In response to a reader query, I begin with an explanation of the difference between the PLO and the PA.
The PLO, founded in 1964, became recognized and declared itself to be the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people wherever they are and the only agency empowered to negotiate on their behalf; it has a council that consists of Palestinians from different areas. In 1993, the PLO negotiated the Oslo Accords, which set into place, in 1994, the Palestinian Authority in certain specific regions of Gaza and Judea & Samaria. Theoretically, the PA could speak only for those in those areas, under its authority. But over time, Israel began dealing with the PA and not the PLO. This seemed not a big deal as the offices of the PA were filled in the main by PLO people. For a very long time Arafat was head of both the PA and the PLO; now Abbas is. Unless I am very much mistaken when Barak offered Arafat a state in 2000, he was speaking to him as head of the PA.
Abbas now claims that, since Israel will not recognize the PA unity gov’t, he can still negotiate with Israel — but as head of the PLO. And technically he is correct. But this is disingenuous because he also represents the PA — which now refuses to recognize Israel. Besides which, as I just pointed out, it is anticipated that Hamas will now be influencing PLO ideology. As logical as what Abbas says seems on the surface, as I see it, the whole thing falls apart very quickly. For there is a gov’t in the PA areas that would have to be dealt with if a state were negotiated.
I am enormously grateful for Shabbat, which gives me a respite from dealing with the stresses of the news. But what a revolting set of developments I see, as I go into Shabbat:
The new PA gov’t-to-be (to be sworn in Saturday) has designated Mustafa Barghouti as information minister, and he has already begun doing his job. If Israel wants peace, he has declared, it must recognize the new gov’t, which is now a gov’t of "all the people." If Israel boycotts this gov’t, it shows that Israel doesn’t want peace.
We need the very best we have to forcefully and effectively counter this position, which, unfortunately, will play with a good part of the world.
So far, the Quartet benchmarks for the acceptance of the PA are still in place, but there are clear signs of cracks in what had been a fairly unified international stand. The readiness to accept the unity PA can be seen in Russia, France, Italy, Spain, and Finland. PA PM Haniyeh stated yesterday that the EU will support them, but I have seen no statement from the EU on this. Unfortunately, I feel it’s just a matter of time.
Muhammad Dahlan, the terrorist serving in the guise of statesman, says the platform of the new gov’t is "very close" to meeting the stipulations of the international community. Khaled Abu Toameh, addressing this subject in an analysis, explains that the platform is deliberately vague so that these claims can be made. The international community wants the gov’t to agree to abide by former agreements? OK, Hamas has agreed to "respect" those agreements. Isn’t that really the same thing? Answer, no it’s not. Because Hamas will balk at one issue or another, saying, we never agreed to abide by this. The Arabs are masters at word play.
By the way, in terms of words: Yesterday I indicated that the new PA platform said there would be a continued truce with Israel. I put ? after truce because I was reading an English translation and I was dubious. Sure enough, in reading what Toameh says today, I learn that the word is tadiyeh — which is a temporary calm designed to give time for strengthening forces for new attack. Unfortunately there is not good understanding of this in many quarters and you’re likely to see the word truce used inappropriately. Please, be aware of this.
This is interesting: Yuval Diskin, head of the Shin Bet, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee this week that the relationship between Hamas and Fatah is "a ticking time bomb, despite the power-sharing arrangement there… The tension is still there and will continue to be there even after a government is formed…. Both sides see the period of calm as a chance for strengthening and getting organized in order to revive their movement’s various institutions and militias, which creates an arms race between the parties."
This means the unity gov’t represents an internal tadiyeh! The same way of thinking applies.
Mark Regev, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, says the platform of new gov’t actually shows "a clear regression in the language on a number of points." For example, The new gov’t has absolved itself of any responsibility to return Shalit.
The Ministry is embarked on efforts internationally to encourage nations to hold strong against the PA.
As to the question I raised yesterday regarding whether Olmert will continue to talk with Abbas, the answer is yes. But according to the prime minister’s office, only on pragmatic issues such as humanitarian aid, to keep channels of communication open. Who is surprised?
Let’s see what happens when Rice comes and wants to talk substance.
Perhaps most disgusting of all is this: Olmert is reviving his unilateral withdrawal from Judea & Samaria plan, by whatever name he may give it. He prefers a negotiated settlement, his office explained, but if this isn’t possible than unilateral actions would be taken. After all, explained one official, the only thing Olmert said when withdrawing his "realignment" plan after the war was that the Israeli public "did not have an appetite for it" at this time.
When asked if the Israeli public now has an appetite for unilateral moves, the official asked rhetorically, "Does the public have the stomach to stay forever in Judea and Samaria? Is that a better option?"
I do not know when I’ve heard something more stupid from an Israeli gov’t official — and considering the gov’t I’m talking about, that’s saying a lot.
One can be in favor of withdrawal from Judea & Samaria under the right conditions, and still understand that this is absolutely the wrong time to do that withdrawal. It’s breathtaking to know that they are thinking of this after what has happened in Gaza since our withdrawal. The terrorists are just itching to get in, in order to strengthen their hold on our eastern flank, and weaken us with further attacks. Knowing what’s waiting, the idea of turning land over to them is insanity.
IF there is to be withdrawal from Judea & Samaria (and this is not something that is a given by any means), it cannot be done until terrorist forces have been defeated.
More incredible stupidity: Olmert reportedly does not believe we can remain at a diplomatic standstill. There’s a line of thinking that maintains this, and Olmert and Livni are chief advocates of it — of the idea we must be doing something, so if there are no good alternatives, let’s pick the least bad one. Balderdash. Nonsense. Sometimes acting is exactly the wrong thing to do. A gov’t with strength would say that we’re not moving, we’re not budging, until we see solid evidence that terrorist infrastructure has been shut down and that there will be recognition of our right to exist within secure borders.
What can save us from disaster here? Many possibilities exist.
— For starters, the PA will not like this, for the borders Olmert would withdr
aw to are not the same ones they are seeking; they are likely to make loud protest — once again possibly saving us from ourselves.
— The new unity gov’t will likely fall apart, with the factions launching civil war. This would change the dynamics.
— Olmert will be gone from office before he can do his damage and a more right-wing, stronger gov’t will come in. The Post reported yesterday that a Kadima source says he has at least 15 members of Kadima ready to leave if the Winograd report singles out Olmert for criticism and he doesn’t step down.
— The public will not buy the Olmert line (remember, he has a 3% approval rating) and will have not stomach for what he wants to do, and now, post Gaza, will react forcefully if he attempts withdrawal. Withdrawal from Judea & Samaria is a far more complex, emotionally sensitive issue than was withdrawal from Gaza. (I will deal with this in a future posting.)
This posting can be found at: https://www.arlenefromisrael.info/current-postings/2007/3/16/posted-march-16-2007.html