Monday, November 27, 2006

Meshal, en route to victory: Israel's position in free fall - Haaretz

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Before you give too much weight to Olmert's peace initiatives, read this article by Danny Rubinstein in today's Haaretz. Things are moving very, fast. The likudnik-neoconservative-Greater Israel position has collapsed, the United States wants out of Iraq with some of its dignity intact, James ("fuck the Jews") Baker has been called in to arrange this. The signs are clear, the planets are not aligned In Israel's favor. Serious negotiations are to begin. This is the Middle East, what is called the "bazaar mentality" kicks in. What does this mean? It means that, "how much are a kilo of tomatoes?" is just an opening gambit in a possibly long negotiation, not just a simple question. The first price is not meaningless, it gives you an idea of the strength of seller's position. If there are lots of tomatoes in the market, bluffing is useless. What is the Palestinian leader Khaled Meshal asking of Israel? According to Israeli military sources quoted by Debka, Hamas leader Meshal's demands are, 1. To procure Shalit’s release, Israeli must free 1,400 jailed Palestinians in three stages, including all Hamas, Fatah and other terrorists, such as Marwan Barghouti, who was convicted to six life sentences for murdering six Israelis. For the first batch of 400 women and minors, the Israeli soldier will be handed to Egypt. After the second batch of 500 (including the murderers) is released, Shalit’s parents and Israeli representatives will be allowed to see him. 2. Israel must halt all military operations in the Gaza and West Bank, including preventive detentions. 3. For his consent to a Palestinian unity government, the Hamas politburo chief wants a mechanism for opening the Palestinian Liberation Organization umbrella to Hamas membership and appointing him permanent chairman in place of Mahmoud Abbas. Meshaal will thus acquire total control of the Palestinian movement and its resources worldwide. 4. Hamas will retain treasury, interior and foreign affairs in the unity government. 5. Within six months, Israel must withdraw to the June 4, 1967 borders and an independent Palestinian state established, else the Palestinians will wage a third intifada. In this context Olmert's reply is weak. Has Bush called for a bowl to wash his hands? DS
Abstract: There is not much of a chance that the cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians will be upheld. The reason is that the deterioration in the security situation between the sides is only one aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian political imbroglio that has been developing recently. Ten months have elapsed since the dramatic victory of Hamas in the elections of the Palestinian parliament, in the wake of which Ismail Haniyeh's government was set up. The entire world, with the exception of Iran and Syria, rejected it. The United States and Europe, together with almost all the Arab countries, and of course Israel, boycotted it. They refused to transfer money to it or to meet its representatives. The distress in the territories and in particular in the Gaza Strip grew worse and, as the security situation declined, more dead and wounded were counted daily in Gaza and the West Bank. What has been the result? Instead of the Hamas government collapsing, the movement's strongman and the head of its political bureau, Khaled Meshal, appeared at the end of the week at a news conference in Cairo and issued an ultimatum to the international community: You have six months to organize an Israeli withdrawal from the territories and to end the conflict, otherwise a third intifada will break out and the Palestinian Authority (PA) will collapse. Of course, Meshal did not address Israel. He has no interest in previous agreements made with the country, nor in international demands that they be recognized. He looks down on the chairman of Fatah and the PA, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), and appears to mock him and his predecessor Yasser Arafat for wasting almost 10 years in negotiations over self-rule with only miserable results. What those leaders did not manage to achieve over long years of recognition of Israel, he hopes to achieve in a few short months. It is hard to believe Meshal will succeed, but it is clear that he, and Abu Mazen, with help from Israel and other nations, have succeeded in creating a crisis of such complexity in Palestinian politics that no one can see a way out.(...) To square the circle even further, the international community, including the Arab regimes, is demanding that Meshal must not come out of all this victorious. If Meshal brings about the release of 1,400 prisoners in return for Shalit, and the establishment of a government that does not explicitly recognize Israel, this will be a clear message that Abu Mazen and the veteran Fatah and PLO activists have been selling Palestinian interests far too cheaply: They have recognized Israel without any serious quid pro quo, and because of their groveling policies, tens of thousands of Palestinians are today languishing in Israeli jails without any chance of being released. It is doubtful whether under present circumstances the Israeli government can do much to change the situation. Meshal and Hamas are on the way to victory and if they are stopped en route, the price will be further deterioration and destruction. READ IT ALL

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