In this instance, not Israeli indecision but Palestinian. The Palestinians are now considering asking the US to postpone the "peace" conference because they are not ready come to terms with Israel on "fundamental issues."
The PA was supposed to be so eager to have Washington lean on us to make concessions. What’s going on here?
Several things, actually. Abbas is realizing that several Arab nations — most notably Saudi Arabia but also Jordan and Egypt — are lukewarm about this conference at best, and thinking of not attending. This is what Saudi officials had indicated all along, actually: If they didn’t see strong evidence of substance they weren’t interested. No photo ops for them. So, Abbas cannot count on these nations to help apply that pressure on Israel at the conference. He has to produce before the conference or there is nothing doing, as far as they’re concerned.
But he’s having trouble reaching a definitive agreement with the eager Olmert. Our prime minister reportedly has balked at a time line, which is what Abbas wanted: This would have tied us on paper to honoring our commitments according to calendar dates rather than according to the PA’s fulfillment of their obligations.
Then there’s the perennial issue of refugees, which has not made much press. Abbas cannot settle for less than at least an Israeli acknowledgement that we have responsibility for them, and this he will not get.
But there’s another issue which I believe is just as important if not more so: Hamas. Abbas has indicated that striking a peace agreement would cause dissension with Hamas.
This of itself is an interesting statement , because Abbas purportedly is the "moderate" who is not supposed to be concerned with the Hamas radical position. He may have been concerned with Hamas readiness to subvert the negotiations with terrorism. Head of IDF Intelligence has reported that Hamas has just such an intention. But I’d like to carry this further.
We now know from Israeli intelligence that Hamas is as strong as Fatah in Judea and Samaria. Its people are in hiding, waiting for the opportunity to take down Abbas.
We also know that Fatah/the PA isn’t doing the job regarding taking out Hamas terrorists. They go after Hamas front charities and the like, in order to give the impression of acting. But in reality it is the IDF that is acting against Hamas. Quite simply, the IDF is standing between Hamas and a takeover of the PA.
So what happens if there’s a deal and the IDF begins to pull back? It could mean death for Abbas, politically, and perhaps also literally. He would choke before admitting it, but Abbas needs us in place. He is simply not strong enough to do without us.
I would suggest that for all of the grandiose talk of a "window of opportunity" and the chance to negotiate with a "moderate" Fatah while isolating Hamas, Hamas is indubitably part of the equation.
These issues are so vastly complex . There is still the factor of Saudi support for Hamas. (It was Hamas the Saudis promoted during the unity government negotiations in Mecca.) Abbas went to Saudi Arabia last week, in good part to reassure that government that he was still for the unity agreement. We don’t know what the Saudis may have communicated to him.
Meanwhile, in response to reports that he was on the verge of signing an agreement with Abbas, Olmert has declared that there will be no declaration of principles before the conference, but rather a joint statement — a non-binding declaration of intent. And, he said, "When we reach a statement, I will bring it to the government. I don’t plan to hide it."
All of this said and done, however , I in no way suggest that we lessen one iota our objections to the path Olmert is taking or our efforts to implode his coalition.
We know his intentions and his capacity to covertly advance his agenda. We dare not be less than vigilant.
With regard to our action in Syria, stories — none officially confirmed — are emerging with increasing detail.
The major speculation is that N. Korea has been working with Syria on a nuclear facility and that this is what we took out. Information on this has come from the US, but is said to be based on Israeli intelligence. Most significant was satellite imagery acquired within the last 30 days — utilizing the Israeli satellite Ofek 7, which was launched in June and diverted from Iran to Syria. This was shared only with a handful of top-flight US intelligence officials.
The suggestion is that N. Korea has been providing Syria material that it is supposed to be disposing of. There are reports of ships docked at a Syrian port, Tartous, and flying a N. Korean flag, that were carrying shipments of what were alleged to be "cement."
Key among the proponents of this theory is John Bolton, former US ambassador to the UN, who asks with great logic, "Why would N. Korea be protesting [as it did] Israel’s invasion of Syrian air space?"
Word is that as many as eight F15 and F16 fighter jets and a Raam F15I – the newest generation of Israeli long-range bombers, equipped with Maverick missiles and 500 pound bombs, and accompanied by a high-flying electronic intelligence gathering aircraft, were utilized in this highly sophisticated clandestine operation. There was also a Shaldag air force commando team that did advance work on the ground, pinpointing the site — a Syrian facility that was identified as an agricultural research center on the Euphrates river, close to Turkey.
The jets that were utilized, modified with auxiliary fuel tanks, are capable of making it to Iran. Thus, this operation can also be said to be a dry run for an Iranian operation: It certainly shifts the equation and sends a strong message to Iran. (Military Intelligence chief, Major-General Amos Yadlin, today told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that our deterrence has been reinstated.)
What is highly significant here is that the Israeli jets evaded highly sophisticated Syrian defenses — reportedly jamming the Pantsyr-S1 missiles provided to Syria and Iran by Russia. This reportedly has implications for US intentions as well.
This operation goes a long way towards explaining the "now we’re on the verge of war, now we’re not" stance that the government has taken with regard to Syria in recent weeks. Reportedly, as the time for the operation approached, we increased troops on the Golan in case Syria reacted militarily. Syria, for its part, responded to the presence of our troops with alarm, at which point we sought to assure Syria we didn’t intend to go to war, and so on.