Monday, January 30, 2006

 

From Israel: Arlene Kushner, January 29, 2006

From Israel

Arlene Kushner akushner@netvision.net.il


January 29, 2006

[] Over the last few days there have riots by members of Fatah in Gaza and Judea-Samaria, with rage vented at Abbas and other Fatah leaders for failing to secure an electoral victory. Abbas, fearing for his life, cancelled a scheduled meeting with Hamas in Gaza.

This may be a precursor to growing violence between Fatah and Hamas, in a (non-electoral) battle for control.

[] President Bush said in a Friday interview that no aid would be going from the US to the PA unless Hamas recognizes Israel and stops terror activity. This is not simply a Bush policy decision, it is US law: no funding may go to a terrorist entity. The EU has taken a similar line.

The PA is already on the edge of bankruptcy and will collapse within weeks without international funds -- as it depends almost exclusively on this monetary support, which amounts to some $1.3 billion annually. The most pressing problem is meeting the payroll for some 130,000 PA employees; many of these are armed Fatah personnel and things are not likely to go smoothly if they find themselves without pay.

(I would suggest that the PA now rely on the "compassionate generosity" of Fatah bigwigs, who might tap into their private accounts (enlarged through siphoning off of public funds in the first place) to help out here, but I don't think anyone would listen. I do not have the most recent figures, but a couple of years ago, when I was doing research on this matter, I learned that Arafat and his cronies collectively were worth $20 billion; Arafat had only some $1.2 billion, so there's a lot still around. )

Of course, the Arab states could rescue the PA here, but whether they will or not is another question. Strange, is it not, that the bulk of that $ 1.3 billion annually comes from the west and not fellow Arabs? Other Arabs make a good show of support for the Palestinian people but in reality do not care.

[] In spite of the current position by the US and the EU regarding witholding of funds from the PA, Israel is waivering on a similar issue. Israel collects custom taxes that belong to the PA -- because goods bound for the PA come through Israel. Israel has an understanding with the PA that these taxes will be turned over regularly. As yet, no decision has been made by the Israeli government to withhold the next payment, which I believe is due next week.

[] I've been picking up some strange comments from here in Israel, in spite of insistence by the government that it will not negotiate with an unrepentant Hamas.

Most unsettling have been some recent statements by Defense Minister Mofaz. This is directly from today's Jerusalem Post online:
"Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said in Sunday's [today's] cabinet meeting that Hamas was, at this point, acting 'responsibly,' and added that he believed that the organization would soon attempt to rein in terror.
My response: Uh oh! Is it starting already? The attempt to represent Hamas as sufficiently moderated so that dealing with it becomes possible. Is this Olmert and Mofaz's notion, or is this rather to provide the US something it is looking for? We can only keep watching very closely.
[] Dr. Aaron Lerner today asked Dr. Michael Widlanski, to serve as translator in a phone contact with Musheer al-Masri, Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, regarding changes in the Hamas Covenant. Al-Masri's reponse to Widlanski: "The Covenant of Hamas does not change. The resistance to the occupation is based on international law."
Said Covenant can be found at: http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/mideast/hamas.htm
You might find it enlightening (if that's the right word) to take a look at it. It lays it all out, including the connection of Hamas to the Muslim Brotherhood, albeit with a great deal of bombast. And it says, in part:
"The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf [trust] consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up...
"....Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement.
"...There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad.
And it cites this Hadith (statement attributed to Muhammad):

"The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight [kill] the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him..."

[] It seemed strange to me as well to read that Israel is concerned that with Hamas in charge the crossing at Rafah would be wide open to terrorists. Far as I knew, it already was. That's how some 15 wanted Hamas people that Israel had kept out for years got in while the PA was in charge.

[] Of late I have been writing about the tilt left of Netanyahu and the Likud party. With the changing political situation, this has altered, and Netanyahu is challenging Kadima regarding its role in creating the current situation. It remains to be seen what the political gain for the party will be.

[] The reasons why Hamas was able to win the PA election will be discussed for a long time to come. Here I offer a number of relevent factors.

-- The "disengagement." A major factor. It strengthened Hamas: Enabling them to make the claim that they drove Israel out of Gaza (and allowing them to promise the populace more of same, which wouldn't be achieved through negotiations). Making it possible for Hamas to bring into Gaza leaders that had been kept out for years by Israel.

-- The fairly mindless promotion in the western world of elections, as if they, in and of themselves, constituted democracy, no matter what parties participated. President Bush started with an idea that had some sound currency -- that democracy had to be promoted in the Middle East if there was to be peace. But that original idea was distorted and watered down.

-- The change of guard within PA leadership. Carolyn Glick addressed this in her column on Friday. Yasser Arafat was a strong man who managed to keep everyone in line. He did businesss with Hamas (actually had an agreement with Hamas), used Hamas to do his dirty work. But he remained in charge. Mahmoud Abbas couldn't cut it in this respect. He had no desire to take on the radicals. In his eagerness to control the situation indirectly, he tried to co-opt Hamas into the PA. It was he who spoke about "unity" and "inclusion," and invited Hamas to join the PLO. That has now backfired on him badly.

-- Increased legitimization of Hamas from another quarter: Glick suggests that when Mubarak of Egypt met with Hamas people last year he was giving them credibility. It should be noted that in Egypt, in 2005, there was a loosening of previous restrictions on the radical Islamist Muslim Brotherhood (from which Hamas emanates) so that this group now has parliamentary representation. This may have inspired Hamas to do the same.

-- Discontent with corruption and failure of Fatah to produce for the people. There is disagreement on how major a factor this was.

[] Famed Kabbalist, Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri, who lived to be over 100, was laid to rest in Jerusalem today, following his death before Shabbat. There were 300,000 mourners who accompanied him to his grave or saluted him on the side of the road as he was brought to the cemetery, Har Hamenuhot in Givat Shaul.

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