Observations on the “Palestine Papers”*

The most important—and, perhaps, the only—aspect to the Israel-Palestine peace process that the “Palestine Papers” have revealed is not that Palestinian negotiators offered more than most had previously believed, but that neither party during the 2007-8 talks was able to trust that the other would or could deliver on what it offered.

Olmert’s government was, of course, in an openly precarious position: “openly” because we were aware, more or less, what they offered at the time.  Due to the 2006 Lebanon War and a series of criminal investigations that were ongoing from the beginning of 2007 through the end of his term, it is an understatement to say that Olmert entered the conferences weakened.  His approval ratings in May 2007 had reached approximately three percent.  The strength of Olmert’s government was tenuous: Yisrael Beiteinu left the coalition in early 2008, in protest of even holding peace talks; it is doubtful that Shas would have remained had a settlement been reached.  The combination of Kadima, Labour, and Meretz would have been enough to form a government and approve a peace deal.  But it would not have been sufficient to sell any settlement reached at Annapolis to the Israeli public.

Ariel Sharon barely managed to pull out of Gaza, and he had a military record (say of it what you will).  Olmert, nicknamed by this time “miserable failure,” had only a record of corruption.  It was unclear at which point he would be indicted and forced to resign his post; once this happened (perhaps sooner, perhaps later in this counter-factual, depending on the politics of the court system), everything would be up the air and the survival of any signed agreement would, in turn, be wholly dependant on the whims of Israel’s political elite.  Labour, due to Amir Peretz’s sheer incompetence during the Lebanon War, was in a shambles, and Ehud Barak (at the time, tied with Netanyahu for least popular former Israeli PM) was its new leader.  Barak, I suspect, would have supported a peace deal wholeheartedly; whether he would have supported Livni’s bid to succeed Olmert in order to ensure its survival is an entirely different question.

The key would be to avoid a new Knesset election until all the steps of the peace deal had been implemented.  A new election would a) be more unpredictable than Ehud Barak and b) would be recognized by the Israeli right as its only chance to guarantee the death of a deal it opposed.  An indictment of Olmert—coming potentially at any time—could have led to such an election, in which the political skill of Benyamin Netanyahu and the sheer anger of a united religious and secular right would be difficult forces to reckon with.  This is not to say that Olmert’s (or a Kadima-led) government would not have been able to survive or implement any plan for Palestinian statehood, or that a majority of Israelis would have opposed such a plan.  It is to say that its ability to do so was by no means certain, because of a) the fickle nature of Israeli politics, and b) the ability of a minority to derail the process from within/cast the matter in terms of Jews turning against Jews*, rather than a peace process.

Which brings us to this week’s revelations.  It is not shocking that the Palestinian Authority was willing to offer large concessions in order to achieve statehood.  It is not shocking that the moderate faction would behave more moderately than the extreme.  And, while it is not shocking that the P.A. offered these concessions only under the veil of secrecy, acting wholly different in public, it is quite telling.  This, too, we (the public) knew in 2007—and so did the Israelis.

What we did not have was knowledge (or perhaps merely confirmation) of just how difficult a task it would have been for the P.A. to convince its people to accept such a deal.  The authority of the Palestinian Authority would have evaporated overnight.  Not because an overwhelming, or even small majority of Palestinians would have opposed the deal—this, I cannot and will not state.  Rather, the death of the P.A. and any signed agreement would have been the result of the vehement opposition of a significant minority: even if one, like me, optimistically terms Hamas a minority, its significance cannot be ignored.  It is, after all, the elected government of Gaza and arguably has (and had, in 2007) more legitimate authority there than the P.A.

The P.A., entering the talks, was also a peace partner in an unstable position: a government that had abjectly failed in the task of nation-building (the only task, moreover, through which it could have reinforced its governmental authority), with only tenuous control over only a portion of the Palestinian territory and people.  An agreement would likely have sparked civil war; sans Israeli and/or American intervention, I’d place my bets on Hamas.  Outside intervention might, in this scenario, be enough to ensure the survival of the P.A.: but would this government be perceived as anything other than the puppet of Israel and the United States?

For my evidence, I submit merely the reaction of Hamas, the Palestinian people, and portions of the radical so-called “Left” over the last several days.  (Mondoweiss, purportedly publishing some sort of reasonable anti- or post-Zionist perspective, has offered drivel fantasizing about torturing and then—quite slowly, mind you—executing the P.A. leadership for “treason.”)  Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator in 2007-8, believes his life is now in danger.  Abbas and Fatah’s leadership have denied the veracity of the documents; those confirming them have acted outside the leadership structure (Shaath sounds almost like he’s doing so as a means to distance himself from negotiations in which he took part — before, perhaps, someone else blames him).  True, the P.A. still it has its supporters.  But this split—which runs the risk of undermining what little real authority the P.A. has left—has been caused because it has been revealed that, over three years ago, the Palestinian Authority discussed making (large, yes) concessions to the Israeli government in exchange for a Palestinian state.

If the result of the talks which followed the Annapolis Conference had been a signed peace agreement laying out a plan for Palestinian statehood, it is unclear whether Olmert’s government would have been able to survive long enough to carry it out.  On the other hand, it now appears incredibly unlikely that the individual members of the Palestinian Authority’s leadership would have literally survived long enough to implement such a deal.  And, I suspect, both sides knew this about the other, and about themselves.

At this point, I should make the following clear: I do not believe this means that the Annapolis Conference and 2008 talks were just theater; I do not believe that both sides were simply stalling; I do not believe that a two-state solution is impossible.  On Israel’s part — well, there’s an old Vulcan saying: “Only Nixon can go to China.”  Hard is not impossible.  Moderate Palestinian leadership, meanwhile, needs to be take seriously and be seriously supported in the process of building the foundations of a state — and finding some way to restore their credibility with their people.  (The damage was done before these papers, and, for the most part, has little to do with them, and everything to do with corruption and graft.)

*Which I am eminently not the most qualified person to make.

**I supported the Gaza withdrawal, but the images — and reality — of Jewish soldiers dragging Jewish citizens from their homes made me break down.  This was the goal of the settlers who refused to leave: call it a PR stunt if you will, but there was a degree of truth in the sadness I felt.  Gaza settlements, in this respect, were peanuts compared to what withdrawing from the West Bank would entail: it will be played as Israel against the Jews, and it will convince some — at least for a time.

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45 thoughts on “Observations on the “Palestine Papers”*

  1. Personally I’m convinced that Bibi and his clown squad need to be shown the door. As soon as possible. I hope the rumblings of a revival on the left and in the center are true and that Kadima gets hold of the reins of power soon. Before the current moderate Palestinians get swept away and this window closes.

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  2. I think this part:

    “The P.A., entering the talks, was also a peace partner in an unstable position: a government that had abjectly failed in the task of nation-building (the only task, moreover, through which it could have reinforced its governmental authority), with only tenuous control over only a portion of the Palestinian territory and people.”

    needs some elucidation. Hasn’t the PA kept control over the West Bank – and I mean both maintaining its own security and Israel’s – through an election loss, a Hamas coup in Gaza, the Gaza war, and (now) the aftermath of the Palestine Papers release? If that’s not a benchmark for “better than tenuous control” I’m not sure what is. Arguably that’s not the same as nation-building, but it is an important part.

    Looking back at that list I just made, ten years ago any one of those things would have been the start of Intifada III. It says a lot about the success of the security aspect of Palestinian state-building that we haven’t seen one.

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    • Intifada II benefited from an American Left that was more than happy enough to allow a voice during the ubiquitous anti-war rallies that helped raise awareness something awful.

      The anti-war rallies, for one reason or another, have become much less ubiquitous. They still happen, but they’re nowhere near as organized as they used to be and the ones that still happen have fewer folks show up.

      All that to say: Intifada III would be a mistake. It wouldn’t get one third of the coverage that Intifada II got, it wouldn’t command one third the attention that the USG gave Intifada II, and that would allow Israel to be about one third more… oh what’s a good word… “decisive” in how it responded.

      And no one would particularly notice. I don’t think that even the Religious Right Radio cadRe would devote half as much time as they did last time.

      Intifatigue.

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      • I don’t agree with most of this, but it’s a non-sequitur in any case. Palestinian activists and terrorists aren’t basing their decision to take up armed rioting and suicide bombing on the amount of press attention they will get in the American media. There are concerns are a little more local than that.

        The point is that the reasons were there, the will was there, the personnel – in the form of the many Hamas members and supporters quietly living in the West Bank – was there. And there was no Intifada. That says everything that needs to be said about the strength of the PA security forces (which are American-trained and cooperate closely with Israel.)

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        • I don’t know. Arafat was exceptionally savvy. Intifada II was as successful as it was (or much less of a failure than it would have been otherwise, depending on your point of view) because of his masterful skills as a communicator.

          After he died, there was no one voice that could do half as much good for the political wings of radical movements. Nor, for that matter, no group of voices.

          Asymmetrical warfare only works if you can talk people into talking your opponent out of disproportionate response… and I would think that the Palestinian leadership is savvy enough to know that they don’t have communicators as skilled as they used to have.

          If it were about Justice or Allah or some greater consideration, they wouldn’t have dealt even *THAT* much in private. There was no Intifada III because those responsible for being able to sustain an intifada know that it wouldn’t even come *CLOSE* to working this time.

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          • This is a misunderstanding of the previous intifadas. They may get seals of approval from Palestinian leaders, but they are grassroots phenomena. At most, one could say that some Palestinian leaders can act as sparks to the popular tinder. But the notion that Arafat was solely responsible for either intifada is not grounded in reality.

            It’s also mistaken to see Intifada as just asymmetrical warfare. That framework only makes sense if a smaller force is occupied by a larger, a la Iraq. You could make this case for the West Bank, but Intifada doesn’t happen there, it happens in Israel. The purpose is to inspire terror and weakness in the civilian Israeli public, not indignation in the international community. The latter is only a bonus.

            As for disproportionate response: the Palestinians are already undergoing this. Short of wholesale slaughter or expulsion in the West Bank, I don’t know what else they have to fear – and while they have had many reasons to be afraid over the last few years up to now, they don’t yet need to fear something like that.

            And incidentally, the ones most likely to initiate an intifada are the ones least likely to be afraid of or care about any disproportionate response; they are the wannabe martyrs, after all.

            I haven’t had the leisure time to go through the documents myself yet, but my hunch is that the suppression of a third intifada has happened (maybe more than once) over the last few years, and that it has been top-down and managed in large part by PA security forces.

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            • Max, I think there’re a lot of truth to what you’re saying. My own take is that things have changed significantly on the Palestinian side since Arafat’s passing. The old crook was a crook but he was a charismatic and clever one. He had a serious mastery of the mobs but was very indifferent to day to day concerns of the well-being of the populace. In fact I’ve read several sources that say that attending to the well-being of the populace was considered counterproductive to cause; a festering humanitarian nationalism issue having more international gravity than a mere nationalism issue alone. His successors, on the other hand, have very poor charisma and control over the masses but have made significant strides in the day to day governance of the West Bank. Palestinian life has improved there in some ways (the Israeli’s have been halfassedly trying to help as well). Ironically it seems like we’ve finally arrived at a crop of Palestinian administrators and leaders who’re willing and able to cut a deal (though since they’re not electorally endorsed it’s hard to stay if they could make it stick) but they’re now being confronted by an Israel hijacked by right wing nut bars and settlement fetishists who’re actively sabotaging the project and who as far as I can tell have no fishing clue what their long game is. Arafat, whether he’s roasting in Hell or resting on Allah’s bosom, must be laughing his ass off at the spectacle.

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            • But the notion that Arafat was solely responsible for either intifada is not grounded in reality.

              I was not arguing that he was. My argument is that he was a masterful communicator while it was going on turning what could have been seen as “terrorism” to be “freedom fighting”. 9/11 couldn’t have happened at a worse time for II.

              The purpose is to inspire terror and weakness in the civilian Israeli public, not indignation in the international community.

              I don’t think that the former is sustainable for more than a very short period of time without the latter. If it’s just the former, you’re most likely to get war as a result.

              As for disproportionate response: the Palestinians are already undergoing this.

              It is possible to argue that the response of the Israelis to attacks targetting civilians is attacks targetting extremists. This does not fit all values of “disproportionate”.

              And incidentally, the ones most likely to initiate an intifada are the ones least likely to be afraid of or care about any disproportionate response; they are the wannabe martyrs, after all.

              Initiate, yes… but that is quickly and efficiently squashed without a political wing to communicate what the completely unconnected radical wing is doing.

              If “Israel” makes this too charged a topic, instead compare to the IRA.

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              • Fair play on Arafat. No one will deny he was a better communicator.

                I’m not sure why we’re talking about the “sustainability” of intifada, so I will cede that point to you as well. I still disagree with your media analysis that is driving this point, but that’s neither here nor there because there is no intifada at the moment.

                Maybe disproportionate is too much of a buzz word – I am not trying to make a political point. I’m using ‘disproportion’ in as mathematical a sense as I can – there simply is no comparison between the loss of life, land, and rights between Israelis and Palestinians. That doesn’t necessarily make Israel wrong, given a certain point of view, but the disproportion itself is not in doubt by anyone credible.

                In sum: the only point I was trying to make about intifada – that the lack thereof says a lot about the state of Palestinian nation-building – remains standing. Your arguments that it would not be useful might be sound, but they are certainly not arguments that would hold any sway with the people actually in charge of making an intifada happen.

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  3. Over the last few years I’ve come to the belief that there is no possible solution set. Somewhere between a blocking minority and a true majority on either side would rather fight and die than settle on any set of terms possibly acceptable to the other side. This is true both for the two-state and one-state alternatives.

    In my gloomier moments I worry that the medium- to long-term consequence of continuing the status quo is that Iran will actually be willing to pay the price of dropping a nuclear weapon on Tel Aviv.

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    • In my gloomier moments I worry that the medium- to long-term consequence of continuing the status quo is that Iran will actually be willing to pay the price of dropping a nuclear weapon on Tel Aviv.

      Soon to be followed by a “holy crap, we had no idea that Israel had *THAT* many nukes!” and “what do you mean the UN can’t do anything?”

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      • well yeah, but egomaniacs and theocrats have been known to misjudge the enemy badly. According to some sources we came within an eyelash of nuclear war over the Cuban Missile Crisis; how comfortable are you that Pakistan or Iran won’t go nuclear with Israel?

        And since the war won’t last much more than an hour or so, the telephone calls will largely be “Can we get a little help putting out the fires? All our leaders are dead; I’m just some lieutenant who was stationed out in the boondocks with a working radio.”

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  4. Apocryphally, Yasser Arafat read the 2000 Barak plan at Camp David and whined to Clinton “Will you come to my funeral?”

    Arafat was a bank robber, a two-bit grifter with no moral or political authority, completely unsuited to the task of uniting the Palestinians. The Israelis and Americans propped him up like a scarecrow in his kaffiyeh and crowed, “Lo, behold Arafat, the great and terrible terrorist, come to negotiate!” It was all a sham and a lie. Arafat had no more mandate than the Man in the Moon.

    Meanwhile, Hamas, the true enemy, was a common enemy. Of them the world heard only evil things, though they were manifestly less-corrupt than Fatah. Why the USA continues to treat Hamas as a terrorist entity while cuddling up to that rogue’s gallery of Erakat and the rest of ’em (and Leila Khaled, an appalling hijacker the world little remembers but I remember with exquisite clarity, now a member of the Palestinian National Council), every one of them as false as a three dollar bill.

    Fatah set new worldwide standards in corruption, fleecing supporters and enemies alike. Never did a more sorry troop of flypecked, aggressive beggars assemble in modern history that these. Some in rags and some in tags, and some in velvet gowns, yes, and bespoke suits as well.

    To conclude an actual peace with the Palestinians, the Israelis must negotiate with the actual enemy, that being Hamas. All else is chicanery and madness.

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    • In reality, Arafat was out telling everyone in Arabic within earshot that Oslo was the “great deception” on par with Mohammed’s breaking of the “truce” of Khudaibiya 2 years into what was supposed to be a 7-year truce.

      “When the prophet Muhammad made the Khudaibiya agreement, he agreed to remove his title “messenger of Allah” from the agreement. Then, Omar bin Khatib and the others referred to this agreement as the “inferior peace agreement.” Of course, I do not compare myself to the prophet, but I do say that we must learn from his steps and those of Salah a-Din. The peace agreement which we signed is an “inferior peace.”” – Arafat, interview on Orbit TV (Egyptian TV station), April 18, 1998.

      “Only a Palestinian State can continue the struggle to remove the enemy from all Palestinian lands” (Jerusalem Post, November 18, 1994).

      “This is the phased program which we all adopted in 1974 – why do you oppose it?” (Arafat responding to critics of the treaties with Israel, July 1995).

      “The Oslo II Agreement is a delayed realization of a stage in the PLO’s 1974 phased plan” (A-Datsur [Jordanian Newspaper], September 19, 1995).

      “”The people of Troy climbed on top of the walls of their city and could not find any traces of the Greek army, except for a giant wooden horse. They cheered and celebrated thinking that the Greek troops were routed, and while retreating, they left a harmless wooden horse as the spoils of war. So Troy opened the gates of the city and brought in the wooden horse. This allowed the Greeks to overwhelm the city. This is precisely the strategy of the Palestinian Authority. Had the U.S. and Israel not realized, before Oslo, that all that was left of the Palestinian National movement and the Pan-Arab movement was a wooden horse called Yasser Arafat or the PLO, they would never have opened their fortified gates and let it inside of their walls! Now, We are Inside of Israel! Now, the time has come for us to say: ‘Come out of the horse and start fighting.’ So, it is thanks to this horse (Oslo) that we were able to get into the walled-in city (Jerusalem ). In my opinion, the Intifada represents in and of itself the emergence out of the horse. Praise Allah, by now we have all come out of the horse, those who were with Arafat and those from the opposition (Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists)….

      “The strategic goal is the liberation of Palestine from the Jordanian River to the Mediterranean Sea, even if this means that the conflict will last for another thousand years or for many generations.”” – Palestinian minister Feisal Husseini, Al-Arabi (June 24, 2001)

      You can’t negotiate with Hamas. They don’t recognize the right of Israel to exist, they still refer to the entire region as “occupied palestine”, and their charter (http://middleeast.about.com/od/palestinepalestinians/a/me080106b.htm) is still fully in effect. Negotiating even with the “weakest” version of the PLO was likewise a complete joke; while they promised to stop incitement of violence with one hand, they named streets and parks after suicide bombers and sent kids to “summer camps” full of wargames and terrorist attack reenactments and raw, racist rhetoric on the other.

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      • Not for all the world and its pomps would I disagree with a word you say, yet consider Hamas in context. Hamas is an offshoot of the Ikhwan al Muslimun, the only viable opposition to despotic regimes in the region. I do not distinguish between Hamas and the Ikhwan: they are all of a piece and arose from the same causes. Mubarak in Egypt viciously oppresses them.

        Memories are long there and if the Ikhwan have become intransigent, they were not always so. The Ikhwan arose after World War 1, Hassan al Banna protested against the British in Egypt. Let us not forget the legacy of Irgun and the Stern Gang, equally-implacable and equally-violent enemies of British occupation.

        Those were strange times: the Ottoman Empire had bet wrong in the Great War. The British and French, treacherous bastards (when were they not?) had lied to the Arabs and to Lawrence of Arabia, promising them self-rule. Over a bottle of brandy, Sykes and Picot, (assisted by that meddlesome arabophile Gertrude Bell, who ensured the much-hated Kurds would never have a homeland) managed to make a dog’s dinner of the Ottoman vilayet system.

        Where the Ottomans had governed from afar, the British practically garroted the nomadic Bedouins, forcibly settling them into the shabby towns we see today. But the Bedouin have always been abused, mostly by other Arabs: many Bedouin fight for Israel to this day. Yasser Arafat affected the Bedouin kaffiyeh though he was no such thing: he was Cairene Egyptian and never lost his masr accent.

        Israel would be wise to negotiate with Hamas. It tacitly does negotiate with them in any event: they both share enemies. Only Hamas has the power to restrain the more-vociferous launchers of the crude Qassam rockets, though I have heard Hamas advocates enviously comment on Hizb’allah’s brand spanking new Iran-furnished Zelzal rockets. Iran would very much like to get a few of those into the Gaza.

        As for Shaheed Summer Camps, those are currently being run by Hizb’allah in Lebanon, just out of range of Israeli artillery fire, matriculating thousands of would-be martyrs. They’re also training the current suicidal bozos re-afflicting Iraq, I’ll have you know. Hamas, like Israel itself, has been reduced to shell-shocked veterans with the Thousand Yard Stare. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, yet both hang on, the only real powers worth considering in this horrible struggle and both know it.

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        • “Hamas is an offshoot of the Ikhwan al Muslimun, the only viable opposition to despotic regimes in the region.”

          Counting them as “viable opposition” is kind of like offering to replace a plateful of cow shit with a plateful of sheep shit on the dinner table. It’s still shit.

          “Memories are long there and if the Ikhwan have become intransigent, they were not always so.”

          Surely you jest. Muslim Brotherhood were the promoters of the anti-Jewish pogroms in the British Mandate of Palestine in the late 1920s, and they were organizers of the very first Pan-Arabist war against the fledgling Israeli state in 1947-1949.

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          • The anti-Jewish pogroms started long before, when the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem set the inhabitants of Hebron upon each other. The founding of Israel and the settling of the Scots in Ulster continue to have much in common.

            The Zionists, especially Hertzl, warned the newly-arrived Jews against provoking the Arabs. Buy the land, do not take it, as Abraham did in Hebron. Israel would not listen. It still will not listen. The Jews could have found common cause with the Palestinians: both were oppressed peoples.

            As for your bumptious and scatological references to the Ikhwan, equally cacaesque references could be made to Israel’s vicious and inbred Hasidim. Nothing hardens an idealist quite so much as a few lifetimes of oppression. Lenin observed prison was the finishing school of the revolutionary: Israel’s prisons, Egypt’s too, are full of the Ikhwan. They will have the last word on all this: martyrs can only be killed once.

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            • What are you, a Hamas-in-Exile member or something?

              “The Jews could have found common cause with the Palestinians: both were oppressed peoples. ”

              I doubt it. The Egyptians put up a wall around Gaza long before the Israelis even thought of the notion, the Egyptians placed a military cordon on them as well, and when this caused trade problems, the answer from Egypt was “blame the damn Jews.”

              I find it interesting that you mention the Grand Mufti, Yasser Arafat’s uncle… the same guy who was known as the “head” of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jerusalemn, also the same guy who flew to Berlin to sign agreements and offer his services in the creation of Muslim groups wholly devoted to the “Final Solution” such as the Waffen SS “Hanjar” division, who slaughtered over 90% of Bosnia’s Jewish population and burned down countless Serbian churches and towns.

              The Mufti’s condition for his assistance? That when Hitler was done with Europe, he would implement the Final Solution in “Palestine” as well.

              Of course, that didn’t stop him when the Nazis were stopped. Far from it, Muslim Brotherhood with Al-Husseini at the head were the organizing force that put together the Pan-Arabist armies for the 1947-1949 war. His “sidelining” by the PLO, with his nephews Mohammed Yasser Abdel Rahman Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseini (guess who!) and Faisal Abdel Qader Al-Husseini arranging to take over the running of the terrorism charade, has to qualify as one of the shrewdest political misdirection tricks ever played.

              I say it again: negotiating with Hamas, or any Muslim Brotherhood group, is a joke at best and outright suicide at worst. The PLO, which is just another Muslim Brotherhood front group in the “what the hell do the terrorists call themselves this week” shell game, is the same – the supposed “bloody uprising” and “infighting” we hear about between them has sod-all to do with whether or not they are a bunch of genocidal racists, and is nothing more than corrupt boobs fighting over which one gets to use the PRC ambulances as a taxi service, steal the “food and material aid” sent by gullible dumbass westerners, and point their fingers at the “Evil Jews sons of apes and pigs” when anyone asks questions.

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      • And yet still, Bob, Israel needs to be rid of the territories. It needs to be rid of them for both demographic and civil reasons to say nothing of the cancer they are on its international standing. I’m certainly not suggesting the Israeli’s lay down their arms and walk singing into the future but it’s blatantly obvious that ridding themselves of most of the settlements are a virtue in their own right. Some Israeli’s seem to think they should get something in exchange for withdrawal. It’d be nice if they could do so but it’d be akin to asking someone to pay you to stop smoking. Even if no one will it’s still wise to stop smoking for your own benefit.

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    • Fatah has changed somewhat since Arafat BlaiseP. They could actually pull something off in the West Bank. If Israel cut a deal with Fatah and start at least partially withdrawing and dismantling the outlying settlements the Pals in the West Bank would be dancing in the streets. Throw an election after that and Fatah would win over Hamas easily I dare say.
      I don’t think it can happen as long as Benzion Netanyahu is drawing breath. Jehova or whatever has a mighty sense of humor.

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      • I question how much Fatah has changed. Mutatis mutandis, Fatah’s current leadership connives with Israel against Hamas as did Arafat before them. Netanyahu is no less a crafty beggar than the PA: demanding (and getting!) ever more aid for ever less peace.

        I’ve been reading the Arabic press as it jeers at Erakat: as you may know, nobody hates the Palestinian Authority more than the other Arab states. Pay no attention to the Happy Talk about Salam Fayyad and the astonishing rise of Ramallah, especially not to Tom Friedman’s puerile panegyrics. All those buildings are owned lock, stock and barrel by PA cronies.

        Let us at long last quit talking about “The Palestinian Authority” for it is no such thing. It controls its petty fiefdom in the West Bank, parlaying with Israel at the expense of its own citizenry, saying much, doing little, all the while its ridiculous soldiery grifting baksheesh from anyone with one shekel to put against another. Fatah lost one election and did what it always did: it started shooting. And following tradition, going right back to Arafat’s days in Jordan, Fatah got its ass kicked. Intifadeh…. hoo boy. Eet is to larf.

        Fatah was trouble in Jordan, trouble in Lebanon. I was around to watch all that go down. I contend it was about that time when Arafat decided it was more profitable to rob banks, grift from the UN and the Americans and generally raise empty promises and outright lies to an art form.

        Meanwhile, Madame Suha Arafat swans around Rue Faubourg in Paris, retiring to her entire floor at Le Bristol.

        Qu’ils mangeant de la brioche.

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        • I’m not carrying any water for Fatah. But the facts on the ground are the facts on the ground and the perception is, rightly in my eyes, that it is the Israeli’s who are holding up the process. Has Bibi or any of the other right wingers actually laid out what concrete and achievable things are necessary to begin the demographically essential Israeli divestment of the territories? Of course not; if Bibi even started moving that way his coalition would shatter and he’d be back into elections. This is the same PM who bragged about all the things he did during his previous administration to sink the peace process. The man is a disaster, merrily chaining his country tighter and tighter to the very anchors that threaten to drown it.

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          • The Israelis are in a terrible quandary. Tautologies about Facts on the Ground are of no avail: it is the ground itself which has become the issue. I remember the day Arafat came back to Ramallah, his technicals roaring around, his boys shooting in the air. Arafat was never a peacemaker and his Nobel Peace Prize a ghastly joke.

            Nor are rhetorical flourishes about the Right Wingers particularly useful: the Right Wing came to power because Labour couldn’t achieve anything. If Israel lost faith in its peacemakers, the peacemakers of yore were also building settlements, stealing land and provoking the worst instincts in all concerned.

            Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin were equally unworthy. Yitzhak Rabin personally supervised the ethnic cleansing of the towns of ar-Ramla and al-Ludd and built an airport over those homes. Shimon Peres was instrumental in the building of the Dimona Reactor, which has never been subject to IAEA inspections or arms control agreements.

            Israel’s Left might weep a few maudlin tears over the fate of the Palestinians, but they are fundamentally no different than Israel’s Right Wing, who are in turn no different than Hamas or Fatah or Phalange or the Hizb’allah. Strip off the labels, they are all grubby, intolerant scum, each completely convinced of his own excellence and moral superiority, with a handy scroll of litany in the breast pocket of his BDUs, which he will read to you upon the slightest provocation, the enumeration of the Martyrs to the Cause.

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            • Elegantly worded but also evasive.
              I am no fan of Arafat of the schizophrenic peoples he claimed to represent. I hold no brief for the moral glow of Rabin or Peres or any of the other political players but at least Rabin, Sharon and (to a lesser degree) Peres recognized the inevitable path that the country needed to take. It is a bitter irony that the Israeli peace movement was killed stone dead by the Palestinians insane behavior in the late 90’s and early millennium. It would be an even more towering irony if the Palestinians, exhausted and for now at least being shepherded by administrators who are restraining the terrorists and are willing to cut a rational deal, suffer a similar fate at the hands of Likudnik fanatics in Israel.

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              • Evasive? You wound me to the quick. You hold no water for anyone. Peres was a crook and a liar, waist deep in currency scandal. Peres’ problem was his faith in the Hashemites. He thought he could fob the West Bank off to Jordan and let them rule that fractious mob. Hypocritical old bastard, Shimon Peres continues to blow his rusty old bugle about the Threat from Iran, though he is directly responsible for Israel’s own stock of nuclear weapons at Dimona, of which we must say nothing. If Israel has hundreds of nuclear weapons and Iran wants its own stockpile, the very last person on Earth who has a right to say that might be a problem is that viper Shimon Peres, who went as far as to form alliances with Likud. He is no peacemaker. He is a political reptile, warming himself where he may.

                Likud watched as Rabin and Peres hemmed and hawwed and harrumphed their way to ruin and political oblivion like a pair of Dr. Panglosses. Likud stated the obvious: there was no Palestine because there was no Palestinian leadership worthy of the name. And why, you ask, isn’t there any Palestinian leadership? Israel has killed them all, one by one, with Rabin and Peres, for all their mealy-mouthed talk of peace, sending forth its own death squads to do so, as they had long before.

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                • Apologizies, I didn’t mean to wound you. Are you then a proponent of the one state solution? Because surely you don’t subscribe to the delusions that Jordan or Egypt will ever be able to be induced to absorb the territories into themselves.
                  I carry water for Israel in general. I love the country and the people in it. I was, truth be told, too young to know Rabin but I thought Labors efforts were well intentioned and probably indispensible even if they led to failure (Palestinian behavior changed world opinion which in turn along with 9/11 has effected Palestinian behavior). I thought Sharon was crazy, up until he withdrew from Gaza and now I must admit my opinion of him is quite high. For the Palestinians I am aware of the arguments that there never was a Palestine but I consider it moot. There are Palestinians now and they’ll have to be addressed. My personal preference is that they’re addressed with a two state solution and the sooner the better. My fear is that they’ll give up on that alternative and begin lobbying in earnest for a one state solution with full annexation of the territories and voting rights for their inhabitants. What on earth with Israel do then?

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                  • Heh. I am not wounded. Alas that Tim Berners-Lee did not give us a sarcasm tag when he invented the Web.

                    To truly love anyone or anything is to know them well and still love them anyway. Israel’s predicated on being a Jewish State. For better or worse, the only other states founded on the proposition of a single ethnic or religious group dominating the others are the Islamic States.

                    My young friend, the era of the nation state is coming to an end, as surely as tomorrow’s sunrise. Its demise began with the advent of air power and completely lost all validity with the ICBM. I have now lived long enough to see identity become a pick-and-choose proposition. I always find it amusing to ask an American what he is. He will never answer “American”. It’s always something about half-Polish and half-Irish and some Cherokee. There’s always some Cherokee in every American, even in black Americans.

                    There will never be a two-state solution. The only analogy which can be drawn here is one of an exceedingly ugly divorce, where the individuals cannot be physically separated. It is the bitterest of ironies, that the Jews, persecuted, forbidden to own land, confined to ghettos and treated like dirt for centuries in Europe, would mete out the same treatment to the Palestinians.

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                  • (rude laughter) Apparently not completely done, are you, Bub?

                    Hamas? Sigh. No. I don’t take sides in that fight. I’ve spoken Arabic for fifty years now and met your kind on the other side of this fight, equally uninformed, equally angry. Perhaps you ought to quit jumping to conclusions. I didn’t come here for a fight. You’ll keep a civil tongue in your head, Bub. I’m too old and seen too much to get very excited about you calling me a liar.

                    I’ve worked in refugee camps in Lebanon, while the PLO thugs ran them and the UN’s idea of refugee work was driving around in big new Land Cruisers for a few weeks, taking the prettier girls in the camp off to Sidon for the weekend. I’ve worked in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, with the Hmong, the Somalis, Guatemalans.

                    Long ago I learned something you’ve yet to work out in your own mind. Any time you find yourself getting angry over an issue, it’s because you want to change the person who disagrees with you. Look, I believe God sees the world through the eyes of the refugees, the dispossessed, the outcasts. They’re often frightened, bewildered, seemingly ungrateful. Often they prey on each other, I saw enough of that.

                    I am no liar. I am often wrong. But I know people from the town of al-Ludd. Feel free to call me a liar. Just don’t call them liars. I’m godfather to one of their children.

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  5. Good Lord, Hamas? A peace partner? A trustworthy peace partner? That would be tantamount to the United States sitting down with al-Qaeda and hammering out a “peace treaty”, a treaty that once implemented, would require, as a starting point, the complete extermination of all Jews and Christians. Hey, no problem. And while we’re at it, let’s supply Hamas with nuclear weapons–that should give them the peace and security they’ve always wanted. It’s just those darn extremists who keep getting in the way, demanding the complete, total, destruction of Israel–and also that wee little problem of starting five wars since 1947. Speaking of–I don’t know the answer to this, but has a country, victorious in war, ever been forced to give land back land to her vanquished enemies? Enemies who still, to this day, long and desire to kill every Jew in Israel? Here is a selection from the Hamas Charter:

    “Hamas has been looking forward to implement Allah’s promise whatever time it might take. The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him.”
    Here is a partial list of terrorists attacks carried out by Hamas–it only goes up to the year 2008. Also, the decline in attacks is only because of the construction of the defensive wall–it in no way reflects acceptance by Hamas of the right of Jews to live in Israel.
    1993 1
    1994 38
    1995 39
    1996 59
    1997 24
    1998 3
    1999 0
    2000 6
    2001 86
    2002 237
    2003 146
    2004 95
    2005 33
    2006 15
    2007 3
    2008 1
    Total 786
    Merchant of Venice
    “I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.” Shakespeare
    Shylock
    As always, for Israel to give up land for peace, she will have no land and most definitely, no peace. It just keeps happening over, over, and over
    again. The Palestinians have NEVER honored a single treaty or agreement they have made with Israel. Why would it ever change regardless of the change of actors?

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    • Yes yes Heideggar but their current behavior towards Hamas has accomplished very little. The fact remains that Israel needs to be rid of the demographic weight of the territories in order to preserve their own long term viability. Sharon had it generally right (curse the black fortune of that damnable blood clot). If they can’t cut a deal with the Palestinians they need to withdraw unilaterally. Certainly mucking around erecting even more buildings in regions they’re inevitably going to turn over isn’t productive. But then again that’s par for Bibi’s course; unending pandering to the right wing lunatics of his coalition with nary a peep about the long term welfare of his country.

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      • Excellent points, North–all of which I pretty much agree. Gaza’s been sealed, same with West bank. Now if they could just go about killing each other, we would have the best of all possible solutions. Let’s even heavily supply them with all the weapons necessary to complete the task. They want martyrs, and we’ll give them martyrs–hopefully, all 72 virgins will all look like Helen Thomas. They will never ever accept a Jewish state and will, to their last dying breath, remain committed to killing every Jew in Israel. And what in the world is wrong for Israel to target killing Hamas terrorists? Here are a few of the lil’ darlings the IDF have whacked–with beautiful precision, I might add: Some of the targeted killings by the Israeli military were Hamas leaders Mahmoud Adani (February 2001), Jamil Jadallah (November 2001), Salah Shahade (July 2002), Sheikh Ahmed Yassin (March 2004), Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi (April 2004) and Adnan al-Ghoul (October 2004), all targeted in the Al-Aqsa Intifada.[5]

        While the term “targeted killing” usually describes airborne attacks, Israeli security forces have killed top Palestinian militants in the past by other means, although this has never been confirmed officially.

        Some of the known operations include:[6]

        Operation Wrath of God against Black September and Palestinian Liberation Organisation personnel alleged to have been directly or indirectly involved in the 1972 Munich massacre, led to the Lillehammer affair.
        Operation Spring of Youth against top Palestine Liberation Organisation leaders in Beirut, 1973: Muhammad Najar, Kammal Adwan, and Kammal Nasser.[7]
        Khalil al-Wazir known by his nom de guerre Abu Jihad. One of the founders and Military Head of Fatah, killed in Tunis, 1988[8]
        Yahya Abdel-Tif Ayyash (Hamas bombmaker, “the Engineer”) in Beit Lahya, Gaza, 1996. Ayyash was killed by a cell phone allegedly containing “50 grams of high-grade explosives.”[9]
        Khaled Mashal (Hamas) in Jordan, 1997 (failed)
        This method, for the most part, kills the terrorists and spares the lives of innocent civilians. It’s perfect–what’s not to like? Blaise makes it look like the Israelis are assassinating present and future “leaders”. HA! As long as this toxic fanatical group of Jihadist murderers are in power, it will continue to be nothing but bloodshed. Check this out–a Hamas version of Romper Room. Here’s what Hamas, the Party of Peace, is teaching their children.

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        • Sorry Heidegger, the West Bank is far from sealed. And sooner or later the Palestinians are going to wise up and shift gears to demanding representation within the government that is controlling the land on which they live. At which point Israel is going to be up shit creek.

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            • Well we’ll see how well their great reduction of terrorist attacks goes if the Palestinians either A) heave their current administrators out on their ears or B) said administrators determine that Bibi and his clown possey aren’t going to negotiate a withdrawal in good faith. If either of those go down you can be sure lives will be lost on both sides a-plenty. If the likudnik Israelis and their backers in the US think that the current peace is entirely being imposed by Israeli might they’re more delusional than I could imagine. And that’s without even going into how their pet settlement and construction projects are chaining their country to a landmine.

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  6. “I supported the Gaza withdrawal, but the images — and reality — of Jewish soldiers dragging Jewish citizens from their homes made me break down.”

    F*ck ‘their’ homes – they kicked people out to settle there, quite deliberately and evilly.

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