* If you thought Fatah was a moderate organization, think again
* Fatah’s veteran General Secretary: PA President Abbas helped “murder” Yasser Arafat
* Abbas wins re-election in one-candidate race at Fatah conference
* Fatah declare Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (terrorist group) its official armed wing
* Saudi King: Palestinian disunity more dangerous than Israel
* Palestinian Authority bans Al-Jazeera TV
* Fatah leader admits: Fatah is full of thieves
* Gaza militants fire at Palestinian patients heading into Israel
* With 90% of the votes counted as this dispatch is being posted, the so-called “young guard” appear to have made advances within Fatah
* Jewish Fatah member seeks key position on Fatah Revolutionary Council
* In a lead editorial, The Washington Post writes: “One of the more striking results of the Obama administration’s first six months is that only one country has worse relations with the United States than it did in January: Israel. The new administration has pushed a reset button with Russia and sent new ambassadors to Syria and Venezuela; it has offered olive branches to Cuba and Burma. But for nearly three months it has been locked in a public confrontation with Israel… The tensions persist, and public opinion is following: The Pew Global Attitudes Project reported last week that Israel was the only country surveyed where the public’s image of the United States was getting worse rather than better… If he is to be effective in brokering a peace deal, Mr. Obama must be tough on more than one country, or one party to the conflict.”
Although this dispatch is fairly long, I would urge subscribers to this list, particularly those who work in the media as news and comment editors, and those who work at foreign ministries in various countries, to read it in full.
It concerns the Fatah General Assembly which has been continuing for the past week in Bethlehem, and is central to understanding why Israeli-Palestinian peace remains so elusive. All this has been woefully underreported in the Western media. Instead, the BBC, for example, has been running yet more distorted reports about Israel last week, deluding themselves and their viewers that Fatah is a moderate party committed to compromise -- Tom Gross
1. Fatah convenes for first time in 20 years
2. As Fatah radicalizes, peace prospects dim
3. Abbas wins re-election in one-candidate race
4. Delegates arrive from around the Arab world, while Hamas blocks many
5. Al-Aqsa terrorists appointed to Fatah Security Force
6. The “armed wing” of Fatah
7. Israel allows wanted men to participate at Fatah conference
8. Fatah delegates ask party leadership: “Where’s the money”?
9. Fatah leader admits: Fatah is full of thieves
10. Update: Upsets in Fatah election: Quriea out, Barghouthi in
11. Washington Post editorial: Obama’s over-pressuring of Israel is proving counterproductive
12. Fatah calls Qaddoumi “deranged” after he says Abbas helped kill Arafat
13. Palestinian Authority bans Al-Jazeera TV
14. Fatah: We’ll “sacrifice victims” until Jerusalem is ours
15. Tirawi: Fatah and the PA should be separate entities
16. Jewish Fatah member seeks key position on Fatah Revolutionary Council
17. Israeli MK Ahmed Tibi: Israeli Arabs are Palestinians
18. Former PA minister: Fatah should ally with Iran
19. Saudi King: Palestinian disunity more dangerous than Israel
20. Jordan and Kuwait join Saudis in Obama rebuff
21. Once vaunted, Marwan Barghouthi is rarely mentioned at Fatah congress
22. Gaza militants fire at Palestinian patients heading into Israel
[All notes below by Tom Gross]
FATAH CONVENES FOR FIRST TIME IN 20 YEARS
Some 2,260 delegates from Fatah, the largest Palestinian political party, are in the West Bank town of Bethlehem for their first conference in over two decades. Fatah’s last conference was held in 1989 in Tunis, under Yasser Arafat’s leadership.
The conference opened last Tuesday and was supposed to continue for three days. But it has since been extended and is still in progress. About half the delegates are from West Bank and the others have come from as far away as Yemen and the United States.
They include figures as diverse as Sari Nusseibeh, an intellectual from Jerusalem who has said that the Palestinians should not carry out suicide bombings on Israeli civilians, and Khaled Abu Asba, who took part in a notorious attack in 1978 in which an Israeli commuter bus was hijacked and 37 Israeli civilians were killed, including 12 children.
(Abu Asba was arrested by Israel and sentenced to 12 life sentences, but was released after seven years as part of a (horrendous) prisoner exchange agreement. During the Fatah conference, former PA Prime Minister Abu Ala welcomed Abu Asba and referred to him as one of the heroes of the Palestinian people. Click below to view the Fatah conference applaud Abu Asba.)
Though delegates unanimously endorsed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as the party leader, the conference has been extended several days beyond the scheduled finish on because of delegates’ inability to resolve disputes.
Since they are using European and American taxpayers’ money to pay for the conference, and are enjoying plush accommodation and fancy meals, they are in no particular hurry to go home.
Like Soviet communist party meetings of old, the greeting rituals among the more than 2,000 Fatah delegates who came to Bethlehem for the convention lasted for hours. Sometimes they gave each other three kisses on the cheek, sometimes more.
In scenes reminiscent of the last Fatah conference 20 years ago, old slogans such as “Revolution until victory,” “Long live Palestine” and “Fatah will liberate Palestine” were parroted by almost all the speakers who took to the podium.
A huge banner in the conference hall showed a boy in a military uniform, toting a Kalashnikov assault rifle, with the slogan, “Resistance [i.e. terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians] is a legitimate right of our people.” A leaflet passed out among delegates was headlined: “Until the Zionist entity is wiped out”.
The decision to hold the conference in Bethlehem came after many Arab countries, including Syria, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, turned down requests by the Fatah leadership to host the gathering.
AS FATAH RADICALIZES, PEACE PROSPECTS DIM
Of great concern for those of us who would like to see the emergence of a responsible Palestinian party that could form an independent Palestinian state that would live in peace with Israel, the extremely hardline pronouncements and resolutions adopted by Fatah over the last week show that it has still not made the transition from a guerrilla movement in exile bent on destroying Israel to a political party charged with establishing Palestinian self-rule.
Among its resolutions of recent days, the Fatah assembly on Sunday approved a political platform that emphasized the Palestinians’ right “to resist occupation in all forms including armed struggle” (i.e. suicide bombings). A report by Reuters added that President Abbas personally insisted on this.
Another resolution stated that Fatah will not give up the armed struggle until all the descendants of those claiming to be of Palestinian Arab origin can live inside Israel (which would essentially mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state). A further resolution explicitly said Fatah would oppose recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.
In other words, in spite of misreports by apologists for Fatah in the Western media, Fatah made it clear it is still not willing to accept the principle of two states for two peoples: a predominantly Jewish state and a predominantly Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace.
The concessions Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made since taking office (which Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair last month praised as substantial*) and the pressure U.S. President Barack Obama has been placing on Israel appear merely to have further radicalized Fatah, rather than make them willing to countenance compromise, as Obama had hoped. As outlined further down in this dispatch, there have instead been growing calls in Fatah for a return to terrorism and the forging of a “strategic alliance” with Iran’s dictatorial regime.
(* Blair also said that Israel was not receiving sufficient credit in the international community for its many recent measures to ease conditions for the Palestinian population in the West Bank, such as the removal of roadblocks and checkpoints. U.S. Special Envoy Senator George Mitchell also praised the other “meaningful and positive measures” Israel has taken to improve the quality of life for Palestinians in the West Bank.)
Furthermore the Fatah General Assembly decreed on Saturday that the placing of both east and west Jerusalem under Palestinian control is a “red line” that is non-negotiable.
In addition to showing no signs of moderation toward Israel, the Fatah conference disappointed many Palestinians by failing to implement reforms to root out the corruption and cronyism which are rife in the movement. It seems Fatah remains part of the problem, not part of the solution.
FATAH: ISRAELI CITIES ARE PALESTINE
In a program on Palestinian Authority TV in the run up to the conference, high school graduates at an official Fatah ceremony were shown chanting “Haifa and Jaffa are Palestine”. (Haifa is Israel’s third biggest city and Jaffa is a suburb of Tel Aviv.)
The sign on stage behind the children read: “Tribute to high school graduates under the auspices of Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah.” The ceremony ended with the children chanting: “We are all seekers of martyrdom”. (i.e. potential suicide bombers).
ABBAS WINS RE-ELECTION IN ONE-CANDIDATE RACE
Mahmoud Abbas was unanimously re-elected to his position as head of the Fatah movement at the group’s congress in Bethlehem on Saturday. There was no vote taken because no other Fatah member dared challenge Abbas’ five-year rule of the party.
Hundreds of delegates cheered and clapped as the conference chairman announced that Abbas was chosen to lead the party. Technically Abbas can only lead the party for five years, until a new conference is announced, but this is the first time Fatah members have met in 20 years, so it isn’t clear how long his mandate will last.
In remarks which are of concern to Israel, and ought to be of concern to the Obama administration and all those European governments that delude themselves that Abbas is a moderate, Abbas refused to denounce violence and told delegates that Fatah may again engage in “armed resistance,” a euphemism for suicide bombs against Israeli buses, shopping centers, cafes and movie theaters.
The New York Times (on Sunday August 9, 2009) ran a fairly short item at the bottom of page 8 headed “Palestinians Elect Leader, Unopposed, as Party Chief”. Other papers virtually ignored the conference altogether, as did BBC World News, which wouldn’t want to give the impression that “moderate” Fatah might not actually believe in peace with Israel.
DELEGATES ARRIVE FROM ARAB WORLD, WHILE HAMAS BLOCKS MANY
646 members competed for seats on the 120-seat Revolutionary Council, while another 150 ran for the 21-seat Central Committee, Fatah’s two most important decision-making bodies.
Hundreds of Fatah officials from different Arab countries, including Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Egypt, arrived in Bethlehem to attend the long-delayed convention.
A handful of Fatah members from the Gaza Strip also arrived in the city, saying they managed to avoid Hamas checkpoints and slip out of Gaza disguised as laborers and women. Ghalia Abu Sitta, a veteran member of Fatah, said she fled the Gaza Strip on a donkey cart.
Hamas refused to allow most Fatah members to leave Gaza, placing many Fatah convention delegates under house arrest. Some Fatah delegates complained that Hamas had also confiscated their cell phones and personal computers to prevent them from casting their ballots online.
AL-AQSA TERRORISTS APPOINTED TO FATAH SECURITY FORCE
In a move of great concern to Israel (and one which should be of great concern to all those who oppose terrorism), the conference also endorsed the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades as Fatah’s official armed wing.
The endorsement of the group as Fatah’s official armed wing contradicts repeated promises made by the Fatah leadership under various agreements it has signed with Israel and the U.S. to dismantle the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
Zakariya Zubeidi, one of the commanders of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades hailed the decision at a speech at the conference over the weekend. He called on Fatah to resume its “program of resistance” (i.e. suicide bombings) against Israel. Zubeidi previously headed the Jenin branch of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, responsible for sending dozens of suicide bombers into Israel.
It seems that all those efforts by U.S. General Dayton to arm and train the “moderate” gunmen that were ostensibly going to clean up the PA’s security forces are now in jeopardy.
Asked by a Palestinian journalist for his views on the continuing security and military training the U.S. is supplying to the PA, Zubeidi smiled and said: “I am happy. In case there is a future war, we will have some people who will be well trained.”
Fatah spokesman Fahmi Al-Za’arir stated: “It is not possible to rule out or to marginalize the military option. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are the jewel in Fatah’s crown. We must strengthen their status ... [and] maintain them in a state of alert.
“We know that every warrior has a period of rest – and also we know that this does not mean the end of the national battle, but only a wait to obtain the goals, and to give the leadership sufficient opportunity for political activity.”
And in an interview, another Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades activist, Kifah Radaydeh, said the PA would resume violence against Israel when Fatah is “capable,” and “according to what seems right... It has been said that we are negotiating for peace, but our goal has never been peace. Peace is a means; the goal is Palestine.”
THE “ARMED WING” OF FATAH
Among the dozens of deadly terror attacks carried out in recent years by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Israeli civilians, including many children, are:
The Yeshivat Beit Yisrael massacre (which killed 10 Israelis), the King George Street bombing in Jerusalem, the Jerusalem supermarket bombing in Kiryat Yovel, the Allenby Street coffee shop bombing in Tel Aviv (see my Wall Street Journal article for more on this), the Ben Yehuda Market bombing in Jerusalem, the Petah Tikva shopping mall massacre, the French Hill Junction massacre, the Tel Aviv central bus station massacre (in which several African and Filipino migrants were among the 23 killed), the Kfar Sava train station bombing, the Mike’s Place suicide bombing in Tel Aviv (carried out jointly with British terrorists of Pakistani origin), the Rehavia Jerusalem bus massacre, the Liberty Bell Garden bombing, the Ashdod Port massacre, the Tel Aviv sea promenade bombing, the Beersheba Central Bus Station bombing, the Kdumim bombing, the Tel Aviv Old Central Bus Station bombing, the Eilat bakery bombing, and last year’s Dimona suicide bombing.
Are Fatah really “moderates” as many international news organizations and U.S. State Department officials claim?
ISRAEL ALLOWS WANTED MEN TO PARTICIPATE AT FATAH CONFERENCE
Israel has permitted scores of Fatah operatives who participated in terror attacks against Israeli civilians to enter the West Bank to attend the conference.
Speaking at the Knesset in Jerusalem last week, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel was not interfering with the Fatah convention and that it had facilitated the arrival of as many delegates as it could to the convention because it was important that the platform produced by the delegates be representative of a wide range of views. Yesterday, however, Barak said that “the rhetoric coming from Fatah and the positions being expressed are grave and unacceptable to us.”
And in remarks delivered elsewhere, Israeli President Shimon Peres said that even though the Fatah convention speakers were “competing to see who makes the most extremist statements,” the Palestinians must remember that like Israel, “they must stay committed to the Road Map and the path of negotiations.”
Using harsher language, Israel’s Information Minister Yuli Edelstein (Likud) said the resolutions passed at the Fatah congress in Bethlehem amounted to “a declaration of war.”
“We must not act as if we haven’t heard,” he said. “We must emerge from the circle of illusions that these are moderates who want peace. They explicitly say that they support continuing the armed struggle.”
“Our main task is to act in the international arena and explain the difference between dreams and reality,” he added. “This is Fatah we are talking about, those who the international community is allegedly pushing us to trust with our security.”
Edelstein’s remarks followed a warning issued by former Shin Bet chief, Knesset Member Avi Dichter (of the center-left Kadima party), who said that the radical calls made at the Fatah conference could lead to a third intifada.
FATAH DELEGATES ASK PARTY LEADERSHIP: “WHERE’S THE MONEY”?
The second day of the Fatah conference was marked by a stormy debate on the financial status of the organization. Delegates said they were alarmed to find that there were no financial reports prepared by party leaders. Fatah Chairman Mahmoud Abbas had to leave meetings he was holding on the sidelines of the main assembly to quell quarrels between the delegates and the party’s central committee.
Some members accuse Abbas of protecting members of the central committee who have been accused of corruption, fraud and mismanagement. The Palestinians have received more foreign aid per capita than any other people in the world. Billions of dollars of European and American taxpayers’ money have been siphoned off to Swiss banks by Fatah leaders over the years.
Hatem Abdel Kader, a senior Fatah official who represents the party’s “young guard,” said he and many of his colleagues had determined that it was almost impossible to run for places on the 120-seat Revolutionary Council against veteran officials who have “unlimited resources and funding.”
In any case, days before the conference was opened, Fatah’s Young Guard were surprised to discover that Mahmoud Abbas and his old guard colleagues had already selected more than half of the delegates who were invited to the meeting, to ensure Abbas loyalists maintained control.
Taisir Nasrallah, a delegate from the Balata refugee camp in Nablus, said he felt “overwhelming anger” among the younger members against the traditional leadership.
“We are led by 75-year-olds, and their experience is the experience of the Cold War,” said Muhueeb Awwad, a 45-year-old parliament member from Fatah. “We are post-Arafat and post-liberation movement.”
FATAH LEADER ADMITS: FATAH IS FULL OF THIEVES
Nabil Amr, the Palestinian ambassador to Egypt, made a remarkably frank acknowledgement about the Fatah leadership during a visit to the northern West Bank town of Qalqilya last month. “Fatah is full of thieves, spies and corrupt people, enough to destroy any country,” said Amr, 61.
UPDATE: UPSETS IN FATAH ELECTION: QURIEA OUT, BARGHOUTHI IN
With 90 percent of the votes counted as I post this dispatch, preliminary results released this morning (Tuesday, August 11) seem to show that Fatah’s “old guard” may have suffered upsets in the election for the movement’s highest decision-making body, the Central Committee.
According to Palestine TV, only four of eight incumbents have a good chance of keeping their seats: Abu Maher Ghneim, Salim Za’noun, Tayyib Abdul Rahim, and Nabil Sha’ath.
Several of the so-called “young guard” (who are aged about 50, so they are in fact not that young) appear to be set to replace several “old guard” Fatah members, most of whom are in their 70s.
Highlighting tensions between Fatah and their Hamas rivals, a Hamas loyalist was found tortured to death yesterday evening in a prison run by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank city of Nablus.
WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL: OBAMA’S OVER-PRESSURING OF ISRAEL IS PROVING COUNTERPRODUCTIVE
In a lead editorial last week (titled “Tough on Israel”), The Washington Post wrote:
“One of the more striking results of the Obama administration’s first six months is that only one country has worse relations with the United States than it did in January: Israel. The new administration has pushed a reset button with Russia and sent new ambassadors to Syria and Venezuela; it has offered olive branches to Cuba and Burma. But for nearly three months it has been locked in a public confrontation with Israel over Jewish housing construction in Jerusalem… and [over] Iran [policy].
“… The tensions persist, and public opinion is following: The Pew Global Attitudes Project reported last week that Israel was the only country among 25 surveyed where the public’s image of the United States was getting worse rather than better.
“… The administration also is guilty of missteps. Rather than pocketing Mr. Netanyahu’s initial concessions … Mr. Obama [ratched up the pressure and] Palestinian and Arab leaders who had accepted previous compromises immediately hardened their positions; they also balked at delivering the “confidence-building” concessions to Israel that the administration seeks. Israeli public opinion has [now] rallied behind Mr. Netanyahu. And Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, which were active during the Bush administration’s final year, have yet to resume.
“… If he is to be effective in brokering a peace deal, Mr. Obama will need to show both sides that they can trust him – and he must be tough on more than one country.”
FATAH CALLS QADDOUMI “DERANGED” AFTER HE SAYS ABBAS HELPED KILL ARAFAT
Fatah’s veteran General Secretary, Farouk Qaddoumi, has accused PA President Mahmoud Abbas and former PA security chief Mohammed Dahlan of being accomplices in the “assassination” of Yasser Arafat.
In response, Fatah condemned Qaddoumi as “deranged” and “hysterical” and vowed to expel him from the organization. Qaddoumi is not attending the conference and has not been nominated for a place on the Central Committee or the Fatah Revolutionary Council.
The committee said that Qaddoumi was a man suffering from a “sick mind” and was renowned for his “fabrications” and “hallucinations.”
Qaddoumi, who is refusing to attend the Fatah conference, made his remarks at a news conference in the Jordanian capital of Amman shortly before the Fatah conference began. He said Abbas had worked in collusion with U.S. intelligence to assassinate Arafat.
Lashing out at Abbas, Qaddoumi accused him of stealing some of Arafat’s titles and of establishing an autocratic regime in the Palestinian territories.
“The man (Abbas) has fallen in love with titles used by President Arafat,” Qaddoumi said. “First he asked to be named overall commander of the Palestinian revolution and then the exiled president of Palestine.”
Arafat died in a Paris hospital in 2004, as a result of illness. The BBC’s then Middle East correspondent Barbra Plett infamously admitting crying on air so upset was she by Arafat’s passing.
For more on Arafat’s life and legacy, please see these articles and photo collages:
PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY BANS AL-JAZEERA TV
The Palestinian Authority banned Al-Jazeera from operating in its territories after the Qatari-based satellite channel repeatedly aired the accusations by Farouk Qaddoumi that Abbas had helped “murder” Arafat. (See the item above.)
The Palestinian Information Ministry also ordered Al-Jazeera’s West Bank offices closed, accusing them of “incitement and false information.”
The Fatah-led Palestinian Authority is engaged in a running feud with Al-Jazeera, accusing it of biased reporting in favor of its Islamist rivals Hamas.
Al-Jazeera is the news network of choice for Palestinians according to the independent Palestinian Ma’an news agency.
Meanwhile, Israel, which provides one of the most open environments in the world for journalists to operate in, continues to afford Al-Jazeera and other Arab satellite networks full operational access. (Incidentally, I watched Al-Jazeera’s English network every day last week, and it continues to be far more balanced in its coverage of Israel than the BBC, whose distortion of events concerning Israel is becoming worse and worse. Al-Jazeera’s Arab-language network on the other hand, is as bad as the BBC.)
FATAH: WE’LL “SACRIFICE VICTIMS” UNTIL JERUSALEM IS OURS
The status of Jerusalem as the future capital of a Palestinian state is a red line that no Palestinian leader is permitted to cross, Fatah declared at the conference on Saturday.
The conference also adopted a position paper which states that the Palestinian national enterprise will not reach fruition until all of Jerusalem, including the outlying villages, comes under Palestinian sovereignty.
“Fatah will continue to sacrifice victims until Jerusalem will be in Palestinian hands, clean of [Jews],” the paper states.
The paper does not make a distinction between the eastern and western halves of Israel’s capital, nor does it distinguish between the territories within the Israeli side of the Green Line and the areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.
TIRAWI: FATAH AND THE PA SHOULD BE SEPARATE ENTITIES
Tawfiq Tirawi, a delegate to Fatah’s conference in Bethlehem, said in an interview with the independent Palestinian Ma’an news agency that Fatah and the Palestinian Authority ought to operate as separate entities.
“It’s essential that we separate the [Palestinian] Authority and the Fatah movement,” Tirawi said, adding, “Fatah has never had contact with the [Israeli] occupation. Negotiations have been between the PA and Israel.”
It is unclear whether Tirawi is proposing the revolutionary idea that a future Palestine should not be yet another one party Arab state, or whether his remarks were merely a ruse designed to allow Fatah to continue a campaign of incitement and violence against Israel while the PA negotiates with it.
In separate remarks during an interview on Al-Filistiniya TV, Tirawi, who is a security advisor to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said that “thousands of martyrs are needed to capture Jerusalem.”
JEWISH FATAH MEMBER SEEKS KEY POSITION ON FATAH REVOLUTIONARY COUNCIL
The Associated Press put out a story yesterday titled “Jewish Fatah member seeks key position,” about Israeli professor Uri Davis, who on Sunday presented his candidacy for Fatah’s Revolutionary Council at the group’s conference in Bethlehem.
The 66-year-old Israeli academic is an outspoken critic of his country and identifies himself as a Palestinian citizen of what he calls “the apartheid state of Israel.”
In fact, though the AP says Davis is Jewish, news reports indicate Davis recently converted* to Islam and married Fatah campaigner Miyassar Abu-Ali. As Jerusalem Post columnist Sarah Honig put it, “Thus someone who couldn’t abide religion, especially Jewish, swore allegiance to Allah as his God and to Muhammad as his prophet.”
Davis, who was born to Jewish parents in Jerusalem, has long been one of the most active campaigners among far-left Israeli academics against the existence of Israel. He is a regular source of information for a number of anti-Israeli NGOs in Europe.
He already serves as a Fatah-affiliated observer member of the Palestinian National Council, to which he was appointed by the late Yasser Arafat in 1984.
* In August 2008 the editor of www.israel-academia-monitor.com, who subscribes to this email list, tells me she received the following note from Dr. Uri Davis:
On 6.11.2007 I officially assumed the religion of Islam by citing the two required SHAHADAs (La Illah Illa Allah wa-Muhammad Rasul Allah) before the SHARI’A Court in the city of Baqa al-Gharbiyya, as a measure of defense of my relationship with the FATAH activist who was to become my wife. Sincerely, Uri Davis (Dr), P O Box 99, Sakhnin 20173, Israel.
ISRAELI MK AHMED TIBI: ISRAELI ARABS ARE PALESTINIANS
Speaking at Fatah’s general assembly in Bethlehem, Ahmed Tibi, an Arab-Israeli Member of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) made flagrantly anti-Israeli remarks and also said that Israeli Arabs were an “inseparable” part of the Palestinian people.
Tibi is an MK for the UAL-Ta’al party. Another UAL-Ta’al MK Taleb A-Sanaa as well as MK Muhammad Barakei from the Hadash party attended the Fatah conference. Some in the international media like to avoid reporting that there are Arab and Druze MKs in many Israeli parties, including the Likud, since it would put paid to the lie they propagate about “apartheid Israel”.
FORMER PA MINISTER: FATAH SHOULD ALLY WITH IRAN
The time has come for Fatah to seek a strategic alliance with Iran just as Hamas has done, the movement’s Jerusalem affairs liaison Hatim Abdul Qader told Ma’an at the Fatah conference on Saturday.
The more secular Fatah downgraded relations with Iran after its Islamic Revolution in 1979. Qader said it was clear Iran was the rising power in the region as American, Israeli and Egyptian influence declined and it was of “strategic importance” for Fatah to ally itself with Iran, which “will soon have nuclear weapons”.
Abdul Qader also claimed that former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami was one of the few leaders in the region who supported former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s rejection of Israeli peace proposals at Camp David in 2000, unlike many other Arab regimes.
Last month, the PLO’s top negotiator, Saeb Erekat, met with Iran’s foreign minister for the first time in Egypt. Erekat told Ma’an he spoke with Manouchehr Mottaki about reconciliation talks, national unity, and other regional and Palestinian issues.
SAUDI KING: PALESTINIAN DISUNITY MORE DANGEROUS THAN ISRAEL
Saudi King Abdullah has sent a letter to Palestinian President Abbas warning that disunity was a greater danger to the Palestinian people than the Israeli “enemy.” He wrote that the Hamas-Fatah split was “more detrimental not only to Palestinians themselves, but to the potential of creating a Palestinian state than anything [Israel] has done.”
“The arrogant and criminal enemy was not able, during years of continued aggression, to hurt the Palestinian cause as much as the Palestinians hurt their cause themselves in the past few months,” Abdullah said in the letter, published by the Saudi Press Agency last week.
Saudi Arabia has been criticized by the U.S. recently for “failing to adequately cooperate in restarting peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.” In a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier this month, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal rejected U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell’s plan for “incrementalist peace.” Mitchell has proposed gradual confidence-building measures from Arab countries, not only one-sided concessions by Israel.
JORDAN AND KUWAIT JOIN SAUDIS IN OBAMA REBUFF
Both Jordan and Kuwait have joined Saudi Arabia in rejecting calls for any moves towards “normalizing” ties with Israel. The Kuwaiti emir and Jordanian foreign minister both dismissed calls by Obama’s Special Middle East Envoy George Mitchell for confidence-building actions with Israel ahead of peace negotiations. The rebuffs follows last week’s statement by the Saudi foreign minister that only when a Palestinian state has been formed would the Saudis be interested in engaging in normalization talks.
The UAE, Syria and Egypt had already rejected Mitchell’s request that they too show some goodwill towards Israel. Since Benjamin Netanyahu assumed the Israeli premiership in April, his government has made substantive concessions to the Palestinians, removing many roadblocks at which would-be Palestinian terrorists had previously been caught en route to Israel, destroying Jewish settlement outposts, recognizing the right of the Palestinians to have an independent state, and helping to plan a new Palestinian city near Ramallah.
The idea of gestures of normalization from Arab states to Israel is a central component in the Obama administration’s plan for reviving the Mideast peace process. It is thought that confidence-building measures would create a climate conducive to the successful outcome of Israeli-Arab peace talks. While both Israeli President Shimon Peres and Netanyahu consistently offer to meet Arab leaders, most Arab leaders refuse.
Many analysts (though not the ones regularly invited as studio guests by CNN) believe that the Obama administration’s pressure on Israel is merely leading to a hardening of Arab positions, not the gestures of compromise Obama had hoped for.
Sources in Washington tell me that Obama officials are now (finally) beginning to appreciate that Israel is not the party to blame for the lack of progress towards Middle East peace. They are disappointed that the administration’s intensive work over the last few months has essentially gotten nowhere.
“It is clear that Israel’s ability to move forward in the peace process will be more limited if the Arab world takes a decision to remain aloof,” one source said.
ONCE VAUNTED, MARWAN BARGHOUTHI IS RARELY MENTIONED AT FATAH CONGRESS
Ma’an reports from Bethlehem: “The name of Marwan Barghouthi, the Fatah leader jailed by Israel for his actions during the second Palestinian Intifada, is rarely heard at the Fatah congress in Bethlehem. It was expected that the charismatic Barghouthi, once mentioned as a possible successor to President Abbas, would be the subject of much discussion in the proceedings.
“Instead, when Barghouthi released a lengthy statement to Palestinian newspapers this morning, the document was not even circulated in the conference hall in Bethlehem.
“Barghouthi plans to enter his name as a candidate for Fatah’s highest decision-making body, the Central Committee. His wife, the lawyer Fadwa Barghouthi, is running for the second highest body, the Revolutionary Council.”
Tom Gross adds: Barghouthi is serving multiple life sentences in an Israeli jail for the murders of Israeli men, women and children, and for the shooting of a black-clad Greek orthodox priest who he mistook for an orthodox Jew.
UPDATE: Marwan Barghouthi was elected to a top post in Fatah’s Central Committee, initial results showed on Tuesday morning (August 11, 2009).
GAZA MILITANTS FIRE AT PALESTINIAN PATIENTS HEADING INTO ISRAEL
The Associated Press reported yesterday:
Gaza militants fired mortars at a crossing into Israel just as Palestinian patients were being transferred for treatment on Sunday, a Palestinian official said. “It’s a miracle nobody was hurt,” Health Ministry official Dr. Moaiya Hassanain said.
Two radical Palestinian groups, the Popular Front and the Democratic Front, said they fired 12 mortars at the Erez crossing. The Israel Defense Forces said about six shells exploded near the Erez crossing as the transfer was in progress.
During the afternoon, Israeli forces also uncovered an improvised explosive device (IED) in the belongings of a Palestinian boy at the Awarta crossing, south of Nablus in the West Bank. The IED was detonated in a controlled manner by Israeli sappers.
[All notes above by Tom Gross]