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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The 'Palestinian' national movement is collapsing so why is Bush promoting a 'Palestinian right of return'?

Writing in Haaretz just before the Annapolis gang rape in November, Danny Rubinstein argued that the 'Palestinian' national movement was collapsing. As proof, Rubinstein noted the flight of much of the 'Palestinian' leadership from Judea and Samaria to Arab countries like Egypt and Jordan. (Hat Tip: Ashamed to be Dutch via The Augean Stables)
It would not be a great exaggeration to state that the Palestinian national movement has almost ceased to exist in recent years. The government of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza is barely functioning. The PA's establishment was supposed to mark the decisive stage in advancing Palestinian national aspirations, but its rule has failed abysmally. Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) - Palestinians mockingly say among themselves - is no more than the president of the Muqata compound in Ramallah.

The institutions of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which presumed to represent the entire Palestinian nation, have in recent years become obsolete and unimportant. They do not include any representation for a national religious movement like Hamas (which holds that religion takes precedence nationality), although its supporters make up about one-third of the Palestinian public. The PLO Executive Committee (the organization's executive arm) and its National Council (the PLO parliament, which never meets) represent several of the Palestinian leftist movements (the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - PFLP, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine - DFLP, etc.), which have long ceased to exist. This means that for quite some time now, the PLO has ceased to be a relevant body in Palestinian politics.

Deserting the PA

One of the most obvious signs that the ship of the Palestinian national project is sinking is the fact that many of its members are deserting. Nabil Sha'ath, a veteran PLO leader, who served as a minister in the Palestinian government after returning to the homeland with Arafat and settling in Gaza, has returned to his Cairo home and is spending his time running his successful businesses. Mohammed Dahlan and Hassan Asfour, who until recently served as powerful ministers and advisers in Gaza, now spend most of their time in Cairo, together with their families.

Officials in Ramallah estimate that about 50,000 West Bank residents have left in recent years. The vast majority of those leaving own houses and assets in Amman. These are senior and junior officers and officials who came to Ramallah and Nablus in order to work in the PA's institutions. Now, when the PA is barely surviving, they are leaving. There is no money, wages are delayed, the offices are paralyzed. Every day there are shooting incidents and Israel Defense Forces raids. The economy has collapsed and their family members are frequently delayed at the checkpoints.

Recent visits to the homes of several ministers and senior officials living in Ramallah have shown that they live here only part of the time, alone. Their Ramallah apartment has gradually emptied out and their wifes and children have taken most of their personal belongings with them as they left the West Bank and moved, or returned, east of the Jordan River.
According to Rubinstein, the PA's bottom line position is one that no Israeli in his right mind can accept: A return to the 1949 Auschwitz borders and a 'Palestinian' state reichlet with its capital in 'East Jerusalem.' Otherwise, says Rubinstein, "the Palestinian national movement will be doomed to failure and will end up disappearing." Would that be such a bad thing? Well, Rubinstein thinks so:
The vacuum left by the defeated and withering Palestinian national movement is being filled by the various Islamic groups. And I am not referring to Hamas, which is a national religious organization, as mentioned, but rather to movements whose values are far removed from nationalism. In Hebron and other West Bank cities, the power of the Liberation Party (Hizb al-Tahrir) has greatly increased of late. A British journalist who spoke to acquaintances in Hebron gained the impression that Hizb al-Tahrir has become the most popular party in the region. This is a veteran religious movement, which has been active in the West Bank since the days of Jordanian rule, and aims to restore the Islamic caliphate. It has undergone splits and struggles and some people even considered it a joke - but today they do not disparage it.

In Gaza, too, there are religious parties that are not nationalist in nature. Perhaps the substantial strengthening of the Islamic Movement in Israel - which focuses first and foremost on the Muslim religious issue rather than on the Palestinian national issue - is related to that.
And Rubinstein warns that if the 'Palestinian' national movement disappears, Israel
will remain with the problem and will be forced to deal with a situation that undergoes slight changes every so often, but is looking increasingly difficult and ugly.
In other words, Israel will be 'left' with the same war against the Islamist jihadis that is being fought across Europe and is making its way to the United States, Canada, Australia and just about every other western country. Would that be such a bad thing? US President George W. Bush apparently thinks so.

According to Daniel Pipes, Bush has become the champion of the 'Palestinian right of return,' which is code for the Arab world doing to the State of Israel demographically what it has been unable to do militarily: Destroy the State of Israel (Hat Tip: Little Green Footballs). I know that sounds like a harsh indictment of a President that many of us regard as the most pro-Israel President since Ronald Reagan, if not the most pro-Israel President ever. That's a characterization that Pipes disputes for reasons that are not the subject of this post. Instead, I want to review Pipes' evidence that Bush is in fact promoting and I want to ask why 'Israel's best friend' would behave that way. Here's Pipes' evidence, which, by the way, has been largely ignored or purposely covered up by the media (no surprise there):

The Palestinian "right of return" entered the lexicon of American policymakers in December 2006, when the Iraq Study Group Report urged the U.S. government to support Israel-Palestinian negotiations that addresses what it termed a "key final status issue." That recommendation came as a mild shock, given that the "right of return" to Israel is transparently a code phrase to overwhelm Israel demographically, thereby undoing Zionism and the Jewish state, and so never before a goal of official Washington.

A year later, White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino adopted the term, though without much notice. Out of seemingly nowhere, she informed journalists at a press briefing on November 28, 2007 that "The right of return issue is a part of the road map and it's going to be one of the issues that the Israelis and the Palestinians have to talk about during … negotiations."

Indeed, on schedule, "right of return" emerged as a motif before and during George W. Bush's recent trip to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, when he mentioned it three times publicly:

  • January 4: In an interview with Israel's Channel 2, Bush announced himself "optimistic that we can have the outlines of a state defined. In other words, negotiations on borders and right of return and these different issues can be settled."

  • January 9: At a joint press conference with Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, he referred to the core issues of the conflict as "territory and right of return and Jerusalem."

  • January 10: In a parallel joint press conference with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, he stated that the two-state idea "really doesn't have much bearing until borders are defined, right of return issues resolved, Jerusalem is understood, … [and] the common security measures will be in place."

In a different setting, also on January 10, Bush, somewhat elusively, stated his belief that "we need to look to the establishment of a Palestinian state and new international mechanisms, including compensation, to resolve the refugee issue." Is the "right of return" to be one of those new international mechanisms?

To understand what's going on here, I think you need to go back to the Iraq Study Group report of December 2006. The Iraq Study Group proposed to make Israel the sacrificial lamb for American democratization efforts in Iraq.
The report also predetermines an outcome for 'negotiations' with the 'Palestinians' that includes the following:
* Adherence to UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and to the principle of land for peace, which are the only bases for achieving peace.
* Strong support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to take the lead in preparing the way for negotiations with Israel.
* A major effort to move from the current hostilities by consolidating the ceasefire reached between the Palestinians and the Israelis in November 2006.
* Support for a Palestinian national unity government.
* Sustainable negotiations leading to a final peace settlement along the lines of President Bush’s two-state solution, which would address the key final status issues of borders, settlements, Jerusalem, the right of return, and the end of conflict.

The report also states in the Palestinian context that "the United States will not be able to achieve its goals in the Middle East unless the United States deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict."
Here in Israel, we thought that the ISG report had largely disappeared from the map as a project supported only by James "F**k the Jews, they don't vote for us anyway" Baker, especially when it emerged that the recommendations on Israel were inserted by Baker, apparently freelancing without the support of the rest of the Commission:
Now, according to the Forward, it turns out that Baker hit on that 'solution' himself, and that the 'solution was written into the report for him by Edward Djerejian, the former US ambassador to Syria and a close pal of Baker's. Most the Iraq Study Group's advisors were not privy to it:
In interviews with the Forward, several of the experts who advised the panel said they were shocked that the Israeli-Palestinian issue was included in the final report, since they had been told not to address the matter in their recommendations. “They kept on telling us it is a sensitive issue and that it has too many political implications,” one of the experts said.

The objections went beyond process, with some advisers arguing to the Forward that progress in Israeli-Palestinian talks is desirable but would have little impact on the situation in Iraq. “Desirable as it may be, we cannot obtain progress in the Israeli-Palestinian front right now, and even if we could, it would take years and the impact on Iraq would be less significant than some think,” said Wayne White, a former State Department official and one of the expert advisers.

The study group’s expert advisers were divided among four different working groups based on their areas of expertise and offered up recommendations to the panel. The panel’s professional staffers then took these suggestions and used them to produce the final report that was eventually approved by Baker, Hamilton and the other eight members of the Iraq Study Group.

According to several advisers, the staffers who wrote the chapter in question were Edward Djerejian, a former ambassador to Syria and Israel with close ties to Baker, and Christopher Kojm, a former aide to Hamilton who held senior positions in the State Department and the 9/11 Commission.

One staff member argued that insisting on making a clear linkage between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the situation in Iraq was “stupid” and “exposed the report to criticism.” That staff member pointed to Djerejian as the person who inserted the language regarding Israel.

Through a spokesman, Djerejian declined to comment on this issue.
Why has Baker's recommendation carried itself into Bush administration policy? There are two reasons. First, US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is a Baker protege and she has carried Bush kicking and screaming into doing what Baker 'recommends.' Second, because Baker's recommendation is actually the Saudis' 'recommendation.'

In a way, that's almost surprising. If you look at where the 'Palestinian refugees' live today outside of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, you will find that the countries that have the most 'refugees' are Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Those are the countries that you think of when you think of where the 'refugees' live today. But surprisingly, 240,000 'Palestinian refugees' live in Saudi Arabia. These are the current (as of November 20, 2007) numbers based upon UN figures:

Palestinian refugees by country currently:

This does not include some 400,000 'refugees' who were expelled from the Persian Gulf countries after Yasser Arafat supported Saddam Hussein in his war against Kuwait in 1991, nor does it include 'Palestinians' who fled Iraq since Saddam Hussein's downfall in 2003 (for which, undoubtedly, the Saudis and the Arab League hold Bush responsible).

How strongly do the Saudis feel about getting rid of their 'Palestinians'? Consider this:
As of December 2004, an estimated 500,000 Palestinians live in Saudi Arabia. [Note that the number above says 240,000. Could it be that many of the 'Palestinians' who lived in Saudi Arabia in 2004 have left? CiJ] They are not allowed to hold or apply for Saudi citizenship, as the new law passed by Saudi Arabia's Council of Ministers in October 2004 (which entitles expatriates of all nationalities who have resided in the kingdom for ten years to apply for citizenship, with priority being given to holders of degrees in various scientific fields) has one glaring exception: Palestinians will not be allowed to benefit from the new law because of Arab League instructions barring the Arab states from granting them citizenship in order "to avoid dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return to their homeland".
In other words, the Saudis will not do anything that will ever accept the existence of a Jewish state in this region. And they have no qualms about holding 500,000 'Palestinians' hostage to attain that goal.

What are the policy implications for Israel of Bush supporting the 'right of return'? One that should be obvious is that Olmert's offer to allow in 50,000 'refugees' does nothing except open Pandora's box. The last time he tried this the number thrown around was 20,000 - now it's 50,000. The last thing Israel can afford to do is to start playing a numbers game with 'refugees' the way it has been playing with releasing prisoners terrorists. Let's not fool ourselves: If there's ever a 'right of return' - God forbid - not a single 'Palestinian refugee' residing in an Arab country will ever take the 'compensation.' They will immediately be expelled from their host countries so as to 'avoid dissolution of their identity' and to 'protect their homeland.' Every last one of them will return here.

Most Israelis recognize that the 'right of return' is equivalent to Israel's national suicide. But the leftist elites to whom Olmert plays are so convinced that the 'occupation' is destroying us that they are willing to commit suicide (or to have us commit suicide) to escape it. Olmert is willing to do anything to keep himself out of jail so that he can retire to France. And Bush is apparently willing to do anything so that - like his Daddy - the Saudis will give him a job when he leaves the White House next January. Will the majority of Israelis who are sane wake up and put an end to this madness? Our first indication will come this afternoon. Olmert will meet with Yisrael Beteinu's Avigdor Lieberman to try to convince him to stay in the government. Stay tuned.


At 3:47 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

One has the feeling the Israeli Left is suicidal not because they love or they care for the Arabs all that much but because they love religious Jews far less and the last thing on earth they would like to see happen is for those religious Jews to inherit "their" state. So burn down the house rather leave it to kids you never wanted it to have and whom you never imagined would get it. Great way to advance peace in the Middle East!


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