For about the 100th time , Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to resign his position as PA president. This time — at the World Economic Forum at Sharm el-Sheikh — it’s if there’s no peace agreement with Israel this year.
"Israel will not have a better partner than the group leading the PLO today, which believes the Palestinian interest is a historic reconciliation with Israel and a Palestinian state alongside it," he said, warning that if there is no agreement, "Israel will find itself with no partner at all."
Actually, that’s pretty much where we are now — with no partner at all. In spite of his attempt to intimidate us — he says failure of negotiations will return us to "the tragedy of 2000 which followed the failure at Camp David" — it he who has the most to lose.
We won’t return to the terrorist horrors of 2000, because — unless the government agrees to something totally idiotic regarding a ceasefire in Judea and Samaria — we are in a far better position with regard to our intelligence and our actions against terrorists than we were eight years ago.
For a clear vision of just how much of a non-partner Abbas is, you might like to see my latest piece, which discusses his unswerving commitment to "right of return":
This has been reinforced by yesterday’s statement by Abbas’s spokesperson, Nabil Abu Rdeina, that Israel’s request that the "right of return" be abandoned serves as an obstacle to negotiations.
Of course Olmert, who is a master at it , is continuing to offer his own words, words. This time on Gaza Today he told the Cabinet:
"We are very close to a decision point regarding every issue in Gaza. The present situation cannot continue.
"Our hope is that one day the residents of the South will be able to live a tranquil life."
Which day would that be?
There were members of the Cabinet who were not satisfied with those words, and expressed anger that until now the Security Cabinet has not even been convened to discuss the way to deal with the situation.
In addition, mayors of communities near Gaza met today and are demanding a meeting with Olmert and with the chair of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
A great many people have simply had it with the delays.
The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee was also in the news today in a different context, as 15 members of the committee are demanding that it be convened in special session and that Olmert and Livni report on what is going on with core negotiations with the PA.
In a letter written to Committee Chair, Tzachi Hanegbi, they said they were speaking out because "of concern for the Knesset’s position as supervisor of all government activities and out of a sense that the prime minister, unlike his predecessor, is dictating an approach that ignores the committee in everything related to foreign affairs.
"For months, negotiations have been conducted with the Palestinians over issues affecting Israel’s existence and future, with no parliamentary oversight. In addition, a negotiations department has been created with dozens of employees. It too does not report to the Knesset and has no parliamentary supervision of its composition, budget and methods of operation."
What can legally be achieved is perhaps questionable as the prime minister has considerable — many say too much — latitude. But this certainly is an issue that cries out for public attention, and it does put pressure on Olmert.
Hanegbi, in a radio interview today, said he thought a possible alternative was having the details of negotiations shared only with the secret service subcommittee, as it has a leak-proof record. MK Yuval Steinitz, Hanegbi’s predecessor, pushed instead for an overview to be provided to the whole committee, with some details, and only sensitive material to go exclusively to the subcommittee.
There are conflicting reports coming from various sources regarding the status of ceasefire negotiations in Gaza, mediated by Egypt. To the best of my understanding, the scenario goes something like this:
Egypt’s Suleiman, returning from Israel, read the riot act to Hamas and told them that if they didn’t include release of Shalit in their terms for the ceasefire, Israel would hit them hard with a major ground action.
And so Hamas appeared to soften, saying they were now considering including Shalit in the deal. However, it’s clear when that statement is studied carefully that what is being said is that they’ll include him, but they have not softened their demand for close to 300 prisoners to be released by Israel, including some who were directly involved in terrorist acts. Israel, Hamas say, has agreed to the release of only 71.
Leaks and small bits of information regarding the Olmert investigation are likewise hard to pin down in all specifics.
Before Talansky is called to testify in court in a week, Olmert’s lawyers are to be given information on what they have regarding the case, so that they can cross-examine Talansky. The police, however, are eager to question Olmert again before turning information over to his lawyers. That’s the only way to insure that Olmert’s answers, when questioned, will be spontaneous and not planned out according to what it is suspected the police are seeking. There has been no response from Olmert, however, on where or when he would be available for such questioning. Needless to say, he is less than eager to participate.
Talansky’s lawyer is saying that his bond to Israel is such that there should be no question about his returning to testify, if needed, after he goes back to the US. The police, however, are not relying on any such assurances, especially as he is suspected of participating in illegal actions. Right now Talansky is being kept in the country, but by the end of the month his lawyers will be petitioning the court to allow him to go. Thus, time is of the essence here.
There is also talk about evidence of yet another charge of bribery against Olmert, this one having nothing to do with Talansky.
The threat of civil war, which seemed so imminent , cooled down in Lebanon last week, as the Lebanese government rescinded anti-Hezbollah measures that had triggered the violence and Hezbollah pulled out of Beirut. The Arab League then stepped in to do negotiations. But those negotiations are stopped dead in Qatar now, as Hezbollah refuses to surrender weapons.
Make no mistake about it: Hezbollah was the big winner here, and I offer Caroline Glick’s assessment of how this is so, and why Hezbollah didn’t simply overthrow the government when it was in control in Beirut:
"…one of the main advantages that insurgents have over the governments they seek to overthrow is their lack of responsibility for governance. Far from seeking to govern the local population, the goal of insurgents is simply to demonstrate through sabotage, terror and guerrilla operations that the government is incapable of keeping order.
"…Nasrallah and his Iranian bosses have no interest in taking on responsibility for Lebanon. They don’t want to collect taxes. They
don’t want to pick up the garbage or build schools and universities.
"Hezbollah and its Iranian overlords wish to have full use of Lebanon as a staging area for attacks against Israel and the US. They wish to maintain and expand Hezbollah’s arsenals. For this they need unfettered access, and if necessary, control over Lebanon’s borders, its seaports and airport.
"They need to raise and train Hezbollah’s army and cultivate Hezbollah’s loyal cadres among Lebanon’s Shi’ites to fight Israel…
"Over the past week, Hezbollah secured this freedom through its successful attack on the Saniora government. Today no one will utter a peep of complaint as Hezbollah imports ever more sophisticated weapons systems from Syria and Iran. No one will say a word when Hezbollah openly asserts control over the border with Israel, or places its commanders in charge of Lebanese army units along the border."
A poll just carried out by the Maagar Mohot Survey Institute indicates that 56% of Israelis would prefer that the government continue war against Hamas and 33% that a deal be reached. 51% think a large scale ground operation should be launched and 49% think the Hamas leaders should be physically destroyed.