Thursday, December 01, 2005


From Israel: Arlene Kushner, November 30, 2005

From Israel

Arlene Kushner

November 30, 2005

[] The political scene here is like musical chairs, with people leaving their parties and joining others. I will not share this in any detail -- the details would probably bore most of you. Should anything of consequence happen, I will do my best to report it.

[] Yet another look at the surreal manner in which the PA is functioning:

-- The PA newspaper al-Hayat al-Jadeeda is reporting that one man in the PA who participated in the Fatah primaries voted 30 times.

-- Saeb Erakat, PA Chief negotiator, who is in Washington, expressed concern to reporters that Israel might try to assassinate candidates running in the PA legislative elections in January. Apparently he asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to help "protect us from any Israeli attempt to sabotage the elections with assassination."According to Arutz 7, Rice told Erakat that there is a "fundamental contradiction" in allowing Hamas and other terrorist organizations to field candidates.

-- The PA doesn't seem terribly concerned with this "fundamental contradiction," however. Hamas has now announced that some of its top candidates for the legislative elections are serving time in Israeli prisons. Among the candidates being fielded by Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine are people in prison here for their part in the assassination of Minister Rehavam Ze'evi. Even Fatah has its jailed candidate: Marwan Barghouti -- who won in primaries in the Ramallah district.
I see it coming: Terrorists in prison here will win seats in the PA legislature and then the PA will yell to the world that we are inhibiting the democratic process by refusing to release these people.

[] Israeli is considerably anxious about what's moving across borders in our region these days.

-- The movement of people with terrorist associations (and undoubtedly weapons along with them) between Egypt and Gaza via the Rafah crossing that the PA now controls is so disturbing that Defense Minister made a statement about this today:

"If it doesn't improve and the Palestinians don't cooperate [in Rafah] we will close the Erez and Karni crossings [between Gaza and Israel]. "They will become international crossings in all senses and I really hope that the Palestinians understand the significance of this step."

The import here is that all economic deals that permit movement of large numbers of trucks from Gaza into Israel would come to a halt, and each truck would be carefully examined as would be the case at any international border. This would would slow things down considerably and have a devestating effect on the Palestinian economy. One would think that the PA might be intimidated by this prospect. But that, it seems to me, is highly unlikely. The PA is riding high on the notion of its "sovereignty" right now and is would not want to be seen buckling under Israeli threats. Besides which, promise has already been made by PA higher-ups that any Palestinian with a PA ID can cross at Rafah; changing the rules would really not play well with their Hamas associates.

Then, of course, it's a gamble as to whether Mofaz means it and has the backbone to follow through. Reports are that he took quite a bit of verbal abuse from Condeleezza to get him to sign on to the Rafah Agreement. (Reports are that staff in the hotel where they were meeting could hear her screaming.) Never mind that anyone with half an eye could have seen that this was an agreement that would not be tenable -- she would be decidedly displeased by Mofaz's backtracking.

While I most certainly would not want to see Mofaz as prime minister, the fact that he has decided to run makes it more likely, it seems to me, that he will stand tough -- or at least seem tough.

-- PM Sharon, for his part, is expressing distress about the porosity of the border between Israel and Egypt. Movement of terrorists and weapons is happening both ways at Rafah; some are going from Gaza into Egypt in order to then slip over the border into the Negev and travel into Judea and Samaria. This route has already been documented as terrorists and large numbers of weapons are showing up in the region. Bedouins in the regions, traditionally involved in smuggling of drugs and prostitutes across the border from Egypt, have now become involved with this.

Sharon's plan? A security fence and surveilance system that would cost 1.5 billion shekels. This has not been brought to the gov't yet.

Allow me please to point out that the above problems could have been avoided if the "disengagement" had not taken place.

[] A protest began tonight outside of the prime minister's residence, marking 100 days since the residents of Gush Katif were expelled from their homes. The gov't has not found solutions for them and over 480 families are still in temporary quarters such as hotels and tents. It's easy to become complacent and turn to other issues, but we must not forget these people who have been treated so badly. Horror stories abound. I will follow through with more information on this once again, soon.

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