Thursday, February 16, 2006


From Israel: Arlene Kushner, February 15, 2006

From Israel

Arlene Kushner

February 15, 2006

[] Khaled Masha'al, head of Hamas, was in Sudan this week, where he said once again that Hamas would never recognize Israel. In reference to western threats to cut off funds, he said, "we are a nation ready to starve..." Their goal, he explained, is to free Jerusalem. And he knows Allah is on their side.

[] Olmert -- reacting in part to the furor that resulted when he turned over tax funds to the PA the other day -- has said that once the new Legislative Council, which has a Hamas majority, is in place, there will be no more funding provided. That is supposed to happen by Saturday, when the new legislature will be sworn in.

The Quartet, however, said they will continue to provide the PA with money as long as Abbas heads an interim government. The new government -- that is, the new ministers, forming a new cabinet -- will not be chosen until late March.

[] Abbas, for his part, is playing some interesting games that I am not certain he will get away with: He is trying to take power away from Hamas before they've even gotten started. For example, until now, the PA TV and radio were under the jurisdiction of the Information Ministry, but he has now, by "presidential decree," placed the media directly under his direction. A Hamas Information Minister will be powerless if this holds. This may suit various editors -- who have expressed a disinclination to work with Hamas -- very well. But it enrages Hamas people, who are not likely to sit still for it.

Another move he made was to pass a law giving him the right to appoint all judges to the court without legislative approval -- once again circumventing Hamas. This would permit him to appoint all Fatah judges who would be able to overturn Hamas legislation.

Hamas is calling this "immoral," "illegal" and a "coup d'etat." We have not seen the end here.

I am not eager to see Abbas win this power struggle. As much as the world wants to pretend that Hamas is moderating, the leaders of Hamas are making it very hard to do this, with their "in your face" statements. Abbas, however, should he come out on top here, would be hailed as a paragon of moderation and virtue, and pressure on Israel to deal with him and reward him with concessions would be considerable.

Already there are signs of this thinking. In today's Jerusalem Post, Mustafa Barghouti is referred to as a "liberal-minded secular Palestinian leader." He may be secular, but liberal-minded he most certainly is not. This is constructing an artificial black-white dichotomy, with all Hamas bad, and the others some how coming out as "good." In reality, they're all bad guys. As I have pointed out before, the Covenant of Fatah reads very much like the Covenant of Hamas in terms of its celebration of Jihad and promotion of Israel's destruction. The only difference is that Fatah isn't promoting Sharia -- Islamic law. I'd hate to have these guys somehow come out smelling like roses.

[] Barry Rubin had an excellent column in the Post yesterday: "Appeasement Redux." "Is this the 1930s," he asks, "or 2006?" Seems when Hitler came in, there were statements saying that he may have been extreme in the past, but was now showing "indications of moderation." There were pronouncements about how so-called radicals moderate once they have power. Need more be said?

[] Omri Sharon has been sentenced to nine months for his corruption conviction. His sentence is being postponed by half a year because of his father's condition. And I would say, since his sentence is being appealed, that he might not ever see the inside of a jail.

His sentencing has had an effect already, none-the-less, on polls, which are showing a drop for Kadima. Likud is up, and so is a merged National Union - National Religious Party.

[] In an interview given to Aaron Klein of WorldNetDaily, a senior Al Aksa leader, Abu Nasser, said a third Intifada was on the way and it was only a matter of timing. "This will be the hardest and most dangerous one." Why are they planning this? To make it difficult for Hamas to govern, as they deeply resent the election results.

Oh, and there's another reason: Olmert is talking about pulling out from Judea and Samaria, and they want to be able to claim credit, saying he pulled out because of their terrorism.

I read this, sitting here in Jerusalem, and remembering what it was like in 2002, and I have one response, not politic, but honest and highly appropriate: Bomb their heads off before they can get us.

Unfortunately, we don't have a government that would dare do such a thing. They're too busy being politic (and planning more pullouts). In the last 10 days, 12 potential suicide bombers have been stopped!

Al Aksa, you should note, in line with what I wrote above, is a spin-off of Fatah. Better than Hamas? Not by a long shot.

[] The Jordanian gov't has invited Hamas leaders to Amman. This is a reversal of their position, taken in 1999, when Hamas offices in Jordan were closed and leaders arrested or thrown out. Now the Jordanian PM says, "We welcome our Palestinian brethern." Shades of Munich.

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