Abbas the moderate? Abbas as a leader?

June 25, 2007

* “Investing in Abbas is like investing in the Titanic”

* This dispatch includes commentary regarding the wisdom of renewed western support for Fatah



1. Alan Johnston shown wearing suicide belt; Gilad Shalit’s year in captivity
2. Mideast summit today to bolster Abbas
3. Has the Holocaust revisionist changed his spots?
4. “Can you name a single thing he achieved in that time?”
5. Fatah faces enemy within as splinter group denounces the old guard
6. “Arabs losing faith in ‘the cause’” (By Youssef Ibrahim, NY Sun, June 21, 2007)
7. “More Middle East madness” (By Victor Davis Hanson, Townhall, June 21, 2007)
8. “Last chance for Abbas” (By Charles Krauthammer, Wash. Post, June 22, 2007)
9. “‘Tear down those camps!’” (By Saul Singer, Jerusalem Post, June 21, 2007)
10. “40 years: The real stigma” (Asharq Al-Awsat, June 6, 2007)
11. “The Iranian pincer” (By Melanie Phillips, Spectator, June 21, 2007)
12. “Why Hamas won” (By Ralph Peters, NY Post, June 19, 2007)
13. “Fatah isn’t the answer” (By Michael Oren, W. St. Journal, June 20, 2007)
14. “Mahmoud Abbas is a fiction” (By Israel Harel, Ha’aretz, June 21, 2007)
15. “Brothers to the bitter end” (By Fouad Ajami, NY Times, June 19, 2007)
16. “Let Palestine split into two” (By Martin van Creveld, Forward, June 12, 2007)
17. “Two states of destruction” (By Cal Thomas, Townhall, June 19, 2007)

[Note by Tom Gross]


A new video recording released today shows kidnapped British journalist Alan Johnston wearing an apparent explosives belt of the type suicide bombers use and warning it will be detonated if an attempt is made to free him by force. The one-minute-42-second tape, called “Alan’s Appeal,” was posted on an Islamic website.

The video can be seen by clicking on the right hand side of this page.

Johnston was kidnapped in Gaza on March 12. His plight has generated an extraordinary amount of media attention.

By contrast the plight of the young Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped from Israeli soil in an unprovoked act in the middle of the night in what much of the media continues to refer to as a “ceasefire” by Hamas, has not generated nearly as much publicity.

Today marks the first anniversary of Shalit’s kidnapping. He is 20 years old, and like Johnston is being held in Gaza.

New reports in the Israeli media say Shalit is being kept by Hamas in a room beneath a highly fortified building in Gaza that is booby-trapped. An Israeli television channel reported that the room is 15 meters below the surface and accessed by a ladder lined with explosives.

One wishes for the safe release of Shalit, Johnston and all other innocent kidnap victims as soon as possible.

For more on Johnston, see here and here.


Closing ranks against Hamas, Israeli, Palestinian, Egyptian and Jordanian leaders are holding a summit today in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah II of Jordan will “address ways to promote the moderate agenda and ways to go forward on the Israeli-Palestinian issues,” Olmert’s spokeswoman said.

The regional gathering is the biggest show of support yet for what the mainstream media keep on describing as “moderate” Palestinian President Abbas in his showdown with Hamas.

Abbas will ask Israel to remove West Bank checkpoints (thereby once again endangering the lives of Israelis) and to transfer Palestinian tax funds Israel froze after Hamas came to power last year. (Israel already agreed to this demand yesterday.)

Abbas last week branded Hamas “murderous terrorists”. The BBC, New York Times and others won’t go this far, even though new reports of the murder and mutilation taking place in Hamas-controlled Gaza are seeping out.

For example, Hamas have abused the corpses of those they have murdered. Witnesses at a Gaza hospital related how bodies have arrived without eyes while others had their tongues or fingers missing. Another practice Hamas are using is to put a gun near their victims’ ears and fired to make them go deaf.

Several Palestinian journalists have fled Gaza and others are not reporting this openly, for fear that they and their children will be killed. They say many in Gaza are longing for the days when Israel controlled Gaza and such mutilation and torture didn’t occur.

Here is the latest Press Release I just received from Oxfam – which was once a neutral, non-political and honest charity. It is titled “Oxfam condemns the caging of Gaza” (25 June 2007). Through the last month, Oxfam hasn’t had a single word to say about all the recent Hamas-Fatah atrocities.


I attach below a number of comment articles on the new situation since Olmert, Bush and others decided to wholeheartedly back Fatah over Hamas – even though Fatah is responsible for just as much terrorism as Hamas, both in its previous guise as the PLO, and since it formed the Palestinian Authority, under its various terror wings such as the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the Tanzim.

Even if we give Abbas (also known as Abu Mazen) the benefit of the doubt and believe that he has genuinely become a moderate – Abbas previously wrote a book propagating Holocaust revisionism (see Abu Mazen and the Holocaust, June 8, 2003) and helped organize the Munich Olympics massacre (see Abu Mazen and the Munich Olympics massacre, June 8, 2003) – thus far he has shown weakness as Palestinian president.


As Charles Krauthammer points out in the article below:

“Let’s remember who Abbas is. He appears well intentioned, but he is afflicted with near-disastrous weaknesses. He controls little. His troops in Gaza simply collapsed against the greatly outnumbered forces of Hamas. His authority in the West Bank is far from universal. He does not even control the various factions within Fatah.

“But the greater liability is his character. He is weak and indecisive. When he was Yasser Arafat’s deputy, Abbas was known to respond to being slapped down by his boss by simply disappearing for weeks in a sulk. During the battle for Gaza, he did not order his Fatah forces to return fire against the Hamas insurrection until the fight was essentially over. Remember, too, that after Arafat’s death Abbas ran the Palestinian Authority without a Hamas presence for more than a year. Can you name a single thing he achieved in that time?”

The articles below (most of which are written by subscribers to this email list) are worth reading in full if you have time, or at least skim-reading if you don’t. Please note that I do not agree with all the points made in them, but attach them as a counterweight to some of the nonsense being written about “moderate” Fatah in other newspapers.

Among the ideas put forth is the belief that the Palestinians are not ready for statehood, and won’t be for a very long time, and that the best way of solving the Israel/Palestinian impasse is for Jordan and Egypt to take control again – this time, legally – of most of the West Bank and of Gaza.


Having lost control of Gaza to Hamas, the secular Fatah movement has a new problem: a breakaway faction has emerged calling itself Yasser Arafat’s Fatah, or Fatah al-Yasser. They say they are a new version of Fatah purged of its corrupt, bloated West Bank leadership and spiced up with a stiff dose of Islam.

Also, one should note that the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reports today that the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, responsible for some of the worst terror attacks against Israel in recent years, are not being dissolved, as was agreed to in every single agreement Abbas has signed, such as the Road Map. Instead they are presently being assimilated into the Palestinian security services. These men are no lovers of peace. Many ordinary West Bank Palestinians say they are thugs who terrorize the ordinary population, executing people they don’t like in the street, looting from others, ransacking their homes, and so on, and that it will be a serious mistake for the international community to give money to a Palestinian security service with such criminals in it.

-- Tom Gross



Arabs losing faith in ‘the cause’
By Youssef Ibrahim
The New York Sun
June 21, 2007

Why is America trying to pour new money and more weapons into Palestinian Arab hands barely days after the Gaza debacle? It is an ill-considered policy, both premature and useless. The only sure result will be that warring gangs in the West Bank will use every new weapon to continue the mayhem and that the millions paid out won’t buy as much as a bottle of milk for Palestinian Arab civilians. Instead, the money will end up in the pockets and bank accounts of the same crooks who lost Gaza.

Indeed, why try to recreate a world that has just crumbled? America and Israel may want to wait for what may turn out to be a changing of the guard: Arab voices, both expert and popular, are rising in vociferous denunciations of the once sacrosanct Palestinian Arabs.

“It is idle to think that Gaza could be written off as a Hamas dominion while Fatah held its own in the towns of the West Bank,” Fouad Ajami of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies noted in a sobering analysis published Tuesday in the New York Times. [Full article below - TG] “The abdication and the anarchy have damaged both Palestinian realms. Nablus in the West Bank is no more amenable to reason than is Gaza; the writ of the pitiless preachers and gunmen is the norm in both places.”

While Mr. Ajami’s commentary is poised, there is no such thing:

“Palestinians today need to be left without a shred of a doubt” as to what other Arabs think of them, a widely read opinion commentator for the Saudi daily Asharq Al Awsat, Mamoun Fandy, thundered on Monday. “We need to tell them the only thing they have proven over 50 years is that they are adolescents who cannot and should not be trusted to run institutions of state or any other important matters.”

While it could be argued that the overwhelming public outrage in Saudi Arabia reflects resentment over the collapse of the much-vaunted reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah – which was personally brokered by King Abdullah earlier this year in Mecca – the anger expressed across the Muslim Arab world reflects deep embarrassment at the discredit Hamas has brought, in the name of Islam, through its savagery against Fatah.

For its part, the Egyptian press has become unhinged, spewing vile denunciations of what is universally known as “the cause” – support for the Palestinian Arabs – and describing it as dead. Egypt’s government pulled its embassy out of Gaza on Tuesday.

Kuwaitis, who have harbored contempt for Palestinian Arabs ever since they allied themselves with Saddam Hussein’s occupation in 1990–91, also dropped all restraint. “Palestinians are neither a modernized nor a civilized people,” Ahmad Al Bughdadi wrote Monday in Al Siyassah, an influential Kuwaiti daily. “They are not statesmen. If what happened in Gaza is what they do without a state, what then shall they do when they get one?”

If there could be an editorial coup de grace, it surely was delivered by no less than Abdelbari Atwan, undoubtedly the Palestinian Arabs most influential and respected journalist and a familiar face on both Western and Arab television.

Writing in the London-based Al Quds International, his painfully felt commentary, “Yes, We Have Lost the World’s Respect,” argued that “the cause” may have lost its legitimacy: “Many, myself among them, find it difficult to speak of Israeli crimes against our people in view of what we have now done,” Mr. Atwan wrote. “I never thought the day would come when we would see Palestinians throwing other Palestinians from the tops of buildings to their death, Palestinians attacking other Palestinians to tear their bodies with knives, Palestinians stripping others naked to drag them through the streets.”

All of which suggests letting this Arab storm run its course: It may be a purging of the Arab mindset that creates new realities and opportunities.

For instance, throughout the Arab Gulf region, starting with Al-Jazeera of Qatar and Al-Arabiya of Saudi Arabia, the press has long been controlled by Palestinian Arabs practiced in spewing anti-Western and anti-American propaganda. But the Gaza conundrum has left them stymied, opening space for “local sentiments,” which differ markedly.

Instead of pouring good money after bad in the western part of the Arab world, it may be wiser for America to help foster the revolutionary new thinking unfolding in its East – perhaps by nudging along a propaganda purge among friendly Arab regimes.



More Middle East madness
By Victor Davis Hanson
June 21, 2007

“The Palestinian people will never forgive the Hamas gangs for looting the home of the Palestinian people’s great leader, Yasser Arafat.” So Palestinian Authority spokesman Abdel Rahman recently exclaimed. “This crime will remain a stain of disgrace on the forehead of Hamas and its despicable gangs.”

Looting? Crime? Despicable gangs?

Excuse me. For years, Palestinian Authority-sanctioned gangs shot and tortured dissidents, glorified suicide bombing against Israel and in general thwarted any hopes of various “peace processes.”

Of course, this kind of behavior isn’t limited to the Palestinian territories but is spread across the Middle East. The soon-to-be-nuclear theocracy in Iran is grotesque. Iraqis continue to discover innovative ways to extinguish each other. Syria assassinates democratic reformers in Lebanon. ABC News now reports that new teams of al-Qaida and Taliban suicide bombers have been ordered to the United States and Europe from Afghanistan.

Here’s why much of the region is so unhinged – and it’s not because of our policy in Palestine or our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

First, thanks to Western inventions and Chinese manufactured goods, Middle Easterners can now access the non-Muslim world cheaply and vicariously. To millions of Muslims, the planet appears – on the Internet, DVDs and satellite television – to be growing rich as most of their world stays poor.

Second, the Middle East either will not or cannot make the changes necessary to catch up with what they see in the rest of the world. Tribalism – loyalty only to kin rather than to society at large – impedes merit and thus progress. So does gender apartheid. Who knows how many would-be Margaret Thatchers or Sandra Day O’Connors remain veiled in the kitchen?

Religious fundamentalism translates into rote prayers in madrassas while those outside the Middle East master science and engineering. Without a transparent capitalist system – antithetical to both sharia (Muslim law) and state-run economies – initiative is never rewarded. Corruption is.

Meanwhile, mere discussion in much of the region of what is wrong can mean execution by a militia, government thug or religious vigilante.

So, Middle Easterners are left with the old frustration of wanting the good life of Western society but lacking either the ability or willingness to change the status quo to get it.

Instead, we get monotonous scapegoating. Blaming America or Israel – “Those sneaky Jews did it!” – has become a regional pastime.

And after the multifarious failures of Yasser Arafat, the Assads in Syria, Muammar Gaddafi, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Saddam Hussein and other corrupt autocrats, many have, predictably, retreated to fundamentalist extremism. Almost daily, some fundamentalist claims that the killing of Westerners is justified – because of a cartoon, a Papal paragraph or, most recently, British knighthood awarded to novelist Salman Rushdie. The terrorism of Osama bin Laden, Hamas, Hezbollah and the Taliban is as much about nihilist rage as it is about blackmailing Western governments to grant concessions.

Meanwhile, millions of others simply flee the mess, immigrating to either Europe or the United States.

These reactions to failure often lead to circumstances that can defy logic.

The poor terrorists of Arafat’s old party, Fatah, seem to shriek that they have been out-terrorized by Hamas, and desperately con more Western aid to make up for what has been squandered or stolen.

Muslims flock to Europe to enjoy a level of freedom and opportunity long denied at home. But no sooner have many arrived than they castigate their adopted continent as decadent. The ungracious prefer intolerant sharia – denying to their own the very freedom of choice that was given to them by others.

Our response in America to this perennial Middle East temper tantrum?

In the last 20 years, we’ve sent billions in aid to the Arab world. We’ve saved Muslims from Bosnia to Kuwait. We’ve removed dangerous thugs in Afghanistan and Iraq, fostering democracies in their place. We’ve opened our borders to immigrants from the Middle East. We’ve paid billions of dollars in inflated oil prices. All the while, many in the West have wrongly blamed themselves for the conditions in the Middle East.

It’s past time for Middle Easterners to fix their own self-inflicted mess. In the meantime, the U.S. and its allies should help as we can – but first protect ourselves from them as we must.



Last chance for Abbas
By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
June 22, 2007

Gaza is now run not by a conventional political party but by a movement that is revolutionary, Islamist and terrorist. Worse, Hamas is a client of Iran. Gaza now constitutes the farthest reach of the archipelago of Iranian proxies: Hamas in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Mahdi Army (among others) in Iraq and the Alawite regime of Syria.

This Islamist mini-replica of the Comintern is at war not just with Israel but with the moderate Arab states, who finally woke up to this threat last summer when they denounced Hezbollah for provoking the Lebanon war with Israel. The fall of Gaza is particularly terrifying to Egypt because Hamas is so closely affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, the chief Islamist threat to the secular-nationalist regime that has ruled Egypt since the revolution of 1952. Which is why Egypt has just invited Israeli, Jordanian and moderate Palestinian leaders to a summit next week – pointedly excluding and isolating Hamas.

The splitting of Palestine into two entities is nonetheless clarifying. Since Hamas won the parliamentary elections of January 2006, we’ve had to deal with the fiction of a supposedly unified Palestine ruled by an avowedly “unity” government of Fatah and Hamas. Now the muddle has undergone political hydrolysis, separating out the relatively pure elements: a Hamas-ruled Gaza and Fatah-ruled (for now) West Bank.

The policy implications are obvious. There is nothing to do with the self-proclaimed radical Islamist entity that is Gaza but to isolate it. No recognition, no aid (except humanitarian necessities through the United Nations), no diplomatic commerce.

Israel now has the opportunity to establish deterrence against unremitting rocket attacks from Gaza into Israeli villages. Israel failed to do that after it evacuated Gaza in 2005, permitting the development of an unprecedented parasitism by willingly supplying food, water, electricity and gasoline to a territory that was actively waging hostilities against it.

With Hamas now clearly in charge, Israel should declare that it will tolerate no more rocket fire – that the next Qassam will be answered with a cutoff of gasoline shipments. This should bring road traffic in Gaza to a halt within days and make it increasingly difficult to ferry around missiles and launchers.

If that fails to concentrate the mind, the next step should be to cut off electricity. When the world wails, Israel should ask, what other country on Earth is expected to supply the very means for a declared enemy to attack it?

Regarding the West Bank, policy should be equally clear. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas represents moderation and should be helped as he tries to demonstrate both authority and success in running his part of Palestine.

But let’s remember who Abbas is. He appears well intentioned, but he is afflicted with near-disastrous weaknesses. He controls little. His troops in Gaza simply collapsed against the greatly outnumbered forces of Hamas. His authority in the West Bank is far from universal. He does not even control the various factions within Fatah.

But the greater liability is his character. He is weak and indecisive. When he was Yasser Arafat’s deputy, Abbas was known to respond to being slapped down by his boss by simply disappearing for weeks in a sulk. During the battle for Gaza, he did not order his Fatah forces to return fire against the Hamas insurrection until the fight was essentially over. Remember, too, that after Arafat’s death Abbas ran the Palestinian Authority without a Hamas presence for more than a year. Can you name a single thing he achieved in that time?

Moreover, his Fatah party is ideologically spent and widely discredited. Historian Michael Oren points out that the Palestinian Authority has received more per capita aid than did Europe under the Marshall Plan. This astonishing largess has disappeared into lavish villas for party bosses and guns for the multiple militias Arafat established.

The West is rushing to bolster Abbas. Israel will release hundreds of millions in tax revenue. The United States and the European Union will be pouring in aid. All praise Abbas as a cross between Anwar Sadat and Simσn Bolνvar. Fine. We have no choice but to support him. But before we give him the moon, we should insist upon reasonable benchmarks of both moderation and good governance – exactly what we failed to do during the Oslo process. Abbas needs to demonstrate his ability to run a clean administration and to engage Israel in day-to-day negotiations to alleviate the conditions of life on the ground.

Abbas is not Hamas. But despite the geographical advantages, he does not represent the second coming, either. We can prop him up only so much. In the end, the only one who can make a success of the West Bank is Abbas himself. This is his chance. His last chance.



“Tear down those camps!”
By Saul Singer
The Jerusalem Post
June 21, 2007

June 12 was the 20th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s “tear down this wall!” speech at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. On the popular blog Power Line, Reagan speechwriter Peter Robinson describes how he drafted that line after meeting with Berliners whose raw anger at the scar crossing their city surprised him. He also recounts the pitched battle waged by the US foreign policy bureaucracy to remove those key words from the draft speech.

Robinson writes, “[They claimed] the draft was naive. It would raise false hopes. It was clumsy. It was needlessly provocative. State and the NSC submitted their own alternate drafts ... no fewer than seven. In each, the call to tear down the wall was missing.”

“The day the President arrived in Berlin, State and NSC submitted yet another alternate draft. Yet in the limousine on the way to the Berlin Wall, the President told [Ken] Duberstein he was determined to deliver the controversial line. Reagan smiled. ‘The boys at State are going to kill me,’ he said, ‘but it’s the right thing to do.’”

Minutes later, Reagan called out to the Soviet leader, “if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Two years later the wall was broken into a million pieces, along with the Soviet Union itself.

On Sunday, another anniversary arrives, this time of one of the most pivotal speeches of the Bush presidency. On June 24, 2002, Bush called on “the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror.”

Though we do not yet have the history of how this speech was written, we can imagine that Bush showed considerable determination in going directly opposite to the conventional wisdom of the time – including massive pressure from Tony Blair – to impose some new initiative on then-besieged Israel. As The New York Times reported days before the speech, the internal policy debate was over “how strongly to endorse an interim Palestinian state.”

Instead, Bush, for first time, linked Palestinian statehood not to Israeli behavior but to Palestinians embracing democracy and rejecting terror. The result was immediate and dramatic.

Europe, while not backing Bush on the need to oust Yasser Arafat, came part way with the demand for a Palestinian prime minister who would ostensibly usurp Arafat’s powers. The ensuing “road map,” though a somewhat twisted version of Bush’s speech, kept the critical notion of ending terrorism before negotiations could begin. Israel, meanwhile, was free to defend itself against the ongoing Palestinian suicide bombing onslaught, which was increasingly blamed on Arafat, not Israeli intransigence.

Now Bush is reportedly considering commemorating his 2002 speech with another landmark address on the Middle East. The timing, just after the Hamas’s “Six Day War” against Fatah in Gaza, is propitious. What should Bush say?

First, he should reiterate the linkage between Palestinian statehood, building democracy and rejecting terrorism. Though Hamas now wraps itself in the mantle of democracy, its barbaric behavior and its choice of war and terrorism – after campaigning for “Change and Reform” – amounts to a hijacking of Palestinian democracy.

Next he should challenge Fatah to take advantage of this golden opportunity. Just as Hamas now has no one to hide behind and must be held responsible for any attacks from Gaza, so Fatah must be held accountable for building a peaceful, law-abiding Palestinian state. Unfettered by Hamas, Fatah must now take real steps toward peace with Israel.

This will bring Bush to the nub that will make history. The most powerful way for Bush to call on the soon to be aid-flush Fatahland to hold up its end of the bargain is to dismantle the core symbol of the rejection of Israel’s right to exist: refugee camps.

For 60 years, the Arab world has, as Bush said in 2002, treated the Palestinians “as pawns in the Middle East conflict ... held hostage to a comprehensive peace agreement that never seems to come.” The refugees have been cruelly shaped into a living, suffering dagger aimed at Israel’s heart.

What is striking is how calculated this strategy has been. Egyptian foreign minister Muhammad Salah al-Din made no bones about it as early as October, 1949: “It is well-known and understood that the Arabs, in demanding the return of the refugees to Palestine, mean their return as masters of the Homeland and not as slaves. With a greater clarity, they mean the liquidation of the State of Israel.”

Former UNRWA official Ralph Galloway was equally blunt in August 1958: “The Arab States do not want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as an affront to the United Nations and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders don’t give a damn whether the refugees live or die.”

Bush should call for an end to this travesty. If Mahmoud Abbas really believes in a two-state solution, he must stop telling Palestinians they will “return” to a land most have never seen. He must say that the “right of return” can only be actualized in a state alongside Israel, not in its stead.

According to UNRWA, it is managing eight “refugee camps” in Gaza and 20 in the West Bank. If Palestinians are truly going to live in a future Palestine and not in Israel, then why are they not being settled now? How is it possible to be a Palestinian “refugee” inside Palestine – unless “Palestine” actually means Israel itself?

The Arab states, for their part, should be called upon to offer citizenship to Palestinians who have lived for years in their countries and do not want to move to a Palestinian state (as Jordan has done). If they do not, they are playing into the hands of the Hamas-Hizbullah-Iran jihadi front that is fighting peace with Israel with all its might. Is this what these states want?

Palestinian refugee camps are as cruel an invention as the Berlin Wall and as central an obstacle to resolving the conflict that they embody. Reagan in 1987 and Bush in 2002 illustrated the power of honest words, however “unrealistic” they may seem at the time, to shape history.

Bush should call on Palestinians and the Arab world to “tear down those camps!”



40 years: The real stigma
By Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed (the general manager of Al-Arabiya TV)
Asharq Al-Awsat (a leading pan-Arab daily newspaper)
June 6, 2007

(Excerpt only)

“Our insistence to lock the Palestinians in camps and treat them like animals in the name of preserving the issue is far worse a crime than Israel stealing land and causing the displacement of people”.

“… Even some Arabs and Palestinians intentionally turn a blind eye to the issue so as not to expose abuses. What is happening in Lebanon’s Nahr al Bared camp today is just one such example where battles have raised an overwhelming number of questions: who are these people? How long have they lived in the camp and how? What are their rights? The answers can be found on the UNRWA’s website. Tens of thousands of people crammed in undignified houses, where many of them were born and have lived for five decades”.

“Some Arab countries ‘hosting’ refugees ban them from leaving [camps], from occupying a large number of positions and deny them any other legal rights. Some of them have to jump over walls and sneak out to complete their chores or to breathe and experience the outside world” … How can we talk about the liberation of Palestine, which we simply associate with stolen land, a desecrated mosque and a powerful enemy, while we do not allow Palestinians to settle down, earn a living or travel like all other human beings?

Our insistence to lock the Palestinians in camps and treat them like animals in the name of preserving the issue is far worse a crime than Israel stealing land and causing the displacement of people. The 60 year-old camps only signify our inhumanity and double standards. Israel can claim that it treats the Palestinians better than their Arab brothers do. It gives citizenship to the Palestinians of 1948 as well as the right to work and the right to lead a somewhat normal life, although they are treated as second-class citizens.

The complete article is available at:



The Iranian pincer
By Melanie Phillips
The Spectator (London)
June 21, 2007

Britain gazes upon the butchery in Gaza and is shocked. Shocked! How could the Palestinians be behaving in this way, it wails?

The Palestinian butchery of blowing Israelis to bits by human bomb or rocket attacks leaves Britain unmoved. The videos of lisping Palestinian toddlers being taught to sing about murdering the Jews elicits barely a shrug. After all, these are brutal Israeli occupiers who deserve all they get, right? Whereas the Palestinians are the good guys, the helpless victims, the people who only want a state of their own.

Well, now the lie is sickeningly exposed for all to see. Palestinians throwing each other off the tops of tall buildings. Churches ransacked and Bibles burned. Hospital patients being treated for their injuries gunned down in those same hospitals.

Astoundingly, there are those who blame Israel, America and Europe for causing this carnage by refusing to recognise Hamas and imposing ‘punishing sanctions’ against it.

Decent, rational people, however, can see that that this is a struggle for mastery between people who have brutalised themselves. Those who turn their own children into human bombs will behave in the same depraved way towards each other.

As for the ‘punishing sanctions’, the aid going into Gaza since these were imposed has actually doubled. If the Gazans are now going hungry, it’s because the money has been siphoned off to line their leaders’ pockets or to buy weapons.

Undoubtedly, a humanitarian disaster now looms. But the claim that Israel controls access to Gaza is untrue. Hamas now controls its border with Egypt. Aid should therefore be funnelled through Egypt, which should be held responsible with Hamas for its safe passage.

Why should Israel be expected to supply aid to those who will merely redouble their rocket and human bomb attacks on it (but whom it continues to treat, nevertheless, in its own hospitals)? Of what other country has such a truly suicidal response to those waging war upon it ever been expected?

Unreality, however, begets ever deeper unreality. It’s not just that the Palestinians have divided themselves into two ‘states’. It is quickly becoming accepted that there are two different sets of people: Hamas who are beyond the pale, and Fatah with whom we can do business.

Thus America and Israel are now busily shoring up the Fatah end of the Palestinian pantomime horse, President Mahmoud Abbas. But how deluded is this?

After all, Abbas hardly moved a muscle against Hamas in Gaza; indeed, he has always said plainly that he would never fight them. With his 40,000 armed men, he could have crushed them. He chose not to do so.

And the idea that Fatah is ‘moderate’ is ludicrous. Its militias have been heavily involved in recent attacks against Israel, to whose destruction – whatever weasel words Abbas may use for credulous western consumption – it remains committed.

But when in a hole, the Americans continue to dig. Their renewed aid to Fatah will undoubtedly fuel yet more of the corruption that helped bring Hamas to power. Worse still, although the weapons they showered upon Abbas to help him defeat Hamas have now fallen into its hands, they will continue to arm him – even though if Hamas captures the West Bank, it will capture those weapons too.

The reason for this deluded approach is the fundamentally flawed western belief that the ‘two state solution’ will end the Middle East impasse. The fact is that the ‘two state solution’ has been on offer since 1922. That was when Britain gave away to the Arabs three quarters of Mandatory Palestine – within all of which it was bound by international agreement to re-establish the Jews in their ancestral national home – creating the Hashemite kingdom of Trans-Jordan. Jordan therefore is the Arab state of Palestine.

Ever since, different configurations of the ‘two-state solution’ have been repeatedly offered, only to be met by Arab attempts to drive the Jews out. The belief that creating a Palestine state will end this 90-year trauma is therefore as much of a fantasy as finding a crock of gold at the end of the rainbow.

This continued delusion is further preventing the west from grasping that the war against Israel is merely one front in a far bigger war against the free world, in which Iran is the major player. Iran now controls Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, and is wreaking havoc in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The true significance of Hamastan, therefore, is that it strengthens Iran still further in its 28-year jihad against the west. And since Hamas is now an Iranian proxy, its agenda is transparently no longer a Palestinian state but the Islamist onslaught upon the whole free world.

Yet in Britain, elements within the Foreign Office and intelligence establishment are pushing ‘engagement’ with Hamas, even though its agenda is totally non-negotiable. Its Charter doesn’t merely commit it to eradicating Israel, but is a declaration of war against the entire Jewish people, with demented Nazi-style ravings about the world Jewish conspiracy. It would be as suicidal and immoral to ‘engage’ with such a body as it was to advocate the appeasement of Hitler.

Israel is now in an appalling position. It must do everything possible to avoid re-occupying Gaza, although it may have no alternative if the rocket fire from there escalates. It is trapped by an Iranian pincer movement in Gaza and Lebanon, from where two rockets were fired on Monday at northern Israel. So much for UNIFIL. Iran’s satrapy Syria, meanwhile, is making ominous preparations for war. So Israel could soon face war on three fronts from the Iran/Syria axis.

That axis, though, does not just threaten Israel and the west but much of the Arab world too. Egypt now has the nightmare of both the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran on its doorstep in Gaza, and Jordan is eyeing the same prospect on the West Bank.

Abbas is patently incapable of stopping Hamas. So a new dynamic is being created. Long-term, the solution lies in Jordan and Egypt exercising their own self-interest. A Jordan-West Bank confederation is now being floated; the same logic would mean Egypt re-occupying Gaza.

Despite the fact that this idea would take us back 40 years, it has certain attractions. Order would be restored by Jordan and Egypt which, unlike Israel, would tackle Hamas with a vigour from which our own principled multiculturalists would not dream of demurring.

The Palestinians would be in the state they were given in 1922. The Arab world would finally take responsibility for a tragedy they themselves created. The Iranian pincer would be broken.

One thing threatens to scupper this. It is the US/UK axis of appeasement, the fateful union of British cynicism with America’s catastrophic loss of nerve. No wonder Iran is on a roll. With such serial strategic stupidity and cravenness by the west, how can it lose?



Why Hamas won
By Ralph Peters
The New York Post
June 19, 2007

Hamas won its shut-out victory in Gaza with alarming ease. And the reason Hamas won is even more alarming: Fanaticism trumps numbers.

You’ll hear no end of explanations for the terrorist triumph: Hamas was backed by Iran; Gaza is Hamas’ base of support; some Fatah units ran out of ammunition...

All true. And all secondary factors.

Fatah’s security forces in Gaza outnumbered the Hamas gunmen. Fatah had stockpiles of weapons and military gear (now in Hamas’ arsenal). Fatah even had the quiet backing of Israel and America.

And Fatah folded like a pup tent in a tornado.

Hamas won because its fighters are religious fanatics ready to die for their cause. Fatah runs an armed employment agency under the banner of Palestinian nationalism. Most of the latter’s security men are on the payroll because relatives or ward pols got them jobs. And they want to stay alive to collect their wages.

The result was predictable. Our government pretended otherwise. Now hairs should be standing up on the backs of thousands of necks, from the White House to the Green Zone.

Yes, Iraq is more complex than Gaza. But once you pierce the surface turbulence and look deep, the similarities are chilling: Iraq’s security forces do include true patriots – but most of the troops and cops just want a job, or were ordered to join up by a sheik or a mullah, or are gathering guns until their faction calls.

The al-Qaeda-in-Iraq terrorists, the core members of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army and the hard-line Sunni ghazis are willing to die for the victory of their faction and their faith. They believe they’re doing Allah’s will. It gives them a strength we rush to explain away.

The raw numbers suggest that Iraq’s fanatics don’t stand a chance. The government has a far greater numerical advantage than did Fatah. But numbers often mislead analysts during insurgencies: Iraq’s government wouldn’t last a week without U.S. troops.

The lesson from Gaza is that such wars are neither waged nor won by the majority of the population. A tiny fraction of the populace, armed and determined, can destroy a fragile government and seize power.

Polls showing that most Iraqis “want peace” and don’t support the extremists only deceive us (because we want to be deceived). It wouldn’t matter if 99 percent of the Iraqis loved us like free falafel, if we’re unwilling to annihilate the fraction of 1 percent of the population with the weapons and will to dictate the future to the rest.

At the height of last week’s fighting in Gaza, one Palestinian in 300 carried a weapon in support of Hamas – a third of one percent of the population. Now Hamas rules 1.5 million people.

Numbers still matter, of course. But strength of will can overcome hollow numbers. And nothing – nothing – gives men a greater strength of will than religious fanaticism.

We don’t want to hear it. Secular virtues were supposed to triumph. They didn’t, but we still can’t let go of our dream of a happy-face, godless world where nobody quarrels.

Our refusal to acknowledge the unifying – and terrifying – power of extremist religion has deep roots. As academics rejected and derided faith in the last century, even the Thirty Years’ War – the horrible climax of Europe’s wars of religion – was reinvented as a dynastic struggle, or a fight for hegemony, or a class struggle.

But the Thirty Years’ War was about faith. All the other factors were in play, but the core issue, from the Protestant coup in Prague in 1618 to the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, was religious identity. And the atrocities committed on both sides make Iraq look like amateur hour: Wars of religion always demand blood sacrifice. (It was a compromise of bloody exhaustion that ended the Thirty Years War.)

Our problem is that, of those who rise in government, few have witnessed the power of revelation or caught a life-changing glimpse of the divine. They simply can’t imagine that others might be willing to die for all that mumbo-jumbo. Our convenience-store approach to faith leaves us numb to the passion of our enemies.

The true believer always beats the feckless attendee. The best you can hope for is that the extremist will eventually defeat himself.

And that does leave us some hope: Fanatics inevitably over-reach, as al Qaeda’s Islamo-fascists have done in Iraq, alienating those who once saw them as allies. But the road to self-destruction can be a long one: The people of Iran want change, but the fanatics have the guns. And sorry, folks: Fanatics with guns beat liberals with ideas.

Faith is the nuclear weapon of the fanatic. And there’s not going to be a religious “nuclear freeze.” It doesn’t matter how many hearts and minds you win, if you don’t defeat the zealots with the muscles.



Fatah isn’t the answer
By Michael Oren
The Wall Street Journal
June 20, 2007

America and its Middle Eastern allies have every reason to panic. The green flags of Hamas are furling over Gaza and the al-Fatah forces trained and financed by the United States have ignominiously fled. Fears are rife that Iranian-backed and Syrian-hosted terror will next achieve dominance over the West Bank and proceed to undermine the pro-Western governments of Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and the Gulf.

To avert this catastrophe, the U.S. has joined with the Israelis and the Europeans in resuming the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars in financial aid to the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of its Fatah president, Mahmoud Abbas, and accelerating talks for the establishment of a West Bank Palestinian state. The goal is to provide Palestinians with an affluent, secular and peaceful alternative to Hamas, and persuade Gazans to return to the Fatah fold. But the policy ignores every lesson of the abortive peace process to date as well as Fatah’s monumental corruption, jihadism and militancy. Indeed, any sovereign edifice built on the rotten foundations of the Palestinian Authority is doomed to implode, enhancing, rather than diminishing, Hamas’s influence.

Gunmen from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Is funding them the path to peace?

Since its creation by the so-called Oslo Accords of 1993, the PA has garnered more international aid than any entity in modern history – more, per capita, than the European states under the Marshall Plan. The lion’s share of this fortune has been siphoned into the private accounts of Fatah leaders or used to pay off the commanders of some 16 semi-autonomous militias. The PA also maintains an estimated 60,000 uniformed gunmen on its payroll, giving the West Bank the world’s highest percentage of policemen-to-population.

The Palestinian people, meanwhile, languish in ever-deepening poverty and unemployment, while lawlessness plagues Palestinian streets. The unbridled corruption of the PA and its Fatah headmen served as a principal cause of Hamas’s electoral victory in 2006, as well its takeover of Gaza. Viewers of Hamas television have recently been treated to tours of the lavish villas maintained by Fatah officials in the Strip, and video clips showing PA policemen, more abundantly armed and more numerous than Hamas’s troops, fleeing at the first sign of battle.

Though Fatah originally aspired to replace Israel with a secular, democratic state in Palestine, the organization refashioned itself in 1990s as an Islamic movement, embracing the lexicon of jihad. Hundreds of mosques were built with public funds, and imams were hired to spread the message of martyrdom and the hatred of Christians and Jews. These themes became the staple of the official PA media, inciting the suicide bombings that began in 2000 and poisoning an entire generation of Palestinian youth. Ironically, the Islamization of Fatah legitimized Hamas and contributed to the cadres of religious extremists who are now defying its authority.

In addition to its fiscal malfeasance and Islamic radicalism, Fatah has never fulfilled its pledges to crack down on terror. Though Mahmoud Abbas routinely criticizes Palestinian terrorist attacks as “contrary to the Palestinian national interest” – not an affront to morality and international law – he has never disavowed the al-Aqsa Brigades, a Fatah affiliate responsible for some of the bloodiest attacks against Israeli civilians.

In the past, such assaults have served as a means of maintaining Fatah’s legitimacy as a resistance movement and countering charges that the organization sold out to America and Israel. In fact, a distinct correlation exists between the amount of support that Fatah receives from the West and its need to prove its “Palestinianess” through terror.

In view of its performance over the past 14 years, the Palestinian Authority under Fatah can be counted on to squander most or all of the vast sums now being given to it by the U.S. and the international community. More gunmen will be hired and better weapons procured, but in the absence of a unified command and a leadership worth fighting for, PA soldiers will perform no more credibly than they did in Gaza. Mr. Abbas will continue to denounce terror while ignoring the terrorist units within his own organization, while PA imams will persist in preaching their jihadist sermons.

In response, Israel will be precluded from lifting the checkpoints that not only block suicide bombers but hinder communication between Palestinian cities. Impeded by Palestinian attacks and Israeli countermeasures, the peace talks will inexorably grind to a halt. In the end, the Palestinian people will remain impoverished, divided and stateless, and more than ever amenable to the purist polity of Hamas.

If funding and empowering Fatah is not a viable option for the U.S., what other courses might the administration take? Clearly no progress toward Palestinian statehood can be made before Fatah has reformed itself financially, ideologically and structurally. Even under the most propitious circumstances this process is certain to take many years – longer if economic aid and political support are provided to the PA unconditionally. Similarly, proposals for containing Hamas’s influence by stationing an international force along the Gaza border are unlikely to succeed if for no other reason than Hamas’s avowed determination to resist such a deployment. Yet the need to combat Hamas and provide Palestinians with an attractive diplomatic horizon remains acute. There is, fortunately, an interim answer.

The U.S., together with its Quartet partners, can work to establish areas of extensive Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank. Within these districts, local Palestinian leaders will be fully empowered to manage all aspects of daily life including health, education and resource management. A national assembly, comprised of representatives from each district, will meet regularly to deliberate issues of West Bank-wide concern. Security, however, will be jointly administered by Israel and Jordan. The Jordanian involvement is crucial to convincing Palestinians that the status quo of occupation has ended and they may in the future assume full responsibility for their internal defense. Such an arrangement will benefit Jordan as well, by facilitating its efforts to fight radicalism and stem the flight of Palestinians over its borders.

Visiting Washington this week, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert described the Hamas conquest of Gaza as an opportunity for the Palestinians. This indeed may be the case, but not by resurrecting long-failed policies and imposing a state structure on a corrupt and incompetent Fatah. Doing so is tantamount to investing in the Titanic. Significant opportunities do, however, exist for policy makers – American, Israeli, and Palestinian – who are willing to consider new paradigms and incremental steps toward the realization of a durable peace.



Mahmoud Abbas is a fiction
By Israel Harel
June 21, 2007

George W. Bush and Ehud Olmert looked pathetic giving their “full backing” to the broken-down crutch that is Mahmoud Abbas. Contrary to the talk in Washington, nothing has changed to open a new opportunity for negotiations over a final settlement. It is impossible to hold talks with Abbas, just like it was impossible to hold talks in the past on any kind of arrangement, and certainly not on a permanent settlement. The Hamas victory in the Gaza Strip and the establishment of a “moderate” government in Ramallah do not divide the territory into Hamastan in the Gaza Strip and Fatahstan in Judea and Samaria. This is only another illusion in the basket of Israeli illusions – a fallacy that’s part of the same belief that there is an Arab leader (it used to be Yasser Arafat, and now it is Mahmoud Abbas) who wants to sign an agreement with us, and one that entails relinquishing the right of return and recognizing Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and Zionist state.

It is not only the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria and their leadership who do not recognize the right of Israel to exist as a state with a Jewish and Zionist character, but as a number of recently published documents have revealed, it is a view shared by entities representing the Arab citizens of Israel too.

The Palestinian government sworn in earlier this week is a fiction, even if the United States and Israel support it. In Ramallah, where this fictitious government sits, Hamas won a decisive victory in the last elections: four seats in parliament for Hamas, and only one for Fatah. In Nablus, four seats went to Hamas and two to Fatah. In Hebron: nine to Hamas and none for Fatah. In Jerusalem: four to Hamas and two for Fatah. In the cities of Judea and Samaria Hamas won 30 parliamentary seats. Fatah got only 12.

Given the circumstances, the new government does not represent the Palestinians – only Israeli illusions, and possibly also those of the Americans and the Europeans. The Israel Defense Forces cannot prevent the erosion of Fatah’s military power, and it is doubtful whether it is even worth investing efforts in such futility. The experience of recent years proves that our “allies,” Mohammad Dahlan among them, are only boisterous characters – corrupt and lacking any real power. They are certainly no ally of Israel.

In any case, Hamas will defeat them, and Israel should prepare well for the confrontation ahead. And in a confrontation of this nature, the various Dahlans would bring no benefit, only a burden.

Abbas’ men lost in the fight not because Hamas militants are more brutal or better trained. If Fatah could, it would have adopted the same methods. Hamas won because the vast majority of the Gaza Strip population supports it, and this is first and foremost support for the religious ideology of the movement, which calls for the destruction of the Zionist entity. And as the elections have shown, this call is shared by the vast majority in Judea and Samaria, the area which Israeli analysts and politicians have designated for a Fatah state.

Certainly since the elections, areas A and B have been controlled by Hamas. As the events in the Gaza Strip show, the fact that many countries around the world have opposed the Hamas regime did not weaken support for the group. While in Judea and Samaria, thanks to the “occupation,” Israel is able to prevent, and it is important that it prevent, some of the bloodletting, it is unable to prevent the weakening, and even the disappearence of Fatah as a significant force.

It is therefore time to let the truth out: Abbas is a fiction, and he cannot be saved.



Brothers to the bitter end
By Fouad Ajami
The New York Times
June 19, 2007

So the masked men of Fatah have the run of the West Bank while the masked men of Hamas have their dominion in Gaza. Some see this as a tolerable situation, maybe even an improvement, envisioning a secularist Fatah-run state living peacefully alongside Israel and a small, radical Gaza hemmed in by Israeli troops. It’s always tempting to look for salvation in disaster, but in this case it’s sheer fantasy.

The Palestinian ruin was a long time in coming. No other national movement has had the indulgence granted the Palestinians over the last half-century, and the results can be seen in the bravado and the senseless violence, in the inability of a people to come to terms with their condition and their needs.

The life of a Palestinian is one of squalor and misery, yet his leaders play the international game as though they were powers. An accommodation with Israel is imperative – if only out of economic self-interest and political necessity – but the Palestinians, in a democratic experiment some 18 months ago, tipped power to a Hamas movement whose very charter is pledged to the destruction of the Jewish state and the imposition of Islamist rule.

The political maxim that people get the leaders they deserve must be reckoned too cruel to apply to the Palestinians. Before Hamas, for four decades, the vainglorious Yasir Arafat refused to tell his people the basic truths of their political life. Amid the debacles, he remained eerily joyous; he circled the globe, offering his people the false sense that they could be spared the consequences of terrible decisions.

In a rare alignment of the universe, there came Mr. Arafat’s way in the late 1990s an American president, Bill Clinton, eager to redeem Palestinian claims and an Israeli soldier-statesman, Ehud Barak, who would offer the Palestinians all that Israeli political traffic could bear and then some.

But it was too much to ask of Mr. Arafat to return to his people with a decent and generous compromise, to bid farewell to the legend that the Palestinians could have it all “from the river to the sea.” It was safer for him to stay with the political myths of his people than to settle down for the more difficult work of statehood and political rescue.

For their part, the Arab states have only compounded the Palestinian misery. The Arab cavalry was always on the way, the Arab treasure was always a day away, and there was thus no need for the Palestinians to pay tribute to necessity. In recent years, the choice was starkly posed: it was either statehood or a starring role on Al Jazeera, and the young “boys of the stones” and their leaders opted for the latter.

After Mr. Arafat’s death, the mantle passed to a fairly decent man, Mahmoud Abbas, a leader for a post-heroic era. He is free of Mr. Arafat’s megalomania, and he seemed keen to cap the volcano; he promised, as he put it, “one law, one authority, one gun” in the Palestinian street. But he has never been a master of his world; by the time he had been given his political stewardship the culture of the Palestinian world had succumbed to a terrifying cult of violence.

It has long been a cherished legend of the Palestinians, and a proud claim, that they would not kill their own, that there would be no fratricide in their world. The cruelty we now see – in both Gaza and the West Bank – bears witness that the Palestinians have run through the consolations that had been there for them in a history of adversity.

It isn’t a pretty choice, that between Hamas and Fatah. Indeed, it was the reign of plunder and arrogance that Fatah imposed during its years of primacy that gave Hamas its power and room for maneuver. We must not overdo the distinction between the “secularism” of Fatah and the Islamism of Hamas. In the cruel streets and refugee camps of the Palestinians, this is really a distinction without a difference.

It is idle to think that Gaza could be written off as a Hamas dominion while Fatah held its own in the towns of the West Bank. The abdication and the anarchy have damaged both Palestinian realms. Nablus in the West Bank is no more amenable to reason than is Gaza; the writ of the pitiless preachers and gunmen is the norm in both places.

There is no way that a normal world could be had in the West Bank while Gaza goes under. There is no magic wand with which this Palestinian world could be healed and taught the virtues of realism and sobriety. No international peacekeeping force can bring order to the deadly streets and alleyways of Gaza. A population armed to the teeth and long in the throes of disorder can’t be pacified by outsiders.

For decades, Arab society granted the Palestinians everything and nothing at the same time. The Arab states built worlds of their own, had their own priorities, dreaded and loathed the Palestinians as outsiders and agitators, but left them to the illusion that Palestine was an all-consuming Arab concern.

Now the Palestinians should know better. The center of Arab politics has shifted from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf, a great political windfall has come to the lands of the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula, vast new wealth due to the recent rises in oil prices, while misery overwhelms the Palestinians. No Arabs wait for Palestine anymore; they have left the Palestinians to the ruin of their own history.

The rise of Hamas in Gaza should concentrate the minds of the custodians of power in the Arab world. Palestine, their old alibi, the cause with which they diverted the attention of their populations from troubles at home, has become a nightmare in its own right. An Arab debt is owed the Palestinians – the gift of truth and candor as well as material help.

Arab poets used to write reverential verse in praise of the boys of the stones and the suicide bombers. Now the poetry has subsided, replaced by a silent recognition of the malady that afflicts the Palestinians. Except among the most bigoted and willful of Arabs, there is growing acknowledgment of the depth of the Palestinian crisis. And aside from a handful of the most romantic of Israelis, there is a recognition in that society, as well, of the malignancy of the national movement a stone’s throw away.

The mainstream in Israel had made its way to a broad acceptance of Palestinian statehood. In the 1990s, Yitzhak Rabin, the soldier who had led its army into acquisition of the West Bank and Gaza in the Six-Day War of 1967, told his people that it was time to partition the land and to accept Palestinian sovereignty. It was an unsentimental peace, to “get Gaza out of Tel Aviv,” as Mr. Rabin put it, but it was peace nonetheless.

In varying degrees, all of Mr. Rabin’s successors accepted this legacy. There was even a current in Israel possessed of a deep curiosity about the Palestinians, a romance of sorts about their ways and folk culture and their connection to the sacred land. All this is stilled. Palestinian society has now gone where no “peace processors” or romantic poets dare tread.

(Fouad Ajami is, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies)



Let Palestine split into two
By Martin van Creveld
The Forward
June 12, 2007

Many divorces are bitter, and they rarely make for a pretty spectacle. Nevertheless, once the fireworks die down some of them end well. Quite often a divorce enables two people who cannot live together to go their separate ways, if not to achieve reconciliation then at any rate to find new partners and make a fresh start.

The ongoing hostilities in Gaza between Fatah and Hamas certainly do not a pretty spectacle make. On both sides, fighters are being shot

Meanwhile, a growing number of civilians – women and children included – are being caught in the crossfire. Wherever one looks, all one sees are villains and victims. In this entire bloody drama, the only heroes are the hospital workers, both local ones and those working for international agencies, trying to save whomever they can.

But while the pictures coming out of Gaza are grim indeed, out of the prevailing chaos a better future may yet emerge.

Although the West Bank and Gaza are inhabited by a people known as Palestinians, the two pieces of land form distinct entities and differ sharply from one another. The West Bank is less densely populated – a lower percentage of the people it contains are refugees – and socially and economically more developed. Before the outbreak of the second intifada, its economy was based partly on tourism. And to this day, it remains more open and less committed to religious extremism.

In contrast to the West Bank with its many holy places, Gaza is a godforsaken piece of land that has almost nothing to recommend it. Not only is it the most densely populated area in the world, but it also contains a higher percentage of penniless refugees living in squalid, overcrowded camps.

Socially and economically, Gaza is less developed than the West Bank. As the political and military strength of Hamas proves, its inhabitants seek to make up for these problems by embracing a more fundamentalist version of Islam.

In part, these differences reflect the fact that it was only fairly recently that the two areas came under the same government.

From 1948 until it was occupied by Israel in 1967, the West Bank was an integral part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Jordan granted citizenship to all West Bank residents, refugees included.

By contrast, Egypt, which ruled for the same 19 years over Gaza, never granted the strip’s inhabitants citizenship. Instead, Cairo kept Gazans under military government and did what it could to thwart their development.

Now that Fatah and Hamas are fighting one another in Gaza, most people in Israel and the West are hoping for hostilities to cease and for the two areas to be reunited under the authority of a single moderate government that can negotiate with Israel. In the long run, such an outcome is highly unlikely – but it is fair to ask whether it is even desirable.

Of all the obstacles to eventual peace in the Holy Land, perhaps the most troublesome one is the long-time Palestinian insistence upon the so-called right of return. The Israelis, who rightly see the realization of this demand as leading to the destruction of their state, cannot grant it. The Palestinian leadership, which claims authority not only over the residents of the West Bank and Gaza but also over that part of the Palestinian people which lives in refugee camps in the neighboring countries, is unable to give it up.

The result is deadlock that, apart from everything else, has bedeviled every attempt to reconcile Israelis and Palestinians – and seems destined to go on doing so for a long time to come.

Suppose, however, that the current fighting ends not with the reestablishment of a single “moderate” government, but with the West Bank and Gaza going their separate ways. In that case, Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah will rule the West Bank, and Ismail Haniya and Hamas will govern Gaza.

Neither Fatah nor Hamas would be able to speak – or even claim to speak – for the Palestinian people as a whole. Unable to speak for the Palestinian people as a whole, each of the two will find it easier, if not to stop insisting on the right of return, at least to put it aside for the time being.

The fighting in Gaza is not pretty; divorces rarely are. In the long run, however, it is at least conceivable that the war of Palestinian against Palestinian will lead to the removal of the single most important obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace. If so, then perhaps the blood currently flowing is not being shed altogether in vain.

(Martin van Creveld is a professor of military history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem)



Two states of destruction
By Cal Thomas
June 19, 2007

The Bush administration’s announced goal for Israel and the “Palestinian people” has been two states, living side by side in peace. The administration is two-thirds there. There are now two states – one in Gaza, headed by the militant Hamas organization, which shot its way to power; and another in the West Bank headed by accused Holocaust denier Mahmoud Abbas. Unfortunately for Israel, there is no peace, which should not surprise those who have been predicting exactly what is now coming to pass.

Whatever their names, be they groups like Hamas, Fatah, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and al-Qaida, or states like Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran, their objectives are identical: the annihilation of the democratic Jewish State and the elimination of all Jews, either by death or displacement, from the land. To argue otherwise and to continue believing the fiction that “infidel” diplomats from the State Department or European Union can magically transform people commanded to hate Jews and Israel based on a twisted mandate from their corrupt notion of God, is to be in extreme denial.

Hamas won’t stop with Gaza. After its victory over poorly directed Israeli forces in Lebanon last summer, why should it? The one thing terrorists understand is weakness. They perceive Israel, under Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, as weak and they are going for Israel’s jugular. Benyamin Elon, a conservative member of Israel’s Knesset, said, “The Fatah is diminishing in front of our eyes, and a group of gangsters is taking over. Israel can wake up now from the delusion of an independent Palestinian state.”

Will it, or will Olmert be passing out and swallowing, himself, more diplomatic sleeping pills during meetings this week with President Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and members of Congress? The violence and broken agreements are not being perpetrated by Israel. They are being perpetrated on Israel. It is mystifying why Western diplomats continue to pressure Israel to “do more” when “more” has brought Israel less.

Each time Israel gives up something necessary for its security, it receives in return more war, more terror and more insecurity. If more for less remains the “strategy” of the United States, then Israel has two choices: surrender now, or prepare for all-out war with catastrophic results.

Since President Bush laid out his “vision” for a two-state solution to Middle East turmoil four years ago this month, Israel has frozen expansion of Jewish communities beyond the armistice lines of 1949 (a major Palestinian demand). As Caroline Glick wrote in The Jerusalem Post, “Israel expelled all Israeli residents of Gaza and northern Samaria in order to render the areas Jew-free to the Palestinians.”

What was the Palestinian response to Israel’s construction halt? Did they suddenly embrace the two-state solution of peace and harmony with Israel? They did not. The Palestinians held elections in January 2006 and instead of picking leaders to make peace with Israel, they overwhelmingly voted in members of Hamas to head the Palestinian Authority. A flood tide of terrorists and arms subsequently flowed into Gaza.

The intentions of Hamas and other terrorist groups are not hidden. They openly proclaim what they intend to do and then they do it. Osama bin Laden said five years before Sept. 11, 2001, that he planned to attack the United States. Few took his statement seriously enough to eliminate him when they had the chance.

Those still in doubt or denial about what Israel’s (and America’s) enemies are planning might benefit from reading Jed Babbin’s new book, “In the Words of Our Enemies” (Regnery Publishing). In it, Babbin assembles what the Islamic terrorists, Chinese and North Korean communists and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez are saying they want to do to us. This quote from the al-Qaida training manual leaves no room for diplomacy: “The confrontation that Islam calls for with these godless and apostate regimes, does not know Socratic debates, Platonic ideals nor Aristotelian diplomacy. But it knows the dialogue of bullets, the ideals of assassination, bombing and destruction, and the diplomacy of the cannon and machine-gun.”

Anyone who questions the sincerity of such a statement is a fool. Apparently enough fools remain in leadership in Israel, the United States and Europe to encourage the killers to fight on until victory is attained.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.