While I hope to post tomorrow, please know that personal considerations are likely to make it impossible for me to post again before Sunday at the earliest, no matter the developments.
Two corrections: The name of the gate to the Temple Mount for which a new bridge is being constructed is properly Mugrabi, not as I had spelled it. (Thanks to Chana Givon for picking this up.) Jordan’s King Hussein did not criticize the construction — that would be a good trick, as he’s dead. His son, Abdullah did. I slip on that sometimes.
Additional comments on that situation:
With everything else, the calls by Arab leaders for a new intifada and the need for all Palestinians to unite against the "outrage" of what Israel is purportedly doing to Islamic holy places is yet one more attempt to bring the people together, focused on Israel rather than killing each other.
Now Syria has gotten into the act, saying that what Israel is doing is "an affront to Muslims world wide."
Security is tight at the Mount, with a high alert posted and Israel permitting only men over 45 with Israeli ID cards (i.e., Israeli citizens) to enter. Leader of the Islamic Movement, Sheikh Raed Salah, and six supporters have been arrested. Apparently they attacked police as they attempted to approach the construction site.
Please take a look at the picture that can be seen on the Jerusalem Post website at: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1170359801084&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
First of all it shows the path that is intended for the new bridge and makes it obvious that it is well outside the walls of the Mount such that suggestions that it is threatening Islamic holy sites on the Mount are totally ridiculous. (The slatting to the left of the path shows the current temporary bridge to the Mount.)
But there is also another matter at issue here. The photo is an AP photo and I’m going to assume that the caption is also AP. First, it refers to the "Al Aqsa Mosque Compound." This is what must be contended with as Arab PR has been swallowed and is promoted. This reference lends the impression that the Mount is totally Islamic. One could never know from reading this that in reality the Mount is also where the Jewish Temple was located before its destruction (well before Islamic edifices were there and before there was an Islam), with the remains of that Temple still located under the Mount so that the Mount — called Har Ha-Bayit — is the most sacred of locations for Jews. Then it says that this compound is in "east Jerusalem’s Old City." No, it is in Jerusalem’s Old City. East Jerusalem is often referred to as "Arab Jerusalem," because during the 19 years of Jordanian occupation it was Judenrein and Arabs took it over. Again, the implication very subtly is that the Old City is within an Arab area.
As the leaders of Hamas and Fatah are engaged in do-or-die meetings in Mecca to bring about a unity government that is supposed to unite the two groups in peace, their troops in the streets continue to go at each other — there have been more killings, woundings, and kidnappings. Repeatedly in past weeks and months, even after leadership called for a truce, it has not held in the street. And there is the thought that the same thing would apply with the unity government. Agree though leaders at the top might (and this is not yet certain), they would not be able to quell what has become the deep seated animosity of the street.
What does seem likely is that if there is no agreement the fighting will be even worse. Abbas’s security forces are setting up sand bags around their headquarters.
As to whether an agreement will emerge from Mecca, I share this. A Saudi newspaper, A-Riyad , as cited by the Post, says that Fatah is demanding that Haniyeh, currently prime minister, not serve in a unity government, while a Kuwaiti newspaper reports that Syrian president Assad has warned Mashaal not to make concessions.
The most worrisome part for me is this: A PA official is quoted as saying, "The Saudis have a lot to offer. Apart from providing financial aid to the Palestinians, they can use their good offices with the US and Europe to employ pressure on Israel."
Meanwhile, Olmert announced yesterday, in a speech to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, that he would be meeting with Rice and Abbas on February 19. We knew this was coming, because Rice announced the intention when she was here last.
What I find interesting is a statement he made at the talk, cited late yesterday by YNet but not reflected in reports today: "I hope that Abu Mazen [Abbas] will resist all the temptations and all the pressures to cooperate with Hamas and to establish a government that does not recognize these basic principles [as established by the international community regarding recognition of Israel, past agreements, etc.]"
He was expressing here the concern — which I described yesterday — that a unity government would not truly moderate Hamas but would give the impression of moderation that would create more pressure for concessions from Israel. While he gave lip service to willingness to negotiate with any PA government, even one that included Hamas, if it accepted the established principles, it seems to me he was saying that he would just as soon meet with an Abbas who was not heading a unity government.
Relevant to all of this is the fact that British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett is here. She said yesterday that for the first time in a "very long time" moderate Arabs believe it is necessary and in their interests to "move forward with a diplomatic process." (She did say that Hamas must recognize Israel before they can be dealt with.)
Foreign Minister Livni, in a press conference with Beckett, spoke of a moment of opportunity, with Israel, PA moderates and Arab moderates on the same side, so that it’s important to explore what’s possible. She reiterated her idea of giving the Palestinians a "political horizon," with differentiation between Palestinian radicals and moderates and creation of "a process" with the moderates.
Livni’s idea, which has received acceptance within the Quartet, is to negotiate with the "moderates" so the people can see what they’ll get if they support these moderates instead of Hamas. This is totally different from saying the PA has to shape up first, and then we’ll negotiate to decide what they can get.
This whole idea that we have a "window of opportunity" to negotiate peace now makes me want to tear my hair out. I repeat for the millionth time, Abbas is not a moderate. He wants Israel gone as much as Hamas does, but is going about it in a smoother, more deceptive, less "in-your-face" style. (Just yesterday former chief of staff Ya’alon came forward with a statement for the first time that Iran is also funding Fatah!)
If there is no unity government, Abbas would represent no one, as the government is a Hamas government. If there is a unity government, it will function at the radical bidding of Hamas, which is not going to truly accede to international demands. This is the worst of times to negotiate. The Palestinians must get their house in order before there can be peace negotiations.
As to negotiating to s
how the people what they would receive if they relinquished support for Hamas (a ploy that will not work in any event), this is truly playing with fire. To go into talks, make an offer, and then hold back until they deliver is to raise their expectations in a way that may generate violence when they see they are not getting what they perceive themselves as having been promised. Reaching a point of saying we would consider giving this and thus would also increase international pressure to go ahead and give it.
It is a small step from saying that we should show the people what they can get if they will opt for the moderates, to saying that if we give the Palestinians a state even though they haven’t yet opted for moderation they will be so happy they will get their house in order and concentrate on building a civil society. This is very very dangerous delusion.
There is the constant deplorable tendency within the international community and certain quarters in Israel to cut the Palestinians slack, not demanding that they shape up first. This can lead to nothing good. The road map calls for efforts to dismantle terrorism at the first stage. What is happening here is a jumping to the second stage — let’s talk about that Palestinian state anyway — because there’s an acknowledgement that the Palestinians cannot and will not fulfill that first stage. A bad, bad scene.
When there is time, I wish to discuss at further length the very significant difference between Hamas’s reluctant willingness to recognize the fact of Israel’s existence and the need to have Hamas recognize Israel’s right to exist. The difference is huge and we should keep our eyes open here.
This posting can be found at: https://www.arlenefromisrael.info/current-postings/2007/2/7/posted-february-7-2007.html