Saturday, December 17, 2011

Which way is up... Confusion in the messages of Peace.

With Palestinians meeting in Cairo in a series of meetings where first it seems that Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are meeting and then the other factions to meet on Monday, Ynet is reporting a very interesting story: Abbas: Hamas agreed to renounce terror. This seems based on a report from a month ago when Palestinian President Abbas met with Hamas leader Khalid Meshaal. Abbas had this to say:

We set the agreement's pillars, and Hamas agreed with us that resistance will be popular and adopt peaceful ways, rather than military resistance," the Palestinian president said. "The solution is the establishment of a state in the 1967 borders, and Hamas agreed to that, as well as to holding the elections on May 5, 2012."

The surprising statements were made a day before another meeting is slated to be held in Cairo where the two Palestinian movements will be discussing the implementation of their reconciliation agreement.

However, (and the article notes this as well) these sentiments are contradicted by last weeks comments from Hamas' Leadership in Gaza where Ismail Haniyeh said:

Resistance is the way and it is the strategic choice to liberate Palestine from the (Jordan) river to the (Mediterranean) sea and to remove the invaders from the blessed land of Palestine," Haniyeh told the crowd, which chanted: "We will never recognize Israel."

"Hamas, together with other stubborn resistance factions, will lead the people towards uprising after uprising until all of Palestine is liberated," Haniyeh said, referring to territory that includes the occupied West Bank and what is now Israel.
The Group then went on to talk about their military acheivements (or lack thereof):

The armed wing of Hamas, meanwhile, announced figures detailing its resistance against Israel. It has fired 11,093 rockets at Israel and killed 1,365 Israeli soldiers since Hamas was formed in 1987, it says.

In a report marking the anniversary, the al-Qassam Brigades said 6,411 Israeli soldiers had been injured in the group's 1,117 military operations and claimed to have arrested 24 Israeli soldiers.

Some 1,848 Hamas militants have been killed, the group said.

I notice that the group has nothing to say about how many civilians it has killed since 1987 either.


Akiva Eldar writing in Haaretz saw this while attending the fourth annual conference of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, headed by former president of Portugal Jorge Sampaio.

Netanyahu. Both the impoverished West and the increasingly wealthy Gulf states are preparing to deal with the Arab world’s youth revolution....

In one corner of the large lobby, I saw a group of young people pinning badges on their shirts that bore maps of greater Palestine ‏(the Land of Israel?‏) and the inscription “Right of Return.” Among them were two teenage girls from Tunisia, two Yemenite men and an Iranian. I introduced myself as a peace-seeking Israeli Zionist. I wondered what they had to do with a conference devoted to an alliance among civilizations and how their map accorded with the Arab League’s peace proposal, which adopted the 1967 borders.

“That belongs to an earlier time, to [ousted Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak and [ousted Tunisian President Zine El Abidine] Ben Ali,” said one of the girls. “Don’t you know that everything has changed?” Her friends nodded their heads in agreement.

Eldar makes an interesting point... Against the backdrop of an Israeli crackdown on civil rights both inside the Green Line and in the West Bank, how easy would it be for radicals, and Islamists to make headway with those who see these assaults on the Arab (and Jewish population - just look at reactions to the Knesset's latest flirtation with the Far Right) population and not feed on the frustrations and political immaturity of the young - as witnessed by those talking with Eldar at that conference.

On the other hand, the Israeli Government is facing no coherent message from the Arab Polity. On one side you have those supporting President Abbas who (if the Palestine Papers are correct) is at least willing to discuss a moderate path, (though his representatives say otherwise). On the other you have Hamas in Gaza talking about "We are coming Jerusalem" and "liberating all "Palestinian" land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. Even within Hamas, apparently there are glaring contradictions between what Hamas - Gaza and what Hamas - Damascus want to do.

Then you have Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the smaller factions to a group NOT recognizing Israel and these groups while small do have the power to affect the peace process.

SO.... what is there to do?

In my opinion, (and I hope all here will discuss) the answer lies in security assessments of Israel made in concert with an important determination regarding the long term aspects of liberalizing both the State and the Occupation. It is my contention that liberalizing the occupation can be accomplished along with various security steps that will NOT subject Israel to the terror strikes it dealt with at an earlier time. Does that mean doing away with checkpoints, and monitoring roads... certainly not. But it does mean allowing for Peaceful protest and NOT responding with heavy handed methods that simply cause more resentment and hatred from a group of people that don't want the soldiers there in the first place. By allowing expressions of protest and working with local authorities to develop autonomy, it could lead to the beginning of a Palestinian Polity that would learn restraint and state building.

There are those in the Palestinian Polity, like Salam Fayyad who in my opinion, are partners for a peaceful solution with the Israelis and who seem to want just that. While Fayyad is not popular with HamasAs Haaretz reports;

The reason for the hostility toward Fayyad both in Hamas and Fatah may be found in a survey released last week in the West Bank, conducted by a research institute in Ramallah. The survey shows that more than half (57 percent ) of the people want Fayyad to serve as head of the unity government. Fayyad is popular even among some Hamas supporters, 20 percent of whom said they would like to see him as prime minister. Fayyad is the favorite candidate for prime minister of the transitional government among 78 percent of Fatah supporters.         

And this number in itself sends yet another confusing message to the Israelis and shows just how divided the Palestinian leadership is on the issue of peace.

One does have to be fair to the Palestinians though on this as well in that the current Israeli Government has not presented a "map" of what it wants set for borders. We have the 2008 Olmert map which would have resulted in a Palestinian State in 96.2% of the West Bank with some swaps in Israel as well. But that Kadima led government is out of power. We have a Foreign Minister (YB's Lieberman) who has a plan for a Palestinian State in 50-60% of the West Bank, and we have vague suggestions from PM Netanyahu regarding a map that combines the Kadima map with the Alon plan. Finally we have the YESHA and the extreme right that want the entire West Bank along with Israel.

So in reality what are the Palestinians looking at when they are trying to decide how to approach any peace. Now some will say that the Palestinians have no desire for peace, and that would be accurate coming from the armed wings of Fateh, all of Hamas, P.I.J, the PFLP, the DFLP (and the Judean Peoples Front - haha just kidding). But then looking at the discussions and the people's support involving President Abbas and PM Fayyad that doesn't necessarily seem to be the case. SO... where do we go from here?


  1. Well, first, I will believe Hamas has renounced terror when the people of Be'er Sheva, Ashkelon and Sderot can sleep soundly at night and not have to worry about an alarm giving them mere seconds to get into bomb shelters.

    As for where we go from here, we have Bibi unwilling to stand up to the far-right despite coming from the liberal tradition. He seems more interested in maintaining his own narrow grip on power than standing up to the anti-democratic measures the right is pushing day after day. It was long ago time to tell Avigdor Lieberman that his place is not at the cabinet table, but heading the opposition, at least until those rumored indictments finally come along.

    On the other side, there need to be Palestinian leaders who will speak truth to their people. That there will not be any right of return. That Israel will continue to exist as a Jewish state. That it is time for them to move on and focus on their own country and their own state and make the best of it. We all see what Israel has done since her independence. The same can happen for Palestine after her independence. However, that takes leaders like Fayyad who are committed to state building and improving their people's lot.

  2. Would Lieberman's plan compensate the Palestinians with a significant amount of Israeli territory from around Umm El Fahm? I thought that was part of the idea, as it would transfer a non-negligible portion of Israeli Arabs to the Palestinian polity.

    If that was the case, which I vaguely remember hearing, they would get 50% of the WB plus a part of Israel. Note: I don't endorse this, of course.

  3. That is the basic idea behind Lieberman's plan, if I remember correctly. It would be to create two states with Israel being as Jewish as possible and, of course, presumably Palestine would be free of Jews, based upon the statements from Fatah leadership and what the Hamas Charter states. The plan is bad enough to begin with, and, from what I've read, it could also cause strategic problems for Israel in terms of any future wars.

  4. The whole Jew free Palestine is just going to continue to be a sticking point for a lot of people I think in addition to security issues.

  5. I don't think Abbas is trustworthy. It shouts from his past and present actions. He just decided that no moves to normalize relations will be allowed. The face he presents for the EU and Westerners is just a mask in my opinion. As I see it, Hamas seems no closer to renouncing violent resistance, and far too many in the Arab world, perhaps tens of millions, believe extermination of the Jews is a religious calling.

    I wonder what good is a peace if it is just seen by the Palestinians as a stepping stone to the next phase of war that must have all of Israel because Jews, seen as inferiors, cannot be allowed to have a state on Muslim lands, let alone be seen as dominant to the surrounding Muslim states? Are Palestinians prepared to address that issue? After all this time, are they yet prepared, as mentioned in UNGA Res. 194, to live with their neighbors in peace?

    Along with the turmoil in the region, and between Palestinians in particular, what good reason exists for Israel to risk its security by precipitous action? Why should anyone reasonably expect it? What other nation in a similar situation would?

    If the Arab states moderate, then there will be an improved climate where, as Netanyahu said and I believe, Israel would be prepared to be a generous peace partner. However, I keep hearing the drumbeat of antisemitism and nonrecognition, seeing the indoctrination of the young, and the shameful records of domestic human rights abuse directed at minorities in these states.

    I do not have the answer. But it seems if I was Israel, I would be extremely wary. Under the circumstances, Israel has nothing to be ashamed of, despite the pointed fingers of those who don't want us looking elsewhere.

  6. Seems Fatah et al don't want any competition:

    Last week, Palestinians thwarted an attempt by a group called the Israeli Palestinian Confederation to hold a conference in Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

    At the conference, Israelis and Palestinians were expected to vote for a joint parliament that would offer itself as a “third government” for the two peoples.

    Palestinian protesters stormed the Ambassador Hotel in Sheikh Jarrah in east Jerusalem and forced the Israeli organizers and hotel management to cancel the event.

    The following day, a similar anti-normalization protest in Bethlehem forced the group to cancel a planned conference near the city."

  7. Of course they don't want competition... that's not unusual and given the autocratic nature of the P.L.O. is that a surprise.

    Of course, funny enough, the Israeli Rightists don't want that either. Look at the spate of Laws that even the Centr / Center Right folks like Livni are calling anti-Democratic.

    Generally people in power don't like competition for their power. As the article talks about Salam Fayyad - the people want him, the leadership... not so much.

  8. The difference is that Livni is able to voice the arguments, which shows democracy is alive and well, while Abbas decrees it.

    Some moves by the government, such as with respect to foreign governments funding of Israeli NGOs, are not anti-democratic, and a state may prescribe reasonable limits in its own self interest.

    Comparisons of the Israeli Rightists to Palestinian leaders, in my opinion, is not apt.

  9. I don't have any major gripes with your view, here, but I would say two things.

    The first is that if you want to talk about an Israeli crackdown on civil liberties you need to be more specific and to place the alleged crackdown within the context of the ongoing Arab war against the Jews in the Middle East.

    Further, I do not think that a kinder, gentler occupation will satisfy anyone, nor lead to peace.

    It may be the right thing to do for its own sake, tho.

    Good piece, VB.

  10. @ oldschool: I very much think the comparisons are apt. The Palestinian leadership is where the Right wants to get Israeli society too, they are not there yet but I don't think they would be opposed to the same things.

    @ karma - I disagree wrt the Occupation. You know I think it needs to end and end soon. Fostering autonomy with a planned map begins that process. Israel just approved another 1,028 units of housing in E. J'slem and the West Bank. It sure looks as if they are going in a different direction than that.

    This said - if they are going to annex the West Bank, then they need to do it, but, they also then need to make the Palestinians there citizens of Israel with full equal civil rights. Period.

    As for the crackdown on civil rights... I don't have to place it in any context. It is bullshit. Plain and simple. That is the excuse many use when they want to grab power. Perhaps you can excuse it, I cannot. Israel has existed and grown strong for 60+ years, they don't need to become "Fortress Israel" and a non-democratic society. In the end that will only lead to one place.

    There simply is no excuse.

  11. Honestly I have to agree on that point. Civil rights are civil rights. You don't get to crack down on them just because there's a war on. As far as kindler, gentler goes.... I'm ok with easing restrictions if the PA starts going in the right direction. Carrot and stick, after all. All stick just makes the ass resentful. Reward them for good behavior.

  12. Volley,

    I still fail to understand how it is that if Jews build housing for themselves in the eastern section of Jerusalem or in Judea, this prevents a Palestinian state?