Commentary Magazine


Topic: Khaled Meshal

Despite UN Charade, Hamas Cashing In

Today is Mahmoud Abbas’s big day at the United Nations, as the Palestinian Authority’s Third World allies and Western sympathizers are uniting to throw the Fatah leader a bone in the form of an upgrade in the group’s status at the world body. The symbolism of this move, especially since it is timed to occur on the 65th anniversary of the 1947 UN vote to partition Palestine, is not without some value to those that think the recognition of the PA’s rights in the territory the Jewish state conquered in 1967 is a step toward forcing more Israeli withdrawals. But the talk about the PA being the government of an independent Palestinian state, even on that only exists in theory, is an escape from reality, not a look into the future. That’s because the people that already run an independent Palestinian state have their eyes on Abbas’s rotten borough in the West Bank and are planning to put it under different management.

While Abbas is taking a bow at the charade in New York where he will behave as the head of a virtual state, one of the leaders of the rival Hamas movement was talking about a merger with Fatah that would put the Islamists on course to run the West Bank. As the New York Times reports, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal spoke from his new headquarters in Doha, Qatar today and declared his intention to step up efforts to finally forge a unity agreement with Fatah. Though the two groups have been dancing around an accord for more than a year, the decision by Hamas to re-launch the effort in the wake of its missile offensive against Israel is no coincidence. Having gained ground in terms of popularity among Palestinians in the only way one can in their political culture — via violence — Hamas is about to cash in its chips and seek to win control of the West Bank by more peaceful means.

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Today is Mahmoud Abbas’s big day at the United Nations, as the Palestinian Authority’s Third World allies and Western sympathizers are uniting to throw the Fatah leader a bone in the form of an upgrade in the group’s status at the world body. The symbolism of this move, especially since it is timed to occur on the 65th anniversary of the 1947 UN vote to partition Palestine, is not without some value to those that think the recognition of the PA’s rights in the territory the Jewish state conquered in 1967 is a step toward forcing more Israeli withdrawals. But the talk about the PA being the government of an independent Palestinian state, even on that only exists in theory, is an escape from reality, not a look into the future. That’s because the people that already run an independent Palestinian state have their eyes on Abbas’s rotten borough in the West Bank and are planning to put it under different management.

While Abbas is taking a bow at the charade in New York where he will behave as the head of a virtual state, one of the leaders of the rival Hamas movement was talking about a merger with Fatah that would put the Islamists on course to run the West Bank. As the New York Times reports, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal spoke from his new headquarters in Doha, Qatar today and declared his intention to step up efforts to finally forge a unity agreement with Fatah. Though the two groups have been dancing around an accord for more than a year, the decision by Hamas to re-launch the effort in the wake of its missile offensive against Israel is no coincidence. Having gained ground in terms of popularity among Palestinians in the only way one can in their political culture — via violence — Hamas is about to cash in its chips and seek to win control of the West Bank by more peaceful means.

Meshaal is seeking to seal a unity deal by having Hamas included in new elections for the Palestine Liberation Organization, the alliance of terrorist groups headed by Yasir Arafat that signed the Oslo Accords with Israel. The Times reports that Meshaal will be given a senior post in the PLO via appointment by Abbas or a vote by its governing council. That will set in motion a train of events that could leave Hamas gaining control of the West Bank by winning an election just as its victory in the Palestinian legislative elections preceded the violent coup by which it seized the Gaza in 2006.

That puts Hamas in the awkward position of attempting to run the Palestinian Authority even though it was created as a result of the peace accord with Israel. But that seeming contradiction doesn’t worry Meshaal or anybody else in Hamas. They are committed to “resistance” against Israel and have no plans of recognizing it or working toward peace. But it does put them in position to establish its dominance via the ballot box.

The reason why Abbas is currently serving the eighth year of a four-year term as president of the PA is that he has always rightly feared defeat if Hamas was given a chance to unseat him. But he knows that dissatisfaction with his rule is growing and that it might be smarter to deal with Hamas now while he still has some leverage over them rather than later on when he might have none. Though consummation of the unity deal is a long way off, the Islamist group knows that if it plays its cards right, sooner or later it could be running things in Ramallah the way it currently does in Gaza.

The bottom line here is that those who think today’s vote will give Abbas the strength he needs to hold off Hamas are not paying attention to what is going on in the region. Though Fatah’s friends in Europe think they can keep him afloat, Hamas’s backing from Egypt and Turkey and the financial and military support they get from Iran have changed the balance of forces in Palestinian politics. A symbolic vote isn’t convincing anyone that Fatah rather than Hamas is the face of Palestinian nationalism. Though Abbas is having a good day in New York, it is Meshaal and the rest of Hamas that is about to reap the benefits of the Arab–or should we say, Islamist–Spring that is threatening to plunge the Middle East into more darkness.

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Useful Idiots at Sea

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air has a very good summary of points about the Hamas-backed attempt to break the maritime blockade of Gaza on May 31. The summary includes links on the Turkish “aid” group, Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), and its associations with the Muslim Brotherhood and all the usual suspects of Islamist terror (including the Millennium bombing plot in 1999). There is convincing video footage of the fight mounted by the peace activists – using knives, metal pipe, handguns, stun grenades, and incendiary devices – against the Israeli commandos boarding M/V Mavi Marmara, the Turkish ferry used as the flotilla’s flagship. Probably the best compliment I can give Ed’s post is that it doesn’t adopt the credulous, pro-activist editorial perspective of virtually all the mainstream media outlets.

There is good reason not to. For one thing, the fingerprints of Hamas are all over this blockade-running attempt. IHH, a key organizer of the flotilla, has longstanding ties to Hamas that include establishing an IHH office in Gaza and setting up celebrated meetings between its leader, Bulent Yildirim, and Hamas leaders Khaled Meshal and Ismail Haniyeh. Moreover, British participation in the flotilla was organized by British Hamas leader Mohammed Sawalha, among other Hamas links to the European flotilla participants (laid out here).

Flotilla spokesmen told Islamic media repeatedly in the weeks before the attempt that their purpose was to break the blockade. Israel, of course, regularly allows aid convoys into Gaza; the Israelis offered to accept the humanitarian cargo in Ashdod and have it convoyed into Gaza over land. But IHH leaders stated that they hoped to widen the rift between Israel and Turkey by inciting Israel to take military action against the flotilla.

The Israelis advised Turkish and European envoys beforehand of their intention to use naval forces to prevent the flotilla from reaching Gaza. The outrage now being shown by European politicians certainly isn’t based on surprise at the course of events; the Israelis did exactly what they said they would do. In fact, some reports suggest that European governments joined Israel last week in pressuring Greek Cyprus to prevent the departure of flotilla participants who were using Cyprus as a staging area. In the days since Mavi Marmara’s departure from Istanbul on May 22, Europeans have been watching the flotilla’s dilatory progress much more closely than Americans have. The truth about the dramatic climax off Gaza on Monday is that the whole event has unfolded in slow motion – and with the full cognizance of all the relevant governments.

From a military operational perspective, it seems to have been a tactical error that the Israeli commandos didn’t go in with sufficient force. I doubt they’ll make that mistake again. If they had conducted the boarding on the premise that it would be “non-compliant” (the U.S. military term), they would have been prepared to stabilize the situation at the outset with the threat of deadly force. In conditions like the ones the commandos faced today, that usually means actual force is less likely to be necessary.

But in the end, what matters to Israeli national security is that the flotilla participants were armed and determined to break the blockade. As long as Hamas rules Gaza, the territory’s sea access is a major vulnerability for Israel and has to be controlled. Repeated attempts have been made in the last few years to deliver weapons from Iran to Hamas by sea (see here, here, here, here, and here); Israel can’t permit the coastline of Gaza to become the path of least resistance for weapons deliveries.

It will be up to the U.S. and Europe whether the waters off the Gaza coast, short miles from the Suez Canal, become a source of maritime instability due to incitement by Hamas. The EU leadership, tacitly accepting the Hamas narrative cloaked in Europe’s trademark parlor activism, is behaving with a fecklessness for which it deserves strong rebuke. It is not to the advantage of any respectable nation to carry Hamas’s water. Only Hamas and its fellow jihadists stand to benefit from Israel losing control of its maritime borders. The sooner Europe’s leaders confront that fact and take a responsible view of their own interests, the better.

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air has a very good summary of points about the Hamas-backed attempt to break the maritime blockade of Gaza on May 31. The summary includes links on the Turkish “aid” group, Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), and its associations with the Muslim Brotherhood and all the usual suspects of Islamist terror (including the Millennium bombing plot in 1999). There is convincing video footage of the fight mounted by the peace activists – using knives, metal pipe, handguns, stun grenades, and incendiary devices – against the Israeli commandos boarding M/V Mavi Marmara, the Turkish ferry used as the flotilla’s flagship. Probably the best compliment I can give Ed’s post is that it doesn’t adopt the credulous, pro-activist editorial perspective of virtually all the mainstream media outlets.

There is good reason not to. For one thing, the fingerprints of Hamas are all over this blockade-running attempt. IHH, a key organizer of the flotilla, has longstanding ties to Hamas that include establishing an IHH office in Gaza and setting up celebrated meetings between its leader, Bulent Yildirim, and Hamas leaders Khaled Meshal and Ismail Haniyeh. Moreover, British participation in the flotilla was organized by British Hamas leader Mohammed Sawalha, among other Hamas links to the European flotilla participants (laid out here).

Flotilla spokesmen told Islamic media repeatedly in the weeks before the attempt that their purpose was to break the blockade. Israel, of course, regularly allows aid convoys into Gaza; the Israelis offered to accept the humanitarian cargo in Ashdod and have it convoyed into Gaza over land. But IHH leaders stated that they hoped to widen the rift between Israel and Turkey by inciting Israel to take military action against the flotilla.

The Israelis advised Turkish and European envoys beforehand of their intention to use naval forces to prevent the flotilla from reaching Gaza. The outrage now being shown by European politicians certainly isn’t based on surprise at the course of events; the Israelis did exactly what they said they would do. In fact, some reports suggest that European governments joined Israel last week in pressuring Greek Cyprus to prevent the departure of flotilla participants who were using Cyprus as a staging area. In the days since Mavi Marmara’s departure from Istanbul on May 22, Europeans have been watching the flotilla’s dilatory progress much more closely than Americans have. The truth about the dramatic climax off Gaza on Monday is that the whole event has unfolded in slow motion – and with the full cognizance of all the relevant governments.

From a military operational perspective, it seems to have been a tactical error that the Israeli commandos didn’t go in with sufficient force. I doubt they’ll make that mistake again. If they had conducted the boarding on the premise that it would be “non-compliant” (the U.S. military term), they would have been prepared to stabilize the situation at the outset with the threat of deadly force. In conditions like the ones the commandos faced today, that usually means actual force is less likely to be necessary.

But in the end, what matters to Israeli national security is that the flotilla participants were armed and determined to break the blockade. As long as Hamas rules Gaza, the territory’s sea access is a major vulnerability for Israel and has to be controlled. Repeated attempts have been made in the last few years to deliver weapons from Iran to Hamas by sea (see here, here, here, here, and here); Israel can’t permit the coastline of Gaza to become the path of least resistance for weapons deliveries.

It will be up to the U.S. and Europe whether the waters off the Gaza coast, short miles from the Suez Canal, become a source of maritime instability due to incitement by Hamas. The EU leadership, tacitly accepting the Hamas narrative cloaked in Europe’s trademark parlor activism, is behaving with a fecklessness for which it deserves strong rebuke. It is not to the advantage of any respectable nation to carry Hamas’s water. Only Hamas and its fellow jihadists stand to benefit from Israel losing control of its maritime borders. The sooner Europe’s leaders confront that fact and take a responsible view of their own interests, the better.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

No kidding: “The White House was more focused on victory than on any plan in particular, and — once the battle had been engaged — than in the details of the plan,” writes Ben Smith on ObamaCare.

“No surprise,” says Glenn Reynolds about this: “College students taking racial and ethnic studies courses have lower respect for members of other groups.”

“No question,” says Nancy Pelosi about how voters are in an “anti-incumbent mood.” Actually, they seem to be especially aggrieved about Democratic incumbents — otherwise Democrats wouldn’t be at risk of losing control of the House.

No love among the Democratic base for party switcher Arlen Specter: he falls nine points behind Joe Sestak in the latest Suffolk University poll.

No relief for the Democrats in Illinois, as Mob banker Alexi Giannoulias declared that “we didn’t need wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” I’m thinking Obama is going to write off this seat and not appear next to Giannoulias. Some candidates just can’t be saved, and why give the president’s 2012 opponent footage for campaign ads?

No indication that Republicans are extinct in New England: “The U.S. Senate race in New Hampshire looks largely the same way it has for months, with two of the three top Republican candidates holding double-digit leads over Democratic hopeful Paul Hodes. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in New Hampshire shows former state Attorney General Kelly Ayotte at 50% for the second month in a row, with Hodes earning 38% support. Three percent (3%) favor some other candidate, and nine percent(9%) are undecided.”

No better example of the farce that is the UN: Libya has been elected to the Human Rights Council.

No “reset” here: “Calling Hamas ‘a terror organization in every way,’ Israel’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday it was ‘deeply disappointed’ that [President Dmitry] Medvedev met the group’s exiled leader Khaled Meshal during a visit to Syria this week. Russia, the United States, European Union and the United Nations make up a quartet of Middle East mediators. The U.S., EU and Israel consider Hamas a terrorist group. Russia insists that Hamas should not be isolated.”

No love lost between Jeffrey Goldberg and the obsessed Beagle Blogger: Goldberg looks at “whether it is right for a journalist working for an institution that prides itself on careful journalism to float rumors about a public figure’s sexual orientation.” But if an institution houses such a “journalist,” does it really pride itself on careful journalism?

No kidding: “The White House was more focused on victory than on any plan in particular, and — once the battle had been engaged — than in the details of the plan,” writes Ben Smith on ObamaCare.

“No surprise,” says Glenn Reynolds about this: “College students taking racial and ethnic studies courses have lower respect for members of other groups.”

“No question,” says Nancy Pelosi about how voters are in an “anti-incumbent mood.” Actually, they seem to be especially aggrieved about Democratic incumbents — otherwise Democrats wouldn’t be at risk of losing control of the House.

No love among the Democratic base for party switcher Arlen Specter: he falls nine points behind Joe Sestak in the latest Suffolk University poll.

No relief for the Democrats in Illinois, as Mob banker Alexi Giannoulias declared that “we didn’t need wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” I’m thinking Obama is going to write off this seat and not appear next to Giannoulias. Some candidates just can’t be saved, and why give the president’s 2012 opponent footage for campaign ads?

No indication that Republicans are extinct in New England: “The U.S. Senate race in New Hampshire looks largely the same way it has for months, with two of the three top Republican candidates holding double-digit leads over Democratic hopeful Paul Hodes. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in New Hampshire shows former state Attorney General Kelly Ayotte at 50% for the second month in a row, with Hodes earning 38% support. Three percent (3%) favor some other candidate, and nine percent(9%) are undecided.”

No better example of the farce that is the UN: Libya has been elected to the Human Rights Council.

No “reset” here: “Calling Hamas ‘a terror organization in every way,’ Israel’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday it was ‘deeply disappointed’ that [President Dmitry] Medvedev met the group’s exiled leader Khaled Meshal during a visit to Syria this week. Russia, the United States, European Union and the United Nations make up a quartet of Middle East mediators. The U.S., EU and Israel consider Hamas a terrorist group. Russia insists that Hamas should not be isolated.”

No love lost between Jeffrey Goldberg and the obsessed Beagle Blogger: Goldberg looks at “whether it is right for a journalist working for an institution that prides itself on careful journalism to float rumors about a public figure’s sexual orientation.” But if an institution houses such a “journalist,” does it really pride itself on careful journalism?

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Reality to Be Avoided at All Costs

You wonder how Ahmadinejad’s favorite duo of spinners, Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, will spin this one:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday said that the existence of “the Zionist regime” is an insult to humanity. …

Ahmadinejad made his remarks at a conference called “National and Islamic Solidarity for the Future of Palestine” where he declared Israel the reason for instability in the Middle East.

The Iranian leader said Israel’s presence on even one inch of the region’s soil was a cause for crisis and war, adding that the only way to confront Israel is through the resistance of Palestinian youth and other nations in the region.

Ahmadinejad also told the conference that the “Zionist regime” is the origin of all the wars, genocide, terrors and crimes against humanity and that it is a racist group that does not respect human principles.

Also in attendance at the conference were Hamas Chief Khaled Meshal, Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Abdullah Shallah and the head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command, Ahmed Jibril, all of whom live in exile.

The Iranian president ended his speech by suggesting a referendum on the destruction of Israel.

One can only imagine that the mullahs’ favorite propagandists will hail that referendum suggestion as a sign of Ahmadinejad’s great devotion to democracy.

But this is the great problem with not only the most fatuous apologists of the regime but also the entire contingent of pro-engagement, self-described Iran “realists” (who are more fabulists than realists). The “realists” require that we engage in all manner of excuses to explain away Ahmadinejad’s genocidal language. It’s just for domestic consumption, you see. He doesn’t mean it. We’ll make it worse if we aid those who want to overthrow the regime. Have we left anything out? Oh, he’s not important at all because it’s really the Revolutionary Guard that runs the show. (Yes, well, that might be worse, but let’s not dwell on it.)

The Obami’s engagement theory was (is? as they haven’t given it up) premised on the notion that we’re dealing with rational actors who assess costs and benefits as we would and who will perceive it in their self-interest to join the “community of nations.” When reality intrudes — Ahmadinejad reveals himself as leader of the destroy-Israel brigade or the regime turns Tehran into a “sealed citadel” — the pro-engagement crowd cringes. Their insistence on engaging those who obviously do not want to be engaged is once again revealed to be frankly delusional.

As even some “card-carrying” realists like Richard Haass – that is, those who refuse to shield their eyes from the nature of the regime with whom we must deal —  have come to concede:

The nuclear talks are going nowhere. The Iranians appear intent on developing the means to produce a nuclear weapon; there is no other explanation for the secret uranium-enrichment facility discovered near the holy city of Qum. Fortunately, their nuclear program appears to have hit some technical snags, which puts off the need to decide whether to launch a preventive strike. Instead we should be focusing on another fact: Iran may be closer to profound political change than at any time since the revolution that ousted the shah 30 years ago. …

Critics will say promoting regime change will encourage Iranian authorities to tar the opposition as pawns of the West. But the regime is already doing so. Outsiders should act to strengthen the opposition and to deepen rifts among the rulers. This process is underway, and while it will take time, it promises the first good chance in decades to bring about an Iran that, even if less than a model country, would nonetheless act considerably better at home and abroad. Even a realist should recognize that it’s an opportunity not to be missed.

Haass and others who now advocate regime change  have an advantage over those who still cling to the notion that we can do business with the existing Iranian regime: they need not avoid inconvenient facts nor engage in Rube Goldberg theories to explain away the obvious. Those who must do so surely aren’t “realists,” if that moniker has any meaning.

You wonder how Ahmadinejad’s favorite duo of spinners, Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, will spin this one:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday said that the existence of “the Zionist regime” is an insult to humanity. …

Ahmadinejad made his remarks at a conference called “National and Islamic Solidarity for the Future of Palestine” where he declared Israel the reason for instability in the Middle East.

The Iranian leader said Israel’s presence on even one inch of the region’s soil was a cause for crisis and war, adding that the only way to confront Israel is through the resistance of Palestinian youth and other nations in the region.

Ahmadinejad also told the conference that the “Zionist regime” is the origin of all the wars, genocide, terrors and crimes against humanity and that it is a racist group that does not respect human principles.

Also in attendance at the conference were Hamas Chief Khaled Meshal, Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Abdullah Shallah and the head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command, Ahmed Jibril, all of whom live in exile.

The Iranian president ended his speech by suggesting a referendum on the destruction of Israel.

One can only imagine that the mullahs’ favorite propagandists will hail that referendum suggestion as a sign of Ahmadinejad’s great devotion to democracy.

But this is the great problem with not only the most fatuous apologists of the regime but also the entire contingent of pro-engagement, self-described Iran “realists” (who are more fabulists than realists). The “realists” require that we engage in all manner of excuses to explain away Ahmadinejad’s genocidal language. It’s just for domestic consumption, you see. He doesn’t mean it. We’ll make it worse if we aid those who want to overthrow the regime. Have we left anything out? Oh, he’s not important at all because it’s really the Revolutionary Guard that runs the show. (Yes, well, that might be worse, but let’s not dwell on it.)

The Obami’s engagement theory was (is? as they haven’t given it up) premised on the notion that we’re dealing with rational actors who assess costs and benefits as we would and who will perceive it in their self-interest to join the “community of nations.” When reality intrudes — Ahmadinejad reveals himself as leader of the destroy-Israel brigade or the regime turns Tehran into a “sealed citadel” — the pro-engagement crowd cringes. Their insistence on engaging those who obviously do not want to be engaged is once again revealed to be frankly delusional.

As even some “card-carrying” realists like Richard Haass – that is, those who refuse to shield their eyes from the nature of the regime with whom we must deal —  have come to concede:

The nuclear talks are going nowhere. The Iranians appear intent on developing the means to produce a nuclear weapon; there is no other explanation for the secret uranium-enrichment facility discovered near the holy city of Qum. Fortunately, their nuclear program appears to have hit some technical snags, which puts off the need to decide whether to launch a preventive strike. Instead we should be focusing on another fact: Iran may be closer to profound political change than at any time since the revolution that ousted the shah 30 years ago. …

Critics will say promoting regime change will encourage Iranian authorities to tar the opposition as pawns of the West. But the regime is already doing so. Outsiders should act to strengthen the opposition and to deepen rifts among the rulers. This process is underway, and while it will take time, it promises the first good chance in decades to bring about an Iran that, even if less than a model country, would nonetheless act considerably better at home and abroad. Even a realist should recognize that it’s an opportunity not to be missed.

Haass and others who now advocate regime change  have an advantage over those who still cling to the notion that we can do business with the existing Iranian regime: they need not avoid inconvenient facts nor engage in Rube Goldberg theories to explain away the obvious. Those who must do so surely aren’t “realists,” if that moniker has any meaning.

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Revoke Jimmy Carter’s Security Clearance

One of the perks that former presidents receive, if they choose to utilize it, is a daily security briefing from the CIA. This is how Jimmy Carter came to know (or at least claim) that Israel has 150 nuclear weapons, considering the fact that the Israeli government has pursued a policy of deliberate ambiguity about its nuclear weapon capability. This is a policy that was formed with tacit agreement by the United States, which in exchange for a promise by Israel not to conduct nuclear tests, agreed to the rubric that the Jewish State would not be the first, officially acknowledged Middle Eastern nuclear power. Of course, Carter knew a lot about Israel’s nuclear capability during his time in office, and it’s unprecedented that a former president would reveal this information publicly.

Carter did not make this revelation in the midst of top-level policy discussion with world leaders (or terrorists who pretend to be leaders), but at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival in Wales, an annual event sponsored by The Guardian newspaper. He followed this disclosure with the assertion that “One of the greatest human rights crimes on earth is the starvation and imprisonment of 1.6m Palestinians.” Writing in Ha’aretz, defense analyst Reuven Pedatzur observes “One can assume that Iran will now be able to make use of Carter’s comments in order to point to the double standard of the Western world, which is prepared to accept a nuclear Israel but makes a great effort to prevent Iran from going nuclear.”

Last month I questioned whether Jimmy Carter was in violation of the Logan Act for his meeting with Khaled Meshal, leader of Hamas. Edward Zelinsky of the Cardozo School of Law concluded that the former President was breaking the law, but that given the history of the statute’s non-enforcement by federal authorities, a prosecution would be unlikely and ill-considered. Taking Professor Zelinsky’s learned opinion to heart, the United States government ought to at least revoke Carter’s security clearance before our worst ex-President further endangers international peace and security.

One of the perks that former presidents receive, if they choose to utilize it, is a daily security briefing from the CIA. This is how Jimmy Carter came to know (or at least claim) that Israel has 150 nuclear weapons, considering the fact that the Israeli government has pursued a policy of deliberate ambiguity about its nuclear weapon capability. This is a policy that was formed with tacit agreement by the United States, which in exchange for a promise by Israel not to conduct nuclear tests, agreed to the rubric that the Jewish State would not be the first, officially acknowledged Middle Eastern nuclear power. Of course, Carter knew a lot about Israel’s nuclear capability during his time in office, and it’s unprecedented that a former president would reveal this information publicly.

Carter did not make this revelation in the midst of top-level policy discussion with world leaders (or terrorists who pretend to be leaders), but at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival in Wales, an annual event sponsored by The Guardian newspaper. He followed this disclosure with the assertion that “One of the greatest human rights crimes on earth is the starvation and imprisonment of 1.6m Palestinians.” Writing in Ha’aretz, defense analyst Reuven Pedatzur observes “One can assume that Iran will now be able to make use of Carter’s comments in order to point to the double standard of the Western world, which is prepared to accept a nuclear Israel but makes a great effort to prevent Iran from going nuclear.”

Last month I questioned whether Jimmy Carter was in violation of the Logan Act for his meeting with Khaled Meshal, leader of Hamas. Edward Zelinsky of the Cardozo School of Law concluded that the former President was breaking the law, but that given the history of the statute’s non-enforcement by federal authorities, a prosecution would be unlikely and ill-considered. Taking Professor Zelinsky’s learned opinion to heart, the United States government ought to at least revoke Carter’s security clearance before our worst ex-President further endangers international peace and security.

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Good Neighbors

For some reason, people are saying that Hamas just agreed to make peace, and to live with Israel “just like the neighbor next door,” if the Jewish state withdraws from the West Bank. Jimmy Carter even went so far as to say that “there’s no doubt that both the Arab world and the Palestinians, including Hamas, will accept Israel’s right to live in peace within the 1967 borders.”

Well, maybe there’s a little doubt. Max Boot has pointed out that Hamas is doing almost nothing on the ground to give credence to these words, and that its charter makes it seem less than likely. But we don’t need to work that hard: this is Jimmy Carter speaking. Hamas, for their part, explicitly denied saying anything of the sort. Sami Abu-Zuhri, Hamas spokesman in the Gaza strip, said that any Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank would be “transitional”–meaning it would be a good starting point until the rest of Israel is wiped out. And while Hamas may be willing to accept a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank, they have been very clear about not actually recognizing Israel at that point. Here is Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas, speaking right after his meeting with Carter:

We agree to a [Palestinian] state on pre-67 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital with genuine sovereignty without settlements, but without recognizing Israel. We have offered a truce if Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders, a truce of 10 years as a proof of recognition.

In other words: We will stop butchering Jewish civilians for ten years, on condition that Israel gives up the West Bank, divides Jerusalem, and sets up a state where we will most likely rule after the first election, and will be free to continue building our forces in advance of a future confrontation with the Zionist enemy, which we will never recognize as a state. How . . . neighborly.

For some reason, people are saying that Hamas just agreed to make peace, and to live with Israel “just like the neighbor next door,” if the Jewish state withdraws from the West Bank. Jimmy Carter even went so far as to say that “there’s no doubt that both the Arab world and the Palestinians, including Hamas, will accept Israel’s right to live in peace within the 1967 borders.”

Well, maybe there’s a little doubt. Max Boot has pointed out that Hamas is doing almost nothing on the ground to give credence to these words, and that its charter makes it seem less than likely. But we don’t need to work that hard: this is Jimmy Carter speaking. Hamas, for their part, explicitly denied saying anything of the sort. Sami Abu-Zuhri, Hamas spokesman in the Gaza strip, said that any Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank would be “transitional”–meaning it would be a good starting point until the rest of Israel is wiped out. And while Hamas may be willing to accept a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank, they have been very clear about not actually recognizing Israel at that point. Here is Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas, speaking right after his meeting with Carter:

We agree to a [Palestinian] state on pre-67 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital with genuine sovereignty without settlements, but without recognizing Israel. We have offered a truce if Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders, a truce of 10 years as a proof of recognition.

In other words: We will stop butchering Jewish civilians for ten years, on condition that Israel gives up the West Bank, divides Jerusalem, and sets up a state where we will most likely rule after the first election, and will be free to continue building our forces in advance of a future confrontation with the Zionist enemy, which we will never recognize as a state. How . . . neighborly.

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No Hard Feelings

Hamas holds no grudges apparently against Barack Obama for his aversion to meeting with them. Carl Cameron reports:

During an interview on WABC radio Sunday, top Hamas political adviser Ahmed Yousef said the terrorist group supports Obama’s foreign policy vision. “We don’t mind – actually we like Mr. Obama. We hope he will [win] the election and I do believe he is like John Kennedy, great man with great principle, and he has a vision to change America to make it in a position to lead the world community but not with domination and arrogance,” Yousef said in response to a question about the group’s willingness to meet with either of the Democratic presidential candidates.

That is the problem with telling people only what they want to hear — some of them believe you.

Meanwhile, the Republican Jewish Coalition had offered rare praise for two Democratic congressmen:

“We commend the decision of House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Rep. Howard Berman and Committee Member Rep. Gary Ackerman to take a principled stance and ask former President Carter to cancel his planned meeting with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal,” said RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks. “Now more than ever, Senator Barack Obama must explain why he will not join the growing chorus of U.S. lawmakers demanding that President Carter stop undermining the Middle East peace process. Senator Obama’s silence speaks volumes about his weak support of Israel.”

And therein lies the problem: the Middle East does not lead itself to telling everyone what he wants to hear. Sometimes you have to say “no” to be the most “stalwart ally of Israel.”

Hamas holds no grudges apparently against Barack Obama for his aversion to meeting with them. Carl Cameron reports:

During an interview on WABC radio Sunday, top Hamas political adviser Ahmed Yousef said the terrorist group supports Obama’s foreign policy vision. “We don’t mind – actually we like Mr. Obama. We hope he will [win] the election and I do believe he is like John Kennedy, great man with great principle, and he has a vision to change America to make it in a position to lead the world community but not with domination and arrogance,” Yousef said in response to a question about the group’s willingness to meet with either of the Democratic presidential candidates.

That is the problem with telling people only what they want to hear — some of them believe you.

Meanwhile, the Republican Jewish Coalition had offered rare praise for two Democratic congressmen:

“We commend the decision of House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Rep. Howard Berman and Committee Member Rep. Gary Ackerman to take a principled stance and ask former President Carter to cancel his planned meeting with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal,” said RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks. “Now more than ever, Senator Barack Obama must explain why he will not join the growing chorus of U.S. lawmakers demanding that President Carter stop undermining the Middle East peace process. Senator Obama’s silence speaks volumes about his weak support of Israel.”

And therein lies the problem: the Middle East does not lead itself to telling everyone what he wants to hear. Sometimes you have to say “no” to be the most “stalwart ally of Israel.”

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Is Jimmy Carter in Violation of the Logan Act?

The Logan Act was enacted in 1799. It states in full:

Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

This section shall not abridge the right of a citizen to apply, himself or his agent, to any foreign government or the agents thereof for redress of any injury which he may have sustained from such government or any of its agents or subjects.

The origins of this law lie in the activities of Dr. George Logan, a Quaker pacifist doctor who tried to lessen tensions between the French Revolutionary government in Paris and the Federalists then leading the nascent American Republic, who tilted towards Britain. Logan traveled to France with an approving letter signed by Thomas Jefferson, and was accepted by the French government as a legitimate representative of the United States. Then-President John Adams condemned Logan for his rogue diplomacy, and decried the “temerity and impertinence of individuals affecting to interfere in public affairs between France and the United States.” One can only wonder what Adams would think of Jimmy Carter, who has brazenly announced his intention to meet with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal in Damascus later this week.

Perhaps it is in light of the Logan Act that White House Press Secretary Dana Perino emphasized, “The president believes that if president Carter wants to go, that he is doing so in his own private capacity, as a private citizen, he is not representing the United States.” It is all well and good for the White House to distance itself from the behavior of Jimmy Carter, but there is a limit to how far any American government can go in condemning the actions of a former president. The station of ex-president carries a diplomatic heft, and no one has used it with more inelegance and opportunism than Jimmy Carter, whose sabotage of American foreign policy has not been limited to Republican presidents (see Bill Clinton and North Korea). By calling on the United States to include Hamas in peace talks, and by meeting with the leader of said terrorist group in the capital of a country with which the United States does not even maintain diplomatic relations, Carter undermines a crucial plank in America’s Middle East policy.

Last year, Robert F. Turner argued that Nancy Pelosi had violated the Logan Act when she traveled to Syria against the wishes of the State Department and met with President Basher Assad. He wrote at the time:

Ms. Pelosi’s trip was not authorized, and Syria is one of the world’s leading sponsors of international terrorism. It has almost certainly been involved in numerous attacks that have claimed the lives of American military personnel from Beirut to Baghdad.

The U.S. is in the midst of two wars authorized by Congress. For Ms. Pelosi to flout the Constitution in these circumstances is not only shortsighted; it may well be a felony, as the Logan Act has been part of our criminal law for more than two centuries. Perhaps it is time to enforce the law.

The circumstances surrounding Carter’s visit are no less egregious, in fact, Carter’s freelance diplomacy is arguably worse. Hamas, unlike Syria, is not a country — an entity with territorial integrity, recognized by the international community as the legitimate authority of a nation-state — but a terrorist group. I’m no lawyer, but it appears that a strong case can be made that Jimmy Carter has been in constant violation of a federal statute ever since he left the White House.

The Logan Act was enacted in 1799. It states in full:

Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

This section shall not abridge the right of a citizen to apply, himself or his agent, to any foreign government or the agents thereof for redress of any injury which he may have sustained from such government or any of its agents or subjects.

The origins of this law lie in the activities of Dr. George Logan, a Quaker pacifist doctor who tried to lessen tensions between the French Revolutionary government in Paris and the Federalists then leading the nascent American Republic, who tilted towards Britain. Logan traveled to France with an approving letter signed by Thomas Jefferson, and was accepted by the French government as a legitimate representative of the United States. Then-President John Adams condemned Logan for his rogue diplomacy, and decried the “temerity and impertinence of individuals affecting to interfere in public affairs between France and the United States.” One can only wonder what Adams would think of Jimmy Carter, who has brazenly announced his intention to meet with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal in Damascus later this week.

Perhaps it is in light of the Logan Act that White House Press Secretary Dana Perino emphasized, “The president believes that if president Carter wants to go, that he is doing so in his own private capacity, as a private citizen, he is not representing the United States.” It is all well and good for the White House to distance itself from the behavior of Jimmy Carter, but there is a limit to how far any American government can go in condemning the actions of a former president. The station of ex-president carries a diplomatic heft, and no one has used it with more inelegance and opportunism than Jimmy Carter, whose sabotage of American foreign policy has not been limited to Republican presidents (see Bill Clinton and North Korea). By calling on the United States to include Hamas in peace talks, and by meeting with the leader of said terrorist group in the capital of a country with which the United States does not even maintain diplomatic relations, Carter undermines a crucial plank in America’s Middle East policy.

Last year, Robert F. Turner argued that Nancy Pelosi had violated the Logan Act when she traveled to Syria against the wishes of the State Department and met with President Basher Assad. He wrote at the time:

Ms. Pelosi’s trip was not authorized, and Syria is one of the world’s leading sponsors of international terrorism. It has almost certainly been involved in numerous attacks that have claimed the lives of American military personnel from Beirut to Baghdad.

The U.S. is in the midst of two wars authorized by Congress. For Ms. Pelosi to flout the Constitution in these circumstances is not only shortsighted; it may well be a felony, as the Logan Act has been part of our criminal law for more than two centuries. Perhaps it is time to enforce the law.

The circumstances surrounding Carter’s visit are no less egregious, in fact, Carter’s freelance diplomacy is arguably worse. Hamas, unlike Syria, is not a country — an entity with territorial integrity, recognized by the international community as the legitimate authority of a nation-state — but a terrorist group. I’m no lawyer, but it appears that a strong case can be made that Jimmy Carter has been in constant violation of a federal statute ever since he left the White House.

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Jimmy and Barack and Khaled and Mahmoud

Barack Obama declined today to comment on Jimmy Carter’s upcoming love-in with Khaled Meshal in Damascus, and in doing so reiterated his view that Hamas

is not a state and until Hamas clearly recognizes Israel, renounces terrorism and abides by, or believes that the Palestinians should abide by previous agreements … I don’t think conversations with them would be fruitful.

The fact that Hamas is not technically a state — although it is the de facto government of the Gaza Strip — is an incredibly thin reed on which to hang his position. Obama proudly declares his desire to meet with Iranian leaders, who, just like Meshal, do not recognize Israel, revel in terrorism, and do not believe that Palestinians should abide by previous agreements. Ahmadinejad signs Meshal’s paychecks, and as far as the broad strokes of terrorism, Israel, and Iran’s ambitions in the Middle East are concerned, the two men are one and the same.

So why exactly does Obama think that discussions with Ahmadinejad “would be fruitful” when discussions with Meshal will not be? The two men are both heads of terror regimes, and both have the capacity to influence the level of violence in the region. In freezing out Hamas, Obama is betraying his own principles; today, when asked about Carter, he should have publicly lauded the man’s fidelity to Obama’s foreign policy.

Barack Obama declined today to comment on Jimmy Carter’s upcoming love-in with Khaled Meshal in Damascus, and in doing so reiterated his view that Hamas

is not a state and until Hamas clearly recognizes Israel, renounces terrorism and abides by, or believes that the Palestinians should abide by previous agreements … I don’t think conversations with them would be fruitful.

The fact that Hamas is not technically a state — although it is the de facto government of the Gaza Strip — is an incredibly thin reed on which to hang his position. Obama proudly declares his desire to meet with Iranian leaders, who, just like Meshal, do not recognize Israel, revel in terrorism, and do not believe that Palestinians should abide by previous agreements. Ahmadinejad signs Meshal’s paychecks, and as far as the broad strokes of terrorism, Israel, and Iran’s ambitions in the Middle East are concerned, the two men are one and the same.

So why exactly does Obama think that discussions with Ahmadinejad “would be fruitful” when discussions with Meshal will not be? The two men are both heads of terror regimes, and both have the capacity to influence the level of violence in the region. In freezing out Hamas, Obama is betraying his own principles; today, when asked about Carter, he should have publicly lauded the man’s fidelity to Obama’s foreign policy.

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Obama and Webb?

Here is my prediction: Barack Obama will choose Jim Webb to be his vice-presidential running-mate. Both logic and a not-so-subtle clue make this seem likely.

The logic part is easy. As a former secretary of the navy under Ronald Reagan and a highly decorated combat veteran of Vietnam, the Senator from Virginia can be sold to voters as at least as ready as John McCain to answer the telephone at 3AM should it ring. This certainly won’t fill the gap left by Obama’s own dearth of foreign-policy and military experience, but nothing will.  

As for the clue part, Obama has made a point of pressing for negotiations with anyone and everyone, even if they head regimes engaged in supporting terrorism, supplying arms to insurgents killing American soldiers, and acquiring nuclear weapons.

Webb has been busy bringing himself into synch. On This Week with George Stephanopolous, Webb pointed out that he had been shot at in Vietnam with weapons made in China, which didn’t preclude talking to Beijing:

We developed a diplomatic relationship with China that over the years paid out. And the greatest mistake over the past five years of this occupation is that our national leadership has not found a way to aggressively engage Iran without taking other options off the table.

Of course, the idea of talking to anyone and everyone is  proving to be a delicate one, made all the more tricky by Jimmy Carter’s mission to Damascus to meet with Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas.

An spokesman for his campaign says that Obama “does not agree with President Carter’s decision to go forward with this meeting because he does not support negotiations with Hamas until they renounce terrorism, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and abide by past agreements.”

But how about Ahmadinejad? Has he renounced terrorism, recognized Israel’s right to exist, and abided by its agreements, including, most importantly, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty? And if the answer to these questions is no, why would Obama meet with him?

James Webb is very smart. But even if he is chosen for the Veep slot, he is not going to help Obama find a way to resolve the contradiction brought into plain view by our worst ex-president.  �

Here is my prediction: Barack Obama will choose Jim Webb to be his vice-presidential running-mate. Both logic and a not-so-subtle clue make this seem likely.

The logic part is easy. As a former secretary of the navy under Ronald Reagan and a highly decorated combat veteran of Vietnam, the Senator from Virginia can be sold to voters as at least as ready as John McCain to answer the telephone at 3AM should it ring. This certainly won’t fill the gap left by Obama’s own dearth of foreign-policy and military experience, but nothing will.  

As for the clue part, Obama has made a point of pressing for negotiations with anyone and everyone, even if they head regimes engaged in supporting terrorism, supplying arms to insurgents killing American soldiers, and acquiring nuclear weapons.

Webb has been busy bringing himself into synch. On This Week with George Stephanopolous, Webb pointed out that he had been shot at in Vietnam with weapons made in China, which didn’t preclude talking to Beijing:

We developed a diplomatic relationship with China that over the years paid out. And the greatest mistake over the past five years of this occupation is that our national leadership has not found a way to aggressively engage Iran without taking other options off the table.

Of course, the idea of talking to anyone and everyone is  proving to be a delicate one, made all the more tricky by Jimmy Carter’s mission to Damascus to meet with Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas.

An spokesman for his campaign says that Obama “does not agree with President Carter’s decision to go forward with this meeting because he does not support negotiations with Hamas until they renounce terrorism, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and abide by past agreements.”

But how about Ahmadinejad? Has he renounced terrorism, recognized Israel’s right to exist, and abided by its agreements, including, most importantly, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty? And if the answer to these questions is no, why would Obama meet with him?

James Webb is very smart. But even if he is chosen for the Veep slot, he is not going to help Obama find a way to resolve the contradiction brought into plain view by our worst ex-president.  �

Read Less

Hamas at the Hajj

There is a story that went unnoticed in the furor over the NIE last week, a story that also contains elements of deception and perfidy. This one reveals where two of America’s key Arab allies stand when it comes to the peace process.

The Palestinian Authority had made a special arrangement with Israel to allow 2,000 Palestinians to leave Gaza in order to make the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca. These Gazans were to leave Israel by way of the Kerem Shalom crossing in Gaza and the Allenby Bridge crossing in the West Bank, their PA-organized travel meant to show the residents of Gaza that Mahmoud Abbas can make things happen for them — in contrast to Hamas. But Cairo and Riyadh had made their own special arrangement with Hamas.

The Egyptians allowed 700 Palestinians on Monday and 1,300 on Tuesday to cross the border into Sinai, where buses were waiting to take them to Saudi Arabia.

“The Egyptians stabbed us in the back,” a senior PA official said. It turned out that the move had been coordinated with the Hamas government and Saudi Arabia. The Saudi embassy in Cairo swiftly processed the Gaza pilgrims’ visa applications sent by the Hamas government, while the Saudi embassy in Amman held up all the visa applications sent by the PA, even those of West Bank pilgrims. The PA, which had invested huge efforts in organizing the pilgrims’ trip to Saudi Arabia in a bid to improve President Mahmoud Abbas’ status in the Gaza Strip, was enraged by Egypt and Saudi Arabia’s conduct.

Not a very nice thing to do to the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Not a very nice thing to do to Condi Rice and the peace process, either. So why did these two countries pull such a petty and antagonistic stunt?

The Egyptians have been worried since the summer that Israel and America will succeed in isolating Gaza, and that Israel would thereby be able to accomplish the total severance of contact between the two territories. Since only Israel and Egypt share a border with Gaza, if Israel manages to get itself off the hook for providing fuel, electricity, water, and the like to Gaza, then these will become Egyptian responsibilities — and Gaza will have been turned into largely an Egyptian, instead of Israeli, problem.

Obviously, the Egyptians want none of this, which is why they’ve become so remarkably unable to stop the proliferation of smuggling tunnels underneath the Egypt-Gaza border, a subterranean network that allows Hamas terrorists to train in Iran, import explosives and rockets, and thereby ensure that Gaza will indeed remain Israel’s problem. So the Egyptians showed up in Annapolis, smiled wryly, winked at the Saudi foreign minister, and returned home to continue doing their part to keep Hamas in the picture and to make Abbas look foolish (which is never very hard).

What are the Saudis up to? It seems plain to me that the Saudis have never been on board with the idea of isolating Hamas. Recall that the Saudis hosted the leaders of Hamas and Fatah in Mecca early this year to encourage the formation of a national unity government. This obviously was a colossal failure, as a few months later Hamas showed the Saudis what it thought of reconciliation by instigating its six-day gangster takeover of Gaza. But the Saudis remain undeterred, and this weekend hosted Hamas’s Damascus-based leader, Khaled Meshal, once again for national-unity talks. The Saudis continue to encourage the political currency of Hamas because they wish to prevent the group from completely casting its lot in with Iran, and also because they see the Hamas-Fatah fight as a needless distraction from the more important, and beneficial, Palestinian fight against Israel. And now they have been joined by Egypt.

None of this is to suggest that the Abbas government, even with Saudi and Egyptian support, would be able to accomplish much more than the mau-mauing of a few more billions from western governments and the UN. But the hajj scandal does go a long way to illustrate the extent to which America’s Arab allies, which Annapolis was largely convened to cajole into the peace process, care little for America’s strategy, or for the peace process itself. Secretary Rice, of course, has been silent on the matter, lest it be revealed as another embarrassing demonstration of the flawed thinking behind Annapolis, and indeed of the improbability of her larger revitalization of the peace process.

There is a story that went unnoticed in the furor over the NIE last week, a story that also contains elements of deception and perfidy. This one reveals where two of America’s key Arab allies stand when it comes to the peace process.

The Palestinian Authority had made a special arrangement with Israel to allow 2,000 Palestinians to leave Gaza in order to make the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca. These Gazans were to leave Israel by way of the Kerem Shalom crossing in Gaza and the Allenby Bridge crossing in the West Bank, their PA-organized travel meant to show the residents of Gaza that Mahmoud Abbas can make things happen for them — in contrast to Hamas. But Cairo and Riyadh had made their own special arrangement with Hamas.

The Egyptians allowed 700 Palestinians on Monday and 1,300 on Tuesday to cross the border into Sinai, where buses were waiting to take them to Saudi Arabia.

“The Egyptians stabbed us in the back,” a senior PA official said. It turned out that the move had been coordinated with the Hamas government and Saudi Arabia. The Saudi embassy in Cairo swiftly processed the Gaza pilgrims’ visa applications sent by the Hamas government, while the Saudi embassy in Amman held up all the visa applications sent by the PA, even those of West Bank pilgrims. The PA, which had invested huge efforts in organizing the pilgrims’ trip to Saudi Arabia in a bid to improve President Mahmoud Abbas’ status in the Gaza Strip, was enraged by Egypt and Saudi Arabia’s conduct.

Not a very nice thing to do to the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Not a very nice thing to do to Condi Rice and the peace process, either. So why did these two countries pull such a petty and antagonistic stunt?

The Egyptians have been worried since the summer that Israel and America will succeed in isolating Gaza, and that Israel would thereby be able to accomplish the total severance of contact between the two territories. Since only Israel and Egypt share a border with Gaza, if Israel manages to get itself off the hook for providing fuel, electricity, water, and the like to Gaza, then these will become Egyptian responsibilities — and Gaza will have been turned into largely an Egyptian, instead of Israeli, problem.

Obviously, the Egyptians want none of this, which is why they’ve become so remarkably unable to stop the proliferation of smuggling tunnels underneath the Egypt-Gaza border, a subterranean network that allows Hamas terrorists to train in Iran, import explosives and rockets, and thereby ensure that Gaza will indeed remain Israel’s problem. So the Egyptians showed up in Annapolis, smiled wryly, winked at the Saudi foreign minister, and returned home to continue doing their part to keep Hamas in the picture and to make Abbas look foolish (which is never very hard).

What are the Saudis up to? It seems plain to me that the Saudis have never been on board with the idea of isolating Hamas. Recall that the Saudis hosted the leaders of Hamas and Fatah in Mecca early this year to encourage the formation of a national unity government. This obviously was a colossal failure, as a few months later Hamas showed the Saudis what it thought of reconciliation by instigating its six-day gangster takeover of Gaza. But the Saudis remain undeterred, and this weekend hosted Hamas’s Damascus-based leader, Khaled Meshal, once again for national-unity talks. The Saudis continue to encourage the political currency of Hamas because they wish to prevent the group from completely casting its lot in with Iran, and also because they see the Hamas-Fatah fight as a needless distraction from the more important, and beneficial, Palestinian fight against Israel. And now they have been joined by Egypt.

None of this is to suggest that the Abbas government, even with Saudi and Egyptian support, would be able to accomplish much more than the mau-mauing of a few more billions from western governments and the UN. But the hajj scandal does go a long way to illustrate the extent to which America’s Arab allies, which Annapolis was largely convened to cajole into the peace process, care little for America’s strategy, or for the peace process itself. Secretary Rice, of course, has been silent on the matter, lest it be revealed as another embarrassing demonstration of the flawed thinking behind Annapolis, and indeed of the improbability of her larger revitalization of the peace process.

Read Less




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