Thursday, January 27, 2011

From Israel: Complications Abound

Arlene Kushner
Arlene from Israel
27 January '11

A story as convoluted and involved as the one involving the Al-Jazeera leaks is bound to be ongoing, with many takes, and many corollaries.

There is far too much to belabor, but I would like to address a few points:

On Tuesday, Saeb Erekat, in defending himself against the leaks, said that "[Al Jazeera has] twisted the words and distorted the truth."

One of the claims made was that he had said he was prepared to do everything but convert to Zionism in order to secure an agreement with Israel. Erekat now responded that "I said this in the context of rejecting the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. I told Tzipi Livni that anybody who recognizes Israel as a Jewish state would be a Zionist, and I am not a Zionist, and this is not how Al Jazeera has attempted to portray this incident."

I myself find this sort of defense credible -- a demonstration of context missing, text that is almost right but sounds much more problematic because of what has been left out.

Abbas's claim that some of the leaks are simply "forgeries" seems less credible in light of the fact that there is broad scale acknowledgement that real notes from meetings had been leaked.


The PA is now thoroughly engaged in self-defense, and is said to be considering suits against Al-Jazeera.

As had been predicted, Hamas is already using the leaks as a weapon against the PA:

Yesterday, Hamas urged Palestinians everywhere to "work towards isolating and besieging this despicable group." A series of mass protests is being organized for coming days.

A group of jihadist groups including Hamas (which is actually one of the more "moderate" of these groups) met in Gaza City and then released a statement saying that Abbas does not have a mandate to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians. Don't know quite what this means, for these groups never thought Abbas had such a mandate -- this statement only has impact as its message reaches the population in the PA-controlled areas.


One of the things discussed in the leaks about which Hamas professes the most anger is the fact that PA security forces have cooperated with the IDF.

This has certainly been the case: the whole idea of cooperation, and then a pulling back to allow PA control, has been part and parcel of efforts to "strengthen" the PA and then move towards establishment of a state. (None of which is exactly cause for celebration.)

Although the PA has been far less forthcoming in its efforts than had been hoped -- their forces are really unwilling to take out terrorists, while the PA provides a "revolving door" for said terrorists in its prisons -- there have been sharing of intelligence and some joint operations.

Hamas says that the PA has provided coordination in "the killing of its own people." (Most at issue is the Israeli assassination of Hassan al-Madhoun, a senior Fatah "activist" wanted by Israel for a number of terror attacks. According to the leaks, Shaul Mofaz, who was Israeli defense minister in 2005, had discussed the possibility of assassinating al-Madhoun with Nasr Youssef, who was then PA interior minister.)

The PA is now denying that any cooperation has ever existed.


With this, my friends, we have point blank evidence for the impossibility -- with regard to security issues -- of negotiating a "two state solution."

Were Israel to pull back, we would need to know that the Palestinian state at our eastern border was a sovereignty based on law and order that would restrain or take out or arrest and prosecute terrorists bent on doing damage to Jews. But such would not be the case.

It is considered a betrayal of considerable consequences to interfere with the actions of a "brother," even if that person is a jihadist, intent on illegal and murderous actions against Jews.

As I write this, I can hear some people protesting that there would be no more terrorists if there were no more "occupation." This I reject outright. Because the bottom line is that the radicals, the jihadists, are bent on destroying Israel completely. And there is no "negotiating partner" with the strength and the courage and the genuine conviction to stand against them. It is an impossibility.


What astounds me are all the journalists and pundits who are indulging in wishful thinking and declaring that the leaks show us that we really do have a partner for peace after all.

What balderdash this is.

For if the PA leaders find it necessary to deny having made concessions, and are on the defensive because the mere fact of such concessions can be used as a weapon to weaken them, how could it be imagined that they would ever come forward publicly and stand on a conciliatory negotiated settlement?


At this point I would like to answer a question posed to me by a couple of readers.

I had written in my last posting that:

"If Obama truly wants to see peace in this part of the world, he should table his efforts to get Abbas to the table...

"Obama's absolute priority should be stopping Iran in its destructive tracks and in increasing US deterrence in this part of the world.

"Does he have even a clue?"

My readers asked then, essentially, if I did not think Obama was doing what he was doing with conscious awareness rather than out of ignorance.


I answer thus:

Does Obama favor the Arab/Muslim world? Absolutely. I'm sure he'd love to be "best buddies" with the rulers of nations such as Saudi Arabia. Is he without genuine concern for Israeli security? Of course. Pushing us back to the '67 lines and putting a Palestinian Arab state at our eastern border would work quite well for him.

But he does have some goals. He wants to be a "hero": the president who sparked peace between Israel and the PA -- or at least moved us along towards that end sufficiently so that he gains electorally and in other ways. And, yes, part of what he's after is establishing that Palestinian state.

My point was that he is oblivious to the broader context here, and the impossibility of achieving anything even resembling peace until the threat of Iran is removed from the equation -- Iran, which foments radicalism via Hamas and Hezbollah. I see indications that he remains convinced that Abbas is a man seeking peace, and that he does not comprehend the radical nature of Palestinian Arab political discourse today, which would make it impossible to seek peace, even if Abbas truly wanted it. (See above.)

He pushes matters even further, insisting on seeing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as central for our region, so that an Israeli-Palestinian Arab peace would have a ripple effect in pacifying the broader Middle East. And this is backwards.

I am not an advocate of a Palestinian state, certainly. But Obama, who does seem to want it, shows himself to be clueless with regard to how to properly foster it.


Obama is by far the most left-wing president the US has ever had, and his thinking conforms to a certain pattern. In broad strokes, I perceive those on the left as believing that problems can be solved with good will, by reaching out, and by promoting dialogue. They believe that confrontation is counter-productive (if not just plain wrong), and they are more ready to be appeasing. While those on the right see the reality of evil and believe that what is required sometimes is to boldly identify it and then undertake a strong confrontation with it (with the conviction that to fail to do so would be wrong).

Obama's efforts with regard to Iran have been a disaster, because he has drawn on his ideology in attempting to solve the problem of Iranian intransigence. Netanyahu is correct when he says that efforts with Iran won't succeed unless Iran knows there is a credible threat of military action. Obama declines to play it this way.

Similarly he has opted to send an ambassador to Syria, claiming that having a US spokesman on the scene will allow for a better exchange of ideas, present opportunities for increasing US influence, etc. etc. But, in reality, he is effectively rewarding Syria for hostile and belligerent actions, and giving it the wrong message. Syria should have been isolated to the maximum.

As a result of the way Obama plays it, US deterrence power in the Middle East has dropped. This encourages boldness on the part of terrorist groups, and terrorist-supporting states. It is counterproductive to peace. And this, I believe, Obama does not understand. I believe he is badly deluded.

Do I think Obama is a closet jihadist who secretly desires the hegemony of Iran or the emergence of a new caliphate? Do I think that he sees it as a victory, that terrorists are feeling stronger? I most certainly do not.

What I do believe is that Obama is an internationalist, who curtails American power deliberately. But in the course of curtailing that power, I strongly suspect that he has generated some unintended results.


Let me return to the leaks for one moment, to strengthen my point here:

Reportedly, Erekat had a heated exchange with US envoy George Mitchell in October 2009 with regard to the need for a complete freeze before the PA would come to the table.

According to the Al-Jazeera leak, Erekat then said:

"It's not up to me to decide your credibility in the Middle East. He [Obama] has lost it throughout the region...

"...people in the Middle East are not taking Barack Obama seriously. They feared Bush, despite everything. This is important. [Obama] has lost it with the decision-makers..."

I believe that Obama has no clue that his "nice guy" stance was bound to backfire in the Arab/Muslim world -- while he is attempting to reduce US power, he fails to grasp the Arab/Muslim mentality that bases respect on power.


The import of what's happening with regard to the Al-Jazeera leaks is considerable. Please see the analysis by Pinhus Inbari, writing for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs:

"Al-Jazeera, the powerful Qatari satellite television station, has been publishing documents leaked to it from the PLO Negotiations Support Unit.
"The release of the documents has caused great damage to the reputation of the PA and the PLO negotiating team. Sa'eb Erekat noted that while the PA was en route to triumph as it gathered international support for the recognition of a Palestinian state and for isolating Israel, al-Jazeera cut short this triumph and 'instead of delegitimizing the occupation, they delegitimized us.'

"The PA's success in gathering support for statehood recognition was turning Hamas rule in Gaza into a liability. Once Ramallah is recognized as representing a state, the international community might turn against the separate entity in Gaza and seek to end the problem.

"For years al-Jazeera has sought to advance the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood against the Arab regimes. The problem it faces is that the sources of the current wave of Arab unrest are actually local and have nothing to do with pan-Arab ideals or with the Palestinian problem.

"Now, after al-Jazeera has brainwashed Arab minds with charges of PLO treason, no declaration of statehood can be expected. Neither will there be a resumption of negotiations with Israel since the Palestinian team will stick to the most hard-line positions possible."


The world is in considerable turmoil, and this is one part of a very complex and quickly changing picture. In my next posting I hope to take a look at other issues and events.


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution .

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