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Monday, June 25, 2007

The Sharm 'summit'

Israel's Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert is going to the Sinai resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh today to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordanian rump king Abdullah and 'moderate' 'Palestinian President' Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen. On his way in to the meeting, the dhimmi Olmert is telling everyone that he is ready to turn over all of Israel's defensive positions if only 22 Arab states will say that they will 'recognize' Israel:
"22 Arab states have said they want to make peace with Israel and to recognize it," he said. "This is new music to my ears and I want to listen to it."
Meanwhile, Abu Mazen has a lot more substantive demands.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is expected to demand the release of hundreds of Fatah prisoners from Israeli jails during Monday's summit in Sharm e-Sheikh, PA officials said.

The officials also said Abbas would call for supplying the Fatah-controlled security forces with more weapons to thwart attempts by Hamas to try to take over the West Bank.

"We want thousands of rifles, hundreds of armored vehicles and a lot of ammunition," one PA official told The Jerusalem Post. "We also want Jordan and Egypt to help train our forces in the West Bank."

Another official said that Abbas and his aides would ask Israel to release senior Fatah operative Marwan Barghouti and hundreds of Fatah prisoners to enhance Fatah's status. "We will also ask Israel to remove most of the checkpoints in the West Bank and to increase the number of Palestinians who are permitted to work in Israel," he said. "These measures are needed to boost Fatah's standing in the West Bank and to prevent Hamas from establishing bases of support there."

He said Abbas would also ask Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to instruct the IDF to stop pursuing Fatah gunmen and to refrain from raiding Palestinian cities and villages in the West Bank.

The official said Abbas would also seek backing for the deployment of an international force in the Gaza Strip.
Let's be serious: We all know that Abu Mazen does not want Barghouti released, because if Barghouti is released, Abu Mazen can retire (if he lives long enough). But a few hundred non-Hamas 'prisoners' 'without blood on their hands' might help Abu Mazen a lot. Should Olmert release prisoners to make Abu Mazen look good? No. As we have seen in the past, even a release of prisoners who supposedly have no 'blood on their hands' endangers Israeli lives. In an editorial this morning, the Jerusalem Post takes the right approach:
But what does this approach - a road we have traveled down many times before - really mean? It assumes that Israel must risk the lives of its citizens for the dim hope that this time, the risk will pay off, rather than blow up in our faces.

"Risk" is really too nice a word for this strategy. It implies that there is a decent chance of success. In fact, the odds are the opposite: We know from years of bitter experience that lifting roadblocks, let alone reducing IDF actions, will produce the near-certain result of lethal terrorist attacks on Israelis. The IDF is reportedly objecting to these steps. Though it has been reported with some fanfare that Abbas is cracking down on Fatah's terrorist arm, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, our information is that so far, any move in this direction has been cosmetic. There is no evidence that Fatah's battle with Hamas will translate into serious action to prevent terrorism.

Hamas has already shown a penchant for stepping up missile attacks against Israel precisely when it is battling Fatah, in an attempt to distract attention from this infighting. Fatah, for its part, has claimed, among other excuses, that its poor showing against Hamas was a result of being preoccupied with fighting Israel - a claim that does not augur well for the prospects of relying on Fatah to fight terrorism against Israel.

But shouldn't Israel remain open to the possibility that an important corner has been turned and all this will now change? The answer is yes, but not by risking Israeli lives; rather, by being forthcoming in response to actual changes in Palestinian behavior.

If Abbas is willing and able to direct his security forces to take concerted action to prevent terrorist attacks against Israelis, it will be obvious to our security services. Israeli military actions, after all, are not taken in a vacuum, but in response to specific intelligence concerning terrorist activity. Roadblocks and checkpoints, even if they are more static measures, are also directly linked to the need to prevent deadly drive-by shootings and the transport of explosives for the suicide bombings that have already taken many Israeli lives.

If Abbas is taking action against terrorism, there will be no reason for the IDF not to reduce its presence in the West Bank substantially. But it is unacceptable for the Palestinians to demand, let alone for Olmert to offer, that Israel let its guard down first and see what happens. This would amount to experimenting with Israeli lives.


Premature gestures, besides risking Israeli lives, also greatly reduce the incentive for Abbas to act. Indeed, Abbas needs Israeli conditionality to justify taking action. The standard Abbas justification for opposing terrorism is, unfortunately, not moral but pragmatic: on the grounds that terror is not in the Palestinian interest. Putting the cart of security concessions before the horse of a Palestinian crackdown against terrorism endangers Israelis, deprives Abbas of his main reason to act, and thereby endangers the chances, however slim, of moving forward.
Be prepared for Olmert, who is desperate for a boost in the polls, to give away the store.


At 10:03 PM, Blogger Neurodoc said...

Here is what Olmert said, from the Jerusalem Post:
"As a gesture of good will towards the Palestinians, I will bring before the cabinet a proposal to free 250 Fatah prisoners who do not have blood on their hands, after they sign a commitment not to return to violence," Olmert said in a speech to the gathering.

Question, if they don't have blood on their hands, why do they need to proclaim that they won't RETURN to violence? What were they guilty of? What choices are there except murder, and attempted murder?


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