Genuine peace here, that is. Or even the hint of such a genuine peace. The stage is not properly set. What we have are actors making a pretense of seeking it.
We can look northward first with regard to this. In the 24 plus hours since the big announcement was made regarding peace negotiations with Syria, I’ve only become more convinced that the government isn’t serious, but is playing a game.
Take Livni’s comment to the press yesterday: "Israel’s primary goal has always been peace with its neighbors. The Syrians have to understand that entails giving up their support of terror, of Hamas, Iran and Hezbollah."
Those are the stipulations that I alluded to yesterday. But you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know Syria is not about to surrender all these things now. And so, if you were serious about peace, you would not announce negotiations now.
But if what you were interested in was simply being engaged in a peace process, that is something else all together.
This is precisely what Barry Rubin said , in a TV interview. He believes that the process serves both sides, but that both sides know a real peace will not come from this.
Says Rubin, with all of the ways that Olmert is served by engaging in the process now, the key one is a message that says: "You have to keep me in office, because of what I’m dealing with."
Aaron Lerner refers to this as the "etrog effect" — the tender handling that a political leader suspected of wrong-doing may be given by left wing press and law enforcement officials if that leader is involved in an ostensible peace process that is pleasing to them.
A host of politicians — except for those on the left — responded to Olmert’s announcement with precisely the same suspicions. From the Likud faction came a statement that Olmert was carrying out "a cynical and transparent stunt in order to deflect attention from his personal problems."
Gideon Saar, faction head, observed that Olmert "has no moral and public mandate to hand over the Golan and bring the Syrians back to the Sea of Galilee."
MK Zevulun Orlev (NU/NRP) charged that "without a doubt," negotiations with Syria "are causing Israel grave damage, because in order to save his skin [Olmert] is prepared to make far-reaching diplomatic concessions."
And yet, Olmert has the unmitigated gall to declare that the negotiations are a "national obligation" and that the contacts with Syria represent "an historic breakthrough." He actually says all of this with a straight face.
As expected, the response across the nation with regard to surrendering the Golan has been negative. Some 70% of our population is opposed.
The mayors and regional heads in the Golan held an emergency meeting to decide how to deal with this.
And there is action taking place in the Knesset to spur legislation previously in process that would require 80 votes (out of 120) before the Golan could be given to Syria in any peace deal. MK Eliahu Gabbay (NU/NRP) has announced that he has already secured 57 votes out of 61 necessary.
We all need to laugh when we can, in the face of all that’s going on, in order to stay sane and balanced. And so, I off the following from the Post, without comment:
"Kadima officials celebrated the fact that the opening of diplomatic negotiations with Syria dwarfed the news coverage about Prime Minister Ehud Olmert allegedly receiving massive sums of money for his private use from American Jewish financier Morris Talansky on Wednesday’s nightly news broadcasts.
"They denied charges from opposition MKs that the decision to reveal the negotiations on Wednesday had been made to distract the public from the corruption case against Olmert on the night that the gag order preventing the publication of the most damning information was lifted."
Now, as to that other "’peace process" with the Palestinians, allow me to offer two news items:
Mahmoud Abbas opened an economic conference in Bethlehem yesterday by saying, "East Jerusalem is ours and it’s an occupied territory. It must be returned."
This is a fairly typical indication of the rigidity of the PA position. Note that he doesn’t even speak of sharing the eastern part of Jerusalem with Israel. What he advocates is total PA control both of the Kotel and Har Habayit (the Temple Mount). In his dreams…
Totally aside the intransigency of his statement is the fact that it is in error historically. No part of Jerusalem EVER was in the possession of the Palestinians. One does get weary of the lie repeated so often that it is widely believed.
After Britain relinquished the Mandate for Palestine , and Israel declared independence, the Arab states promptly responded by declaring war on Israel. By the end of the war, Jordan had captured the eastern part of Jerusalem. It remained in Jordanian hands until the war in ’67, at which time Israel took it, subsequently declaring it to be, according to Israeli Basic Law, part of the unified capital of Israel. It is not "occupied," and, as it never belonged to the Palestinians, cannot be "returned" to them.
Just one day before this happened, Abbas had dedicated a statue of a "Return Key," the largest key in the world, in the refugee camp of Aida, near Bethlehem. He declared that it was "the symbol of our return, our hopes and our dreams. This key will remain alive until we return home, God willing, nothing will hinder us and we will not abandon our dream."
According to the PA news agency WAFA, "[the] President made it clear that we are determined in every word and phrase on the right of refugees to return which is a sacred right, and never be delayed or postponed."
Before we move on to other situations , a look at an analysis from the Institute of National Security Studies of what may or may not have been agreed upon so far in our negotiations with the Palestinians.
In a nutshell: There is an attempt to deal with borders first, as this is seen as least problematic. The idea is that if borders are agreed upon then it will be known which settlements will have to be dismantled and that process can be begun.
But the PA wants us to retain only some 3.5% of Judea and Samaria, with other lands given to them to compensate, while Olmert and Livni are talking about retaining 8-10%. No deal even here yet, never mind on refugees or Jerusalem.
What is most significant to me in this report is the suggestion that if he is given the gift of an agreement this will "make it easier for Bush to take a harsher stance with regard to Iran before the end of his term, perhaps even including a show of force." It’s not the first time I’ve encountered a link.
This analysis states that "the weakness of the agreement lies in its being a ‘shelf’ agreement." We would, in essence, be signing on in principle to certain parameters when we don’t know what the situation on the ground might be at time of implementation.
One of many weakness, to say the least.
Let us look then at the situation to our west. H
amas has not quite declared negotiations on the ceasefire to be a failure, because Egypt is still pushing, but they’re close. They see Israeli terms as completely unacceptable. Terms such as insisting that the blockade will not be lifted until the ceasefire has been put into effect and it is clear that all factions are cooperating.
I love this statement from a Hamas official:
"Israel wants a free truce. They don’t want to offer anything in return. They want an end to the rocket attacks in return for an end to their aggression."
So be it.
Going full circle in our analysis, I want to return to the Barry Rubin interview. What Assad wants most, he suggests, is Lebanon, not the Golan. For him the process of negotiating peace with us would take some of the heat off of him with regard to Lebanon, and Syrian involvement there.
Rubin made it very clear that in his opinion the big news is what’s happening in Lebanon, which will have repercussion long after the issue of peace negotiations between Israel and Syria has disappeared.
The Arab-mediated settlement made in Lebanon with regard to power and control was a victory for Hezbollah (and thus for Syria and Iran). The US, foolishly pre-occupied with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, failed to support the government of Lebanon.
The embattled Lebanese prime minister, Fuad Saniora, seeing his government had little choice, caved to Hezbollah. The arrangements that were made give Hezbollah veto power over any government decision. (There is even concern now that Hezbollah could veto renewal of the UNIFIL mandate.)
And what did Condoleezza Rice say about this? "We view this agreement as a positive step toward resolving the current crisis."
She ought to hang her head in shame.
The US, while giving tacit approval , is very lukewarm about our prospective negotiations with Syria. They’re not eager to have us take the heat off of Assad.
Olmert has approved construction of 286 new housing units in Betar Illit, a haredi community. This is a move, hardly the first, to keep Shas in the coalition. And it works every time. Faction head Eli Yishai has declared that as soon as anything he disapproves of with regard to talks with Syria happens (i.e., we give them the Golan), they’ll leave. But so far nothing is happening, so they can stay.
This is his refrain, and he, too, should hang his head in shame. If he had a smidgen of integrity he would declare the obvious — that the announcement to negotiate with Syria presupposes surrender of the Golan — and then leave to preclude it from happening.
I end with this shocking report on the alleged training of PA security forces in Jordan.
Steven Smith, writing in the International Herald Tribune , has shared the story of the failure of that training. He begins his article:
"The first graduates of General Keith Dayton’s Palestinian police-training program will soon hit the hard streets of the West Bank. Unfortunately, they will do so without the firearms, radios and first-aid equipment that they have been promised after graduating from a training program so fraught with problems that it can hardly be called a training program at all.
"I was part of that program and watched as nearly a thousand young officers were being put through the motions of an effort that was dominated more by political pressure than by the need to produce well-trained graduates."
I ask that each of you read this in its entirety and share it with others.
Then I ask that you, and everyone else in the US you will share this with, do something else. Contact your senators and congresspersons and share the link with them. Tell them briefly what it describes. Ask them what the hell is going on. Demand that they do an inquiry into this situation. Stir things up. Even those in favor of training PA forces would want to know that genuine training is being done.
You can find contact information for senators and congresspersons at: