The truce between Hamas and Fatah fell apart in the last couple of days: at least six have been killed and a former PA official has been kidnapped; Abbas cancelled a planned trip to Gaza. Quiet has been reinstated now — for however long — with Egypt serving as mediator. Reportedly gunmen on both sides have withdrawn.
Abbas, in the meantime, is backtracking — appeasing, according to Khaled Abu Tomeah — by saying that it’s still possible to meet with Hamas to form a unity government. Hamas, you see, has said it would boycott early elections.
It took Abbas close to forever to announce the early elections, and he did so reluctantly. He is not going to stand strong against Hamas.
The whole discussion of whether we should meet — or have already met informally — with Syria has reached the point of the ridiculous. Seems we’re in the midst of secret cloak-and-dagger scenarios. The Dubai-based Al-Arabiyuah television station has reported that when Olmert was in Germany last week he received from officials there a letter from Assad, in which Assad offered peace talks and said he would prevent the flow of weapons to Hezbollah, would minimize the influence of Hamas leaders outside of Palestinian areas, and would agree to an international tribunal to investigate the assassination of Hariri in Lebanon. Right.
Both Olmert and Assad deny there was any such letter, and I would tend to believe that a letter promising all of this, at any rate, was never passed.
However…it turns out that Olmert did dispatch an envoy to communicate with Syria. The envoy, American millionaire Daniel Abraham, met in Washington DC with Syrian ambassador to the US Imad Moustapha some weeks ago and then came here to report to Olmert. Reportedly, Abraham said he received "positive and moderate" messages from Moustapha. Moderate messages. From the man representing a nation that is currently war-mongering, that harbors terrorist and that is helping Hezbollah to re-arm. How cheap words are.
An Olmert aide, sensitive to the charges about the secret letter, said, "this was not a secret mission to pass messages to the Syrians."
All of this has import because Meir Dagan, head of the Mossad, has now told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Israel should not take any Syrian peace overture seriously because Syria is "more prepared than ever before" to move against Israel militarily." According to Dagan, Israeli deterrence was damaged during the Lebanon war (part of the never-ending Olmert legacy of restraining the IDF), so that Assad’s self-confidence has grown and he’s prepared to take more risks.
Recently Syrian foreign minister Walid Moallem gave an interview with the Washington Post in which he said Syria would be willing to begin negotiations without preconditions. However, says Dagan, at the very same time other Syrian officials were telling the Arab media that there was "no chance for peace" without the Golan Heights. This is typical Arab double-talk, with one message provided for eager Western ears and another message for fellow-Arabs.
In his report to the Knesset Committee, Dagan also addressed the issue of Iran, which he says is nearing nuclear capability. Ahmadinejad has said he wants 3,000 centrifuges by March 2007. (I note here the repeated reports from different quarters of "something" that will happen in three months, which fits this time table.) However, Dagan says Iran is not capable of meeting this deadline and likely will not achieve this until the end of 2007. If there are "no sanctions on Iran and no technological holdups," Iran will have 25 kilograms of enriched uranium by 2008 and nuclear warheads by 2009 or 2010. The clock is ticking…
Time Magazine, in an exclusive report, says that the Bush administration is considering a plan to fund political opposition to Assad in the hopes of bringing him down. Critics question whether there is a strong enough political opposition to be able to achieve anything; there is a suspicion is some quarters that this plan is being advanced not because of any expectation that it will really work, but rather because this will unsettle Assad and make him feel pressured.
Saw this coming. Olmert has announced that Israel and the PA will set up a committee to discuss the release of Palestinian prisoners. This announcement came after Tony Blair’s meeting with Olmert, and, undoubtedly, "encouragement" from Blair regarding this. This is going to "bolster" Abbas in the Palestinian street, you see. Government sources are hedging on the timing and whether prisoners might be released before we get Shalit back.
As to including Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences and has considerable Jewish blood on his hands, Olmert said this: "The release of this type of prisoner is a long, complicated process, and to the best of my understanding it is not now on the agenda." Not now? To the best of his understanding? Watch this. While I feel very strongly that this man should never be released, I have unease about the possibility that it may yet happen. The Palestinians associated with Fatah (the "moderate" group we’re supposed to bolster) would consider it a real coup to get him back.
Forty Kassams have been fired on the Negev since the "ceasefire" began. Seven were launched today alone.
According to YNet, one senior Israel Defense Forces official said that “Israel’s policy toward the incessant Qassam rocket fire may be interpreted as a sign of weakness.”
Is this brilliant military reasoning or what? Hey! I had this figured out weeks ago, and I’m not an IDF official. Seems the IDF is really chafing under the limitations placed on it by this one-sided "ceasefire" and has been pushing for the opportunity to respond. Thus a statement from our wise and thoughtful defense minister. Peretz has now said that our current policy of restraint will have to be reviewed if the ceasefire continues to be breached. "If"? He thinks maybe they’ll stop firing at us any moment now? Peretz explained that, "Israel has no intention to gamble with the safety of its citizens, there is a limit to our restraint." Could have fooled me.
This posting can be found at: https://www.arlenefromisrael.info/current-postings/2006/12/20/posted-december-20-2006.html