Tuesday, December 06, 2005


From Israel: Arlene Kushner, December 6, 2005

From Israel

Arlene Kushner akushner@netvision.net.il
December 6, 2005

On the political front:

-- I had suspected as much when I wrote yesterday, but have since confirmed more definitively: Landau secured written commitments from Netanyahu re: certain policies before resigning and throwing his weight behind him (which means his election machinery will still be at work here). Tomorrow they will be holding a joint press conference.

There is considerable disappointment and disillusionment among right wing people who had hoped to see Landau pull it off -- there is even the suggestion that he "abandoned" them by not seeing the contest through to the end. I see it differently: What Landau did is further indication of his integrity -- he put what he perceived to be the interests of party and nation ahead of his own. Question of the week: Will Netanyahu, if he wins, keep his promises to Landau? Does having them in writing bind him more firmly?

One correction from yesterday: I had spoken about Defense Minister Mofaz receiving support from Sharon's party machine in Likud. Mofaz certainly has been Sharon's boy. But seems that it is Foreign Minister Shalom who is being assisted in that way.

Finance Minister Ehud Olmert, who is Sharon's second in Kadima, said yesterday, "I don't want to intervene in the affairs of another party, but if someone were to ask me, I would say that Shalom is the candidate with whom Sharon will best be able to work and form a coalition after the elections." Well... of course he doesn't want to intervene in the affairs of another party. He would never dream of doing that!

The principle is the same, however -- if the man Sharon's people in Likud promote gets to head Likud, Sharon, for all practical purposes, will be running two parties. A very very good reason for Landau to give Netanyahu the boost that hopefully will keep him ahead.

-- Here's a very sad example of politicians not capable of putting the broader interests of the nation ahead of narrow concerns. The news is that negotiations between National Union and National Religious Party re: a joint list for the election have broken down completely. They were close, but couldn't make it happen. I will not repeat here all the stories of why it happened, because that depends on who you ask -- disagreement about who should head the list, about what issues would be uppermost, etc. etc. At this time of crisis I had hoped for greater cooperation and willingness to make concessions, but maybe my expectations were not realistic.

[] I recommend a very insightful, significant and tell-it-like-it is column, "Too Late for Abbas," by Barry Rubin, who is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs.

In a word, says Rubin, evidence of the collapse of the PA grows stronger, and it is likely to lose the elections in January if they are not cancelled.

One of the PA's current problems, ironically, is the opening of the Rafah Crossing under exclusive PA control. This was supposed to be a big victory for the PA and garner it further support. But there are a couple of problems with this. First, Hamas claims that the PA was able to achieve this only because their terrorism succeeded -- and so it is Hamas gaining further credibility in the street. And then, it is Hamas bringing in terrorists and weapons. While they are primarily for use against Israel, they could be used against the PA itself -- that is, the balance of power is not only shifting, it may already have shifted so far that it would be impossible for the PA to take out Hamas even if it wanted to. The Islamist militants are actually setting the agenda now and intimidating anyone advocating moderation.

What is more, the instability in Gaza created by this situation has driven away potential foreign investors.

Writes Rubin:

"Could it possibly be clearer that Abbas is the Palestinian leader in name only and is incapable of negotiating any agreement with Israel or implementing anything he promises?
"WHAT DOES it say that the most popular forces in Palestinian politics are Hamas and Fatah hardliners who engage in terrorism and insist that military force not diplomacy is the way to reach their goal? What does it signify that the big winner in Jenin, Jamal Abu Rob, who chose "Hitler" as his nom de guerre, is another terrorist leader?
"The answer is this: moderates have no chance of leading the Palestinians; there is no prospect of progress toward a negotiated peace for many years."

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