other,’ said Mansour Hayal, a Yemeni political analyst."
Uh huh… But guess who didn’t shun the conference? Our "moderate peace partner," Mahmoud Abbas. Tells us a great deal about which side he’s on.
And let me share with you what he said at the conference:
"The coming couple of months are decisive. If we don’t reach a solution by the end of this year, it means the whole region will be on the verge of a new era of tension and loss of confidence in peace.
"The last few months have witnessed unprecedented Israeli escalation in settlement expansion in Jerusalem and the West Bank. It has become clear that the Israeli government is imposing on the ground the political solution that it wants.
"Negotiations cannot continue under the Israeli bulldozers swallowing our land and building settlements and under the daily Israeli military operations."
He spoke of Israel "brutally" killing innocent Palestinians in Gaza, and he asked those present to "think seriously of Arab…protection for our people," by which he meant troops.
You’ll forgive my absolutely undiplomatic and impolitic response. This son of a bitch lies through his teeth. "Unprecedented Israeli escalation in settlement expansion"?
Olmert had — most regrettably –caved completely and put a freeze on any building in eastern Jerusalem or Judea and Samaria. That freeze was lifted minimally, and only in line with what had been approved well prior to Annapolis, because of Olmert’s fear of losing his coalition. I do not believe for a second that Abbas doesn’t know this. He is inciting.
But this charge allows me to return briefly here to the issue of settlements and why they do not constitute a stumbling block to peace.
First, it must be noted that the underlying assumption here — which is outrageous — is that everything outside the Green Line "belongs" to the PA, and is thus area upon which we have no right to build. That I’ve recently exposed as fallacious in terms of history and international law. Israel’s final borders have yet to be negotiated.
What I want to advance here are a few other perspectives, which the world would do well to consider.
— When Sharon decided to withdraw from Gaza in 2005, he pulled out all of the settlements of Gush Katif. I am not applauding this; I, in fact, deplore what happened. But it did happen, and it provides evidence for the fact that if there is Israeli intent withdrawals are possible.
My own position most strongly is that there should be no withdrawals and we should stand on our rights to the land. But the international community should begin to realize that stopping all construction is not necessary for peace negotiations to continue. Instead of making the "settlements" the whipping boy, let there first be a total elimination of terrorism, and let there be sincere negotiations with genuine desire on the other side for a two-state solution. Then let Israel and her genuine peace partner work out what should be relinquished by Israel and what not. Before that day comes (and we’re talking more than a generation from now at a minimum), to demand of Israel that there be no building to accommodate natural growth in existing communities is nonsense. And natural growth in existing communities is all that has been sanctioned.
Then too, there is this thought: Why is it assumed by the international community that the PA has a right to a territory that is Judenrein? They charge us with apartheid, but this demand, which truly reflects apartheid thinking, elicits no reproach. It is a given: They want the land, and so Jews can’t live there. Why is it that there would be hell to pay if we tried to move out all Arabs living in Israel, but that the same standard doesn’t apply to the PA? Why cannot it be said that those Jews who remain in areas that would be going to the PA would be offered the option of remaining?
I feel driven to clarify again that I am not advocating any of this. I am merely pointing out the double standard that is at work and the unreasonable approach that is being taken with regard to this matter.
— I will add here that while there is screaming about our building in eastern Jerusalem, Arabs are doing a huge amount of illegal building to which scant attention is paid. Double standard indeed!
Let’s return to Abbas for just a moment . With everything else, according to Khaled Abu Toameh, reporting in yesterday’s Post, Abbas’s Fatah is contending with an unprecedented rash of scandals that further weakens it.
"Remarked [a] Fatah representative: ‘Fatah has lost much of what’s left of its credibility. If we hold a free election in the West Bank tomorrow, it’s almost certain that Hamas will win.’"
The scandals include accusations that Ahmed Qurei, who heads the PA negotiating team, deposited $3 million of PLO money in his accounts. Additionally, large shipments of expired medicine that had been illegally smuggled into the West Bank have been confiscated, with "dozens of physicians, pharmacists and officials from the PA’s Ministry of Health are currently being interrogated for their alleged role in the medicine scandal, which is believed to have resulted in the death of many patients."
For details on these scandals and others see: