We know the Palestinian routine: histrionics and threats as a means of negotiating. But we also know that Abbas and company really really would rather not go to Annapolis.
So, now Saeb Erekat, a member of the PA negotiating team, has said:
"The Palestinian position is very clear. We won’t go to the conference unless we reach an agreement with Israel on the final status issues and a clear timetable for the implementation of any agreement between the two parties."
Do they mean it yet?
Erekat says the PA has also prevailed on Arab nations not to attend unless the PA gets what it is demanding.
But Erekat has his answer from Olmert. At a press conference in the UK yesterday, he said:
"As I said before, this [what Israel and the PA will agree upon] is a short joint statement that will not provide solutions but will refer to the core issues. I think what we need to do is to set the direction. No-one seriously can expect that within this short span of time between now and the end of November we can achieve what we haven’t been doing in the last 40 years, which is to agree on a comprehensive solution of all the core issues outstanding between us and the Palestinians and to define it, to praise it, to present it and to have the support of our peoples for it. This is somewhat presumptuous."
This doesn’t give Erekat what he’s demanding, but far better there be no conference and no "short joint statement" either, for such a statement signals a willingness by Israel to put on the table the issues of Jerusalem, refugees, etc. And this sets a precedent that is best avoided.
Meanwhile, Rice today, at a House hearing , said that the two-state solution is in jeopardy. She is nothing, if not persistent. The Annapolis conference, she told those gathered, "will give hope" to moderate Palestinians, for there is only a small window of opportunity left. And round and round she goes. Now she says the conference should happen by the end of the year.
At the same time, YNet is reporting that the US intends to transfer an unprecedented $410 million to the Palestinians in a last ditch effort to bolster Abbas. Half of this will go to infrastructure, $35 million will go to the Food and Employment Bureau of UNRWA, and the rest will support the PA budget directly, which is a deviation from how things have been handled in recent years.
When Olmert announced recently that even though members of Fatah who were with the PA security forces had plotted to assassinate him he intended to continue negotiations, a member of the Knesset told Olmert that he needed the best professional help he could find (i.e., such a decision indicated that he was mentally unbalanced). Well, I think this goes double now for the American decision makers who have come up with this incredible approach to solving the problem of Abbas’s weakness.
This is not about money! It is about politics and ideology and power. Before Gaza fell to Hamas, the US had pumped large sums of money into strengthening Fatah, so that Fatah had more men, better training and better weapons (not to mention more sophisticated surveillance equipment) in Gaza than Hamas had. And the Fatah people turned on their heels and fled.
Abbas is afraid to leave Ramallah , he’s that weak. He won’t go into places like Jenin for fear of being killed. More and more his own Fatah is against him. He is totally ineffective. He stands charged, and properly, with incredible corruption. Many of his people see him as a tool of the US, and are afraid that at Annapolis he’ll make concessions that are bad for their goals. Hamas is breathing down his neck in Judea and Samaria — and would take him out quickly if the IDF were (G-d forbid) to go away.
On top of all of this is the simple fact that Abbas doesn’t really want a two state solution anyway. His first concern is good relations with Hamas.
So, great, pump money into the PA bank accounts. What it will do, first, is make Abbas vulnerable to a charge by Hamas that he is bought by the US. Then, guaranteed, some of that money will disappear into private pockets. And another part of it will go to support terrorism, since the PA is in bed with terrorist groups such as Al Aksa Brigades and has paid salaries of people affiliated with Hamas.
That’s really going to set everything right.
In Gaza, Hamas bragged about all the American equipment they confiscated from Fatah. I wonder (this is purely my speculation) if Hamas will be further motivated to take out Fatah in Judea and Samaria if the PA is more solvent.
It must be noted that the PA has released "scores" of Hamas people being held in Judea and Samaria, including some charged with planning attacks on Israel. The old revolving door again. Looks good to arrest them, but don’t keep them. What does this tell us about Abbas’s priorities and intentions?
Israel is increasingly concerned about the relationship being forged between Egypt (with whom we have a ‘peace’ treaty) and Hamas. Egypt continues to turn a willful blind eye to Hamas smuggling of terrorists and equipment from the Sinai into Gaza. Recently Egypt let 85 Hamas people — including some who were experts in manufacturing bombs and had had training in Syria — enter Gaza in return for turning over an Al Qaeda terrorist that Hamas had apprehended in Sinai.
Recent reports indicate that at least 1,650 RPG rockets and 6,000 bombs have been smuggled into Gaza since the beginning of the year.
According to Shin Bet head, approximately 73 tons of explosives have been smuggled into Gaza through tunnels since June, as well as millions of bullets for light weapons and tons of potassium, used to manufacture bombs.
Yesterday at least 10 Kassam rockets were lobbed into Israel from Gaza. In one case a house in Sderot took a direct hit. Tonight there were five more Kassams shot, one of which landed near a day care center. After tonight’s attack, the air force fired a missile from a plane at the launching site, killing two Palestinians and wounding others.
Today there was a drive-by shooting at Ariel Junction in Samaria; a 20-year old soldier waiting at a hitch-hiking location was badly wounded when he was hit several times in the stomach and lower body. A second person was wounded in the leg. The car had PA license plates.
Ceremonies were held today to mark the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin 12 years ago, according to the Hebrew calendar.
Unfortunately, as I’ve noted in previous years, this is not simply a time to mourn what happened and honor Rabin’s memory — it has become politicized, with the left demonizing the entire right for what happened and making claims as to what Rabin would have done vis-a-vis the "peace process" had he lived.
During ceremonies in the Knesset today , opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud) said that Rabin never intended to divide Jerusalem and that this must not happen now.
Aaron Lerner of IMRA has posted Rabin’s statement to the Knesset in 1995 regarding ratification of the (Oslo) Interim Agreement. Among the principles he outlined: No Palestinian state, no return to ’67 lines, and blocs of settlements modeled after Gush Katif.