Every day brings something different in the constantly shifting "peace" situation here. Yesterday I read a statement from Olmert that seemed to elaborate on his readiness to accept the Saudi plan as a "basis" for negotiations, followed by a statement from a Saudi official that, well, perhaps there could be some adjustment in the plan. And I thought uh oh!
But today I’m reading that the Arab summit, which begins tomorrow, will not be making changes in the Saudi plan, and that there has been a Saudi statement to the effect that negotiations must be between Israel and the Palestinians and that they cannot serve as a replacement for this.
The biggest news today is a press conference given in Jerusalem by Sec. Rice after her meeting with Olmert and Abbas, in which she announced that Olmert and Abbas would now be meeting biweekly. First, she said, they would be discussing "immediate concerns" — "like movement and access, management of the passages, and preventing arms smuggling and rocket fire by terrorists in Gaza." And, she suggested, the establishment of benchmarks to measure progress on issues of concern would be helpful. To that end, she said, General Keith Dayton would be working with both parties.
This is a statement of significance in that it is an acknowledgement of sorts that there are real issues to be dealt with before there can be a "political horizon." That whole notion of a political horizon is exceedingly dangerous. It purports to give the Palestinians a vision of what they can have if they moderate, but the very real danger is that once it’s spelled out then pressure will be brought to bear on Israel: You’re willing to give them this much, then, OK, give it to them! It’s too easy to skip over the requirement that terrorist infrastructure be dismantled first. Compliance on issues of security must precede Israeli willingness to state with finality what can be given.
The notion of benchmarks is itself potentially significant. It says we cannot talk in generalities but have to measure what is going on. I would like to point out here that what is always mentioned is the rocket fire and sometimes (as here) the arms smuggling. But at this point the picture is a lot bigger than this. Even if the Palestinian Arabs were to stop all smuggling tomorrow, they have already smuggled in so much sophisticated weaponry (such as anti-aircraft missiles), so many tons of explosives, so many arms, etc. etc. that there is a real security danger to us. Stopping the smuggling is a step in the right direction but not nearly sufficient. Any serious benchmarks, as Rice is using the term, would require dismantling, destruction, relinquishing of arms and weaponry on a significant scale.
And along with the possession of sophisticated armaments there is also the matter of the huge network of tunnels that has been dug in Gaza, designed to be used in tactical fighting, and the bunkers that have been constructed a la Hezbollah. All of this needs to be enumerated, spoken about publicly, and grappled with before there can be talk of political horizons or anything else. Anyone who is a regular reader of my postings is aware of what I’ve described here, but the Western world at large is not; I would venture that many Congresspersons are not. All they hear about, for the most part, are the rocket attacks on Sderot.
But, naturally, Rice says that as the two parties meet they will also begin to talk about political horizons. However, she cautions, "we are not yet at final status negotiations." In fact, she acknowledges, peace may not come "on our watch." She is merely laying groundwork to make it more possible.
There are very real reasons why she is making these apparently obvious — more than obvious — statements: Rice’s press conference was scheduled for last night, but Israel balked at what she was planning to announce: That she would do shuttle diplomacy between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs with regard to final status issues (final borders, the status of Jerusalem, and the resolution of the refugee issue). Until there is resolution of the terrorism issue, Israel is not interested in this, and, according to a piece in today’s NY Sun, communicated as much to top people at the While House.
In a word, Rice was attempting to shove movement towards a terrorist Palestinian state down our throats, but was stopped in her tracks.
According to my latest information, Rice was pushing this big time right now so she’d have something to present to the Saudis with the start of the Arab summit. Her plan was to involve the Saudis in an international peace conference but the Saudis weren’t interested (which explains what I reported above with regard to the Saudi statement that they couldn’t replace Israeli-Palestinian negotiations).
Olmert’s position since the establishment of the unity gov’t has been that he will discuss only security and humanitarian issues with Abbas.
In spite of Rice’s suggestion today that the talks will phase into the "political horizon," I’m not certain that it will happen at all, for there is a great deal of discontent here in Israel with what Rice is saying. MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said she was asking Israel "to hold talks on the establishment of a Palestinian state without peace and without security, and Israel must reject this." And Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) i n an interview with Army Radio, said that "the system of relations with the Americans is good, and we need to keep it that way…[but] the approach from the US is not always the most correct one."
And UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon? A babe in the woods. With the "new momentum" in the Middle East, he won’t take no for an answer, he says, as he becomes involved in bringing peace. Not good news that he says, "My partners in the Quartet and I now plan to pressure all the parties in order to advance the Saudi initiative." But I believe that he’s more ignorant than maliced towards Israel. He’s now on his way to the Arab summit.
In Homesh yesterday there were some 2,500 persons, but most left during the night, in large part because the IDF was not allowing food to be brought in. Today some hundreds remain and the IDF is planning an evacuation, which will be forceful if there is not cooperation.
Incredibly, there was a brit milah (religious circumcision) held in Homesh today of the son of Limor Har-Melekh and her second husband. Limor, six years ago, was one of the founders of Homesh, along with her first husband, whom she later saw murdered by terrorists. The courage of these people!
This posting can be found at: https://www.arlenefromisrael.info/current-postings/2007/3/27/posted-march-27-2007.html