According to an al-AP dispatch from Cairo last night, the Arab countries are seething over the apparent collapse of the 'Palestinian Authority':
despair seethe over 'Palestinians'
The fighting sparked despair among Arabs watching television footage of what looked like open warfare between Palestinians. "May God curse you all," renowned Egyptian columnist Ahmed Ragab wrote, referring to the Palestinian factions.One has to wonder why the Arab states even care about the 'Palestinians' anymore. I think one answer is that the Arab states created the monster because they did not want to accept Israel in the region, and now they cannot put the genie back into the bottle. Another answer is that if the 'Palestinian Authority' collapses, there is no one with whom Israel can negotiate, even if it wants to negotiate. Israel has already tried giving the 'Palestinians' land without negotiating, and a vast majority of this country will not make that mistake again (for those of you who look at the Olmert-Peretz-Livni government as indicative of the country's mood, please realize that Olmert has a 0% approval rating and that if elections were held today, the Likud would win more seats than
The chaos is a heavy blow to US Arab allies, who have tried for months to mediate an end to the disputes between the religious Hamas movement and the more secular Fatah faction led by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
Regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia has stayed silent about the clashes in Gaza since they began five days ago - a sign of its anger at the two sides and its reluctance to get involved.
"It is hard to see Saudis or anyone else expending political capital and sticking their neck out for the Palestinians while gunmen controlled by Hamas and Fatah turn Gaza into a homegrown killing field," Lebanon's Daily Star newspaper said in an editorial.
Some observers said the fighting underlined how the power-sharing deal only papered over Hamas and Fatah's disputes. "The Mecca agreement didn't get into the deep-rooted divisions between Hamas and Fatah," Khalid al-Dakhil, a Saudi writer said.
Those who signed onto the deal at Mecca knew it faced opposition from extremists on both sides, said Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor in chief of the London-based newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi. Hamas's military wing was not happy with a freeze in attacks on Israel, while Fatah hard-liners wanted "to topple the agreement because they don't want a partner (Hamas) or the national unity government," he said.
Other Arab leaders have been able to do little else but call for an end to the fighting. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who mediated between Abbas and Mashaal during a meeting in Cairo last month, spoke by phone with Abbas on Thursday, telling him, "Palestinian blood is sacred."
Jordan's King Abdullah II also spoke to Abbas, urging him to show more resolve to end the fighting and to press Hamas to stop rocket attacks on Israel that threaten to widen the conflict.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak wrote off the 'Palestinians' yesterday and tried to wash his hands of the situation.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak expressed great concern over the increasing strength of Hamas in talks with senior diplomatic officials on Wednesday, declaring that the organization will never sign a peace agreement with Israel, Haaretz has learned.Now, lest you think that Mubarak is concerned about Israel, he's not. He's concerned about Hamas' growing ties with the Muslim brotherhood in his own country.
He said that the Egyptian government is at a loss regarding the future of the Gaza Strip. However, he also proclaimed that Egypt is making great efforts to end the Hamas government and support Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
"With Hamas no way," he reportedly said.
Mubarak also said that Egypt did not accept Hamas in power, especially in light of its growing ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, which leads the opposition in Egypt. Mubarak sees the Brotherhood, which gained considerable power in Egypt's last parliamentary elections, as a threat to secular power.As Jihad Watch noted yesterday,
Egypt has begun barring senior Hamas leaders from entering Egypt due to concerns over their contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood.
It appears that Mubarak is giving Israel the green light to take action against Hamas. Apparently Mubarak sees Hamas as a threat no less than Israel does. What better than to have someone else do your dirty work for you?So where does Israel go from here? I'd like to point out two interesting articles in today's papers. Israel's Hebrew 'Palestinian' daily is reporting (through one of their more leftist writers) that 'Western security officials' have asked Israel to side with Fatah:
Western security officials have asked Israel to give Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas the tools he needs to fight Hamas - first and foremost, the ability to pay his security services' salaries. [I don't understand why the salaries are an issue again. The following is a quote from the link I just gave you:But Israel is not thrilled with this idea and with good reason:The larger amounts of aid Western countries poured into the Palestinian territories in recent months were aimed at making up for the inability of the Palestinian Authority to pay salaries. To a large degree, beginning in the summer of 2006, the European Union and Arab countries paid the salaries instead .
By the last quarter of 2006, full salaries were again being paid to Palestinian Authority employees, who, over the year, received about 55 percent of their salaries. CiJ]
The request came after the security officials said forces loyal to Abbas fought well in a battle against Hamas men near the Karni crossing on Tuesday, contrary to reports in the Israeli media. The officials said Abbas' loyalists demonstrated courage and resolution in thwarting an attack by a larger, better armed and better trained Hamas force. They said two different forces of Abbas loyalists had cooperated to ward off the attack, despite heavy losses.
"The soldiers did as they had been trained and overcame a larger, better-equipped force, although they were from two different units, and despite the fact that the commander of one unit had been killed, and the commander of the other was not in the area," one of the Western officials said.
Israel's security establishment, however, is still divided over whether to help Abbas fight Hamas, with opponents arguing that Fatah has already lost in any case.And the Arab states themselves have not put up the money that they promised Abu Mazen. Only the United Arab Emirates has paid up.
I believe that article is wishful thinking. While there may in fact be 'Western security officials' (and flunkies in the US State Department) who want Israel to bail out Abu Mazen, it would be just about the dumbest move Israel could make.
There's a much more intriguing article in today's JPost. Intriguing because it assumes the collapse of the 'Palestinian Authority' (which looks increasingly likely) and then asks where we go from here. Warning: the one consultant with whom they spoke - Gidi Greenstein - is a leftist.
A collapse of the PA as a government, something that the events of the last few days have shown is a real possibility, would have far-reaching strategic ramifications for Israel and could fundamentally change the two-state concept that has underpinned Israeli policy since 1993 and the Oslo Accords.That's true. And what the article goes on to do is to try to fit the two-state approach into the reality, which is like putting a square peg into a round hole. For example, the left seems to have finally figured out what Mubarak figured out: that Hamas is looking for a one-state solution:
Since that time, successive governments have adhered to a strategic approach based on the idea that if Israel wished to remain a Jewish and democratic state, it was not in its long-term strategic interest to continue to control the 1.3 million Palestinians in Gaza, or the 2.5m. Palestinians in the West Bank.
In a paper Reut published last November, Grinstein wrote that the aim of this strategy "is to establish one Palestinian/Arab/Islamic state in place of Israel through actions that will bring about Israel's internal collapse as a state."Greenstein appears to be correct about Hamas (although I don't agree that the 'occupation' would necessarily cause Israel to implode - all it would require is a little more Jewish thinking from the left to prevent an implosion...). But Greenstein can't get out of the two-state box to think how this might benefit us:
According to this strategy, "the occupation accelerates Israel's implosion and therefore should be sustained. Either way, the Hamas government in and of itself serves the 'Strategy of Implosion' because it creates a political deadlock, deepens the Palestinian crisis of representation, and erodes the PA's capacity to govern."
"There are groups, Palestinian and Muslim Arabs, who are beginning to question whether their immediate goal should really be to try to push Israel out of the West Bank, and who are saying that the continuation of the occupation may accelerate Israel's implosion," he said.
Grinstein noted that over the last year, there has not been any significant pressure on Israel from the PA, or from the Arab world, to get out of the West Bank.
"We got used to an environment where there were powerful forces pushing us out of the West Bank," he said, saying that these voices have been silent for the last year.
Because of some of the Palestinian factions' desire that Israel remain an occupying force, the threat of the IDF moving back into Gaza is a hollow one. That's what they want, Grinstein said.
To support this argument, Grinstein quoted Damascus-based Hamas head Khaled Mashaal, who said in March 2006 that Hamas has always seen the establishment of the PA "as a mistake."
He said that Hamas would not "hesitate to declare the dissolution of the PA and the return back to square one: that of being under occupation."
The philosophy that Israel can be defeated easier from within than in a military attack from outside is also shared by Hizbullah's Hassan Nasrallah and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Faced with the possibility that the PA could collapse, Israel is essentially faced with two unattractive choices: drop the three conditions established when Hamas came into power and deal with a Hamas-led PA, under the logic that some address is better than none at all, or side with Fatah in its battle with Hamas.Well, some 'Western security officials' seem to want us to side with Fatah as I noted above. But I believe there's a third solution: to pay 'Palestinians' to leave, with those who choose to stay accepting that Israel is a Jewish state and getting Menachem Begin's original 'autonomy' concept as he framed it in the negotiations leading up to the Camp David accords.
In a variation on what has been known in Israel as an "enhanced status quo" plan, the West Bank region would be under the sovereignty of neither Israel nor Jordan, though the 700,000 West Bank citizens would have the right to choose between Israeli and Jordanian citizenship. They would have local civil autonomy under their own elected representatives. Israel would retain its right of military access and some fortifications and perhaps its 51 settlements. No mention was made as to whether any of the 2.3 million people in the Palestinian diaspora would have the right to return.Lest you think this is totally out of date, last week, King Abdullah of Jordan was supposed to meet with Abu Mazen to discuss a 'confederation' between the 'Palestinians' and Jordan, but Abdullah backed out of the meeting:
The 3.5 million Palestinians of the Hashemite kingdom (more than half the total population of 6 million) suspect the plan to link Jordan to the West Bank is merely a device to get rid of them by relocating them in the future Palestinian state. Indeed the last thing Jordan’s Palestinians want is repatriation under the “right of return,” although it is demanded as a central proviso of every Arab master plan for peace with Israel, including the Saudi blueprint of 2007.Given the current situation in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, it should be clear that no one is in a position to carry out a 'right of return.' As noted, the demand is nonsensical to start with and it's something to which Israel can never agree. Will this be the time that the Arab countries finally step up to the plate and grant their 'refugees' citizenship? Israel should be encouraging them to do so.
To calm Palestinian tempers, prime minister Maaruf al-Bakhit went over to the big Wahdath Palestinian refugee camp near Amman Saturday, May 12. He assured its leaders that government recognition would soon be granted for their rights of permanent residence in the Jordanian kingdom and the ownership of land and their homes, all hitherto denied.
Still up in arms, Jordan’s Palestinians then turned to Ramallah and asked Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas to force King Abdullah to make a formal commitment to respect their rights of residence in… Jordan.
This demand put Abbas in a cleft stick: On the one hand, he was reluctant to let the largest external Palestinian community down, but on the other, he could hardly fight for its permanent settlement outside the future Palestine. This would make nonsense of his and the Arab League position that Israel must grant the “right of return” in any peace accord. [That's because it's a nonsensical demand. CiJ]
Faced with irreconcilable options, Abbas asked the king to deny the DEBKAfile report - especially the former Jordanian prime minister’ Abdul Salem Majali’s meetings with Israeli politicians.
Abdullah was unable to satisfy Abbas without derailing an important diplomatic enterprise solidly backed by leading court advisers and Jordan’s security services. He would also look bad after urging world leaders, including George W. Bush, to hurry up and achieve a breakthrough in the stalled Middle East peace process before the end of 2007.
In these circumstances, the King of Jordan decided two hours before his scheduled takeoff for Ramallah Sunday, to pluck a downpour of rain out of the blue skies overhead.