Commentary Magazine


Topic: Nablus

The Guardian Wants Its Two-State Solution Back. Beware.

When the Guardian launched its “Palestine Papers” on Sunday, the sensational leak was accompanied by an editorial, which was sensationally titled “Pleading for a fig leaf” and just as sensationally subtitled “The secret notes suggest one requires Panglossian optimism to believe that these negotiations can one day be resurrected.”

The editorial went on to accuse the Palestinian leadership of being a bunch of collaborators — it described them as “weak” and “craven” — a mixture of poodles and quislings. It decried their humiliating readiness “to flog the family silver” in order to get “a puppet state.” It then proclaimed: “The Palestinian Authority may continue as an employer but, as of today, its legitimacy as negotiators will have all but ended on the Palestinian street.”

So, on January 23, the peace process is dead, unless you are a “Panglossian optimist.”

This was not just an isolated 0pinion piece — this was an opening salvo from the editor. Somehow, it looks like someone may have regretted going so far, because just two days later, a new editorial with a contrary headline appeared — “Despair. But we still need a deal” — with a subtitle that was also the opposite of that of the January 23 editorial: “A two-state solution remains the only show in town.” Read More

When the Guardian launched its “Palestine Papers” on Sunday, the sensational leak was accompanied by an editorial, which was sensationally titled “Pleading for a fig leaf” and just as sensationally subtitled “The secret notes suggest one requires Panglossian optimism to believe that these negotiations can one day be resurrected.”

The editorial went on to accuse the Palestinian leadership of being a bunch of collaborators — it described them as “weak” and “craven” — a mixture of poodles and quislings. It decried their humiliating readiness “to flog the family silver” in order to get “a puppet state.” It then proclaimed: “The Palestinian Authority may continue as an employer but, as of today, its legitimacy as negotiators will have all but ended on the Palestinian street.”

So, on January 23, the peace process is dead, unless you are a “Panglossian optimist.”

This was not just an isolated 0pinion piece — this was an opening salvo from the editor. Somehow, it looks like someone may have regretted going so far, because just two days later, a new editorial with a contrary headline appeared — “Despair. But we still need a deal” — with a subtitle that was also the opposite of that of the January 23 editorial: “A two-state solution remains the only show in town.”

The Guardian now says it wants the two-state solution back — two days after it inaugurated the latest effort to sabotage it and a day before the head of Hamas’s international-relations department was given a prominent platform in the paper.

Nice try, but this does not in any way match the impact of the avalanche of op-eds, news coverage, and profiles the Guardian provided and continues to provide in order to support the perception that the Palestinian leadership betrayed their people.

In other words, the Guardian believes in the two-state solution, just not the one that could be realistically negotiated, because that constitutes a betrayal of the Palestinian cause; and not one under U.S. auspices, because the Americans are not honest brokers; and not one where Israel gets its way on settlements, Jerusalem, or refugees, because that is “craven.”

In short, the Guardian is for a two-state solution where Israel, not the Palestinians, surrenders.

The Guardian has always taken the Palestinian narrative as the truth. The leaks, accompanied by an accusing finger pointed at the Palestinian negotiators, is a cry of “betrayal” of the Palestinian cause. They are more Palestinian than the Palestinians themselves.

Just consider the Guardian’s wise counsel on how successfully negotiate:

[T]alks succeed only when each side can put itself in the shoes of the other. To imagine that Abu Mazen could put to a referendum a deal in which Israel got its way on all the core issues – settlements, Jerusalem, the return of refugees – and to imagine that such a deal would be durable, is the ultimate failure of a negotiator’s imagination.

There. The Guardian can only put itself in the shoes of the Palestinians — but no word of Israeli and Jewish pain, when Israel’s leaders would have to relinquish Hebron, the second holiest place for Judaism; or Bethlehem, where one of four matriarchs of Israel, Rachel, is buried; or Nablus, where Jacob’s son Joseph is buried; or the entire biblical heartland, which, more than Tel Aviv and the entire coastline of Israel, is filled with longing and memories of Jewish identity.

No pain is registered, because the Guardian, in its cravenness, sees Israel as the Palestinians see it — a colonialist, European implant, based on a racist and imperialist ideology that crafted an imagined past fed by religious superstition and devoid of the authenticity of the indigenous culture.

Their leaks may be a treasure trove for the impatient historian who won’t need to wait 30 years to access classified material. It may be a golden opportunity to undermine the Palestinian Authority and poke Israel in the eye in the process. And it is no doubt great for Internet traffic. But it has no value whatsoever in terms of advancing the cause the Guardian pretends to support.

That plea for a two-state solution is just their fig leaf — a convenient cover before they charge ahead.

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Burned Mosque Is a Mystery, Nearby Burned Synagogue Wasn’t

The New York Times reported today about a fire in a mosque in the Palestinian village of Luban al Sharqiya, but the point of the article wasn’t the tragedy of the conflagration but the theoretical possibility that a Jew was the arsonist.

The problem is, while there have been a few isolated incidents of Jewish extremists attacking Palestinian villages (and numerous, far-from-isolated instances of Palestinians attacking Jews in and around settlements), as the Times reports, there is absolutely no evidence that the mosque fire was started by a Jewish extremist and not even proof that arson started the fire. But that doesn’t stop Palestinians from making such accusations and using them as an excuse to avoid peace with Israel. Nor does anything prevent the Times from reporting unfounded accusations as though they were reasonable opinions.

But in reading about the mystery of the fire in the mosque in this village south of Nablus, one couldn’t help but remember the burning of another house of worship not far away. Less than 10 years ago, in the fall of 2000, a Palestinian mob, aided and abetted by Palestinian Authority “policemen,” attacked the Tomb of Joseph, a Jewish shrine and synagogue inside Nablus. The mob sacked the Jewish institution, desecrated sacred Jewish objects, and then burned it to the ground.

Neither at the time nor since have Palestinians apologized for that crime, although the overwhelming majority of Israelis and Jews have apologized for the few instances where Jews have committed such an outrage. Nor did the Palestinian Authority apologize or help to rebuild the Tomb or restore Jewish worship to the place.

The fire at Luban al Sharqiya may be a mystery. What happened at the Tomb of Joseph was not. Nor was the burning of the synagogues left behind by the Jews in Gaza, committed by similarly bloodthirsty Arab mobs. While even the possibility of unprovoked Jewish violence against Arabs is deeply troubling, the cries of outrage from that Arab village and elsewhere among the Palestinians would have more credibility if they were just as outspoken in denouncing the hundreds, if not thousands, of instances of Arab violence against Jews in the territories that occur every year.

The New York Times reported today about a fire in a mosque in the Palestinian village of Luban al Sharqiya, but the point of the article wasn’t the tragedy of the conflagration but the theoretical possibility that a Jew was the arsonist.

The problem is, while there have been a few isolated incidents of Jewish extremists attacking Palestinian villages (and numerous, far-from-isolated instances of Palestinians attacking Jews in and around settlements), as the Times reports, there is absolutely no evidence that the mosque fire was started by a Jewish extremist and not even proof that arson started the fire. But that doesn’t stop Palestinians from making such accusations and using them as an excuse to avoid peace with Israel. Nor does anything prevent the Times from reporting unfounded accusations as though they were reasonable opinions.

But in reading about the mystery of the fire in the mosque in this village south of Nablus, one couldn’t help but remember the burning of another house of worship not far away. Less than 10 years ago, in the fall of 2000, a Palestinian mob, aided and abetted by Palestinian Authority “policemen,” attacked the Tomb of Joseph, a Jewish shrine and synagogue inside Nablus. The mob sacked the Jewish institution, desecrated sacred Jewish objects, and then burned it to the ground.

Neither at the time nor since have Palestinians apologized for that crime, although the overwhelming majority of Israelis and Jews have apologized for the few instances where Jews have committed such an outrage. Nor did the Palestinian Authority apologize or help to rebuild the Tomb or restore Jewish worship to the place.

The fire at Luban al Sharqiya may be a mystery. What happened at the Tomb of Joseph was not. Nor was the burning of the synagogues left behind by the Jews in Gaza, committed by similarly bloodthirsty Arab mobs. While even the possibility of unprovoked Jewish violence against Arabs is deeply troubling, the cries of outrage from that Arab village and elsewhere among the Palestinians would have more credibility if they were just as outspoken in denouncing the hundreds, if not thousands, of instances of Arab violence against Jews in the territories that occur every year.

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RE: Gray Lady Foreign Policy PR Effort Falls Short

The New York Times is at is again — spinning the Obami foreign policy so as to minimize the abject failures and heightened tensions it leaves in its wake. The subject is the Middle East. The shift the Gray Lady explains is that now Obama sees resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute as a “vital national security interest of the United States.” There are two problems with this — first it’s not true, and second it’s not what the Obami are doing.

As to the first, the Times trots out Martin Indyk (who has George Mitchell’s ear and is a good barometer of silly things the Obami believe) who proclaims, “‘In the past, the problem of who drinks out of whose well in Nablus has not been a strategic interest of the United States’ … He said there was an interest now because of the tens of thousands of troops fighting Islamist insurgencies abroad at the same time that the United States was trying to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. ‘Will resolving the Palestinian issue solve everything?’ Mr. Indyk said. ‘No. But will it help us get there? Yes.’”

But what evidence is there for this? Iran and its proxies object to the existence of Israel, not its current borders. Al-Qaeda will not cease from killing Americans if there are “proximity talks” or even a final resolution of the dispute. And frankly, it’s a dumb thing to peg American national security to an issue that plainly is not resolvable any time soon and that is a distraction from the real, vital national security interest — Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But it is the sort of thing pseudo-sophisticated foreign policy types say, and now Obama is spouting it too.

Moreover, let’s get real. The break with the Bush administration is not the level of importance placed on resolving the Palestinian conflict. To the chagrin of many of us, Bush labored long and hard in the fruitless “peace process.” The shift is Obama’s effort to reorient the U.S. away from Israel and ingratiate himself with the “Muslim World.” The Times lets on, by way of pointing out that American Jewish groups are disturbed by the new approach:

The Obama administration’s new thinking, and the tougher policies toward Israel that could flow from it, has alarmed American Jewish leaders accustomed to the Bush administration’s steadfast support. They are not used to seeing issues like Jewish housing in the West Bank or East Jerusalem linked, even by implication, to the security of American soldiers. Some fret that it raises questions about the centrality of the American alliance with Israel, which the administration flatly denies. …

Among American Jewish groups, there is less skepticism than alarm about the administration’s new direction. On Tuesday, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, publicized letters to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, signed by 76 senators and 333 House members, that implored the administration to defuse tensions. In an open letter to Mr. Obama from the World Jewish Congress, the organization’s president, Ronald S. Lauder, asked, “Why does the thrust of this administration’s Middle East rhetoric seem to blame Israel for the lack of movement on peace talks?”

But the Times makes no effort to examine the very strong, indeed inescapable evidence that Obama is not simply on some high-minded effort to resolve the Palestinian dispute but rather an intentional mission to put daylight between the two countries, which is what he told a group of Jewish leaders last year. The Times bothers not at all with the Cairo Speech — an invocation of Palestinian victimology and an infamous analogy equating Palestinians to enslaved African Americans. Nor is there mention of the serial snubbing of Bibi, the “condemnation” of our ally (there’s a break from the past if they were looking for an example), and the contrived fuss over Jerusalem housing. The “paper of record” merely takes at face value the Obami denial that the administration has turned on and against our ally, leaving one with the impression that nervous Jews just don’t get the genius of Obama.

But the facts are the facts: the Obami are quite evidently taking a wrecking ball to the U.S.-Israeli relationship. One would have to be blind — or write for the New York Times — to miss what is going on.

The New York Times is at is again — spinning the Obami foreign policy so as to minimize the abject failures and heightened tensions it leaves in its wake. The subject is the Middle East. The shift the Gray Lady explains is that now Obama sees resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute as a “vital national security interest of the United States.” There are two problems with this — first it’s not true, and second it’s not what the Obami are doing.

As to the first, the Times trots out Martin Indyk (who has George Mitchell’s ear and is a good barometer of silly things the Obami believe) who proclaims, “‘In the past, the problem of who drinks out of whose well in Nablus has not been a strategic interest of the United States’ … He said there was an interest now because of the tens of thousands of troops fighting Islamist insurgencies abroad at the same time that the United States was trying to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. ‘Will resolving the Palestinian issue solve everything?’ Mr. Indyk said. ‘No. But will it help us get there? Yes.’”

But what evidence is there for this? Iran and its proxies object to the existence of Israel, not its current borders. Al-Qaeda will not cease from killing Americans if there are “proximity talks” or even a final resolution of the dispute. And frankly, it’s a dumb thing to peg American national security to an issue that plainly is not resolvable any time soon and that is a distraction from the real, vital national security interest — Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But it is the sort of thing pseudo-sophisticated foreign policy types say, and now Obama is spouting it too.

Moreover, let’s get real. The break with the Bush administration is not the level of importance placed on resolving the Palestinian conflict. To the chagrin of many of us, Bush labored long and hard in the fruitless “peace process.” The shift is Obama’s effort to reorient the U.S. away from Israel and ingratiate himself with the “Muslim World.” The Times lets on, by way of pointing out that American Jewish groups are disturbed by the new approach:

The Obama administration’s new thinking, and the tougher policies toward Israel that could flow from it, has alarmed American Jewish leaders accustomed to the Bush administration’s steadfast support. They are not used to seeing issues like Jewish housing in the West Bank or East Jerusalem linked, even by implication, to the security of American soldiers. Some fret that it raises questions about the centrality of the American alliance with Israel, which the administration flatly denies. …

Among American Jewish groups, there is less skepticism than alarm about the administration’s new direction. On Tuesday, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, publicized letters to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, signed by 76 senators and 333 House members, that implored the administration to defuse tensions. In an open letter to Mr. Obama from the World Jewish Congress, the organization’s president, Ronald S. Lauder, asked, “Why does the thrust of this administration’s Middle East rhetoric seem to blame Israel for the lack of movement on peace talks?”

But the Times makes no effort to examine the very strong, indeed inescapable evidence that Obama is not simply on some high-minded effort to resolve the Palestinian dispute but rather an intentional mission to put daylight between the two countries, which is what he told a group of Jewish leaders last year. The Times bothers not at all with the Cairo Speech — an invocation of Palestinian victimology and an infamous analogy equating Palestinians to enslaved African Americans. Nor is there mention of the serial snubbing of Bibi, the “condemnation” of our ally (there’s a break from the past if they were looking for an example), and the contrived fuss over Jerusalem housing. The “paper of record” merely takes at face value the Obami denial that the administration has turned on and against our ally, leaving one with the impression that nervous Jews just don’t get the genius of Obama.

But the facts are the facts: the Obami are quite evidently taking a wrecking ball to the U.S.-Israeli relationship. One would have to be blind — or write for the New York Times — to miss what is going on.

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And Now for Some News from Realityland

One of the more annoying tendencies of Western commentators on the Middle East is their desperate insistence that the Palestinians have long since accepted the “two-state solution,” and the only obstacle to the success of the peace process is smoothing over minor differences on Jerusalem, borders, settlements, and so on.

Of course, in reality, there is no Palestinian consensus on peaceful coexistence with Israel — not even close. But that doesn’t stop, say, Slate’s Jacob Weisberg (to take one of many examples) from saying this:

But decades of harsh occupation have made dispossessed Palestinians, the majority of whom have long favored a two-state solution, the sympathetic victims in the conflict. [emphasis added]

Where does Weisberg get this information? He of course doesn’t say. There’s no need to be coy — lots of opinion polling is done in the Palestinian territories. Indeed, a new survey, conducted by An-Najah University in Nablus, has just been released.

Do you accept the creation of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with some land exchange as a final solution for the Palestinian problem?

Yes 28.3
No 66.7
No opinion/I do not know 5.0

Do you support or reject making Jerusalem a capital for two states: Palestine and Israel?

I support 20.8
I reject 77.4
No opinion/I do not know 1.8

Et tu, Weisberg?

There is some good news, however, that also punctures an unfounded liberal conviction — that Israeli military action against Hamas only galvanizes Palestinian opinion in favor of the “resistance.” In reality, Hamas is more unpopular than ever:

As you know, there is a government in the West Bank led by Salam Fayyad and another government in the Gaza Strip led by Ismail Haniyeh. In your opinion which government is more capable of managing the internal Palestinian affairs?

The government of Salam Fayyad 63.6
The Government of Ismail Haniyeh 20.1
No opinion/I do not know 16.3

How do you assess the performance of the government of Salam Fayyad?

Good 65.4
Bad 26.3
No opinion/I do not know 8.3

How do you assess the performance of the government of Ismail Haniyeh?

Good 31.2
Bad 45.3
No opinion/I do not know 23.4

The good news is that the Palestinians have seen what Islamist governance entails, and like most Arabs who have had the experience, they don’t particularly like it. The bad news is that the Palestinians, unfortunately, remain utterly divided on the question of the peace process and coexistence with Israel.

One of the more annoying tendencies of Western commentators on the Middle East is their desperate insistence that the Palestinians have long since accepted the “two-state solution,” and the only obstacle to the success of the peace process is smoothing over minor differences on Jerusalem, borders, settlements, and so on.

Of course, in reality, there is no Palestinian consensus on peaceful coexistence with Israel — not even close. But that doesn’t stop, say, Slate’s Jacob Weisberg (to take one of many examples) from saying this:

But decades of harsh occupation have made dispossessed Palestinians, the majority of whom have long favored a two-state solution, the sympathetic victims in the conflict. [emphasis added]

Where does Weisberg get this information? He of course doesn’t say. There’s no need to be coy — lots of opinion polling is done in the Palestinian territories. Indeed, a new survey, conducted by An-Najah University in Nablus, has just been released.

Do you accept the creation of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with some land exchange as a final solution for the Palestinian problem?

Yes 28.3
No 66.7
No opinion/I do not know 5.0

Do you support or reject making Jerusalem a capital for two states: Palestine and Israel?

I support 20.8
I reject 77.4
No opinion/I do not know 1.8

Et tu, Weisberg?

There is some good news, however, that also punctures an unfounded liberal conviction — that Israeli military action against Hamas only galvanizes Palestinian opinion in favor of the “resistance.” In reality, Hamas is more unpopular than ever:

As you know, there is a government in the West Bank led by Salam Fayyad and another government in the Gaza Strip led by Ismail Haniyeh. In your opinion which government is more capable of managing the internal Palestinian affairs?

The government of Salam Fayyad 63.6
The Government of Ismail Haniyeh 20.1
No opinion/I do not know 16.3

How do you assess the performance of the government of Salam Fayyad?

Good 65.4
Bad 26.3
No opinion/I do not know 8.3

How do you assess the performance of the government of Ismail Haniyeh?

Good 31.2
Bad 45.3
No opinion/I do not know 23.4

The good news is that the Palestinians have seen what Islamist governance entails, and like most Arabs who have had the experience, they don’t particularly like it. The bad news is that the Palestinians, unfortunately, remain utterly divided on the question of the peace process and coexistence with Israel.

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UN “Peace” Coordinator: Jewish Heritage an Invalid Concept

Earlier today I wrote about the implications of an important new archeological discovery that highlights the 3,000-year-old Jewish heritage in East Jerusalem. Such finds have political significance specifically because the whole focus of Palestinian nationalism has been to deny Jewish ties to the land and to attempt to rewrite history in such a way as to expunge the historicity and continuity of the Jewish presence.

But the reason why this issue is so important was brought home again today by a statement coming from Robert Serry, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. In it, Serry went out of his way to condemn the recently announced National Heritage Plan announced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu because two ancient Jewish religious shrines were included in the list of sites to be preserved and protected. Serry objected to the inclusion of Rachel’s Tomb outside Bethlehem and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron in the list of essential places in Jewish history, because the two are in the West Bank and thus, in his view, “occupied Palestinian territory.” The fact that they are located on land that is subject to dispute between the two parties is of no interest to the UN official who, despite his status as a peace mediator, is ready to dictate where the borders of a putative Palestinian state must be. But Serry’s argument is not merely one of borders, because in the same statement he claimed that the sites “are of historical and religious significance not only to Judaism but also to Islam, and to Christianity as well.”

It is true that Christians and Muslims have an intrinsic interest in any biblical site. And since Muslims, like Jews, consider Abraham to be one of their patriarchs, they have a religious stake in the Cave of the Patriarchs. But Muslims have never been willing to share this most ancient of Jewish shrines with other faiths. Throughout the history of Muslim control of the land of Israel, through the Ottoman era and even during the time of British rule, Jews were forbidden to enter the cave and were, instead, constrained to ascend no higher than the seventh step of the entrance to the sacred place. Jewish prayer inside the cave only resumed in June 1967, after the Israeli conquest of Hebron, after which the two religions have shared the place despite the history of tension and bloodshed in the Hebron area.

As for Rachel’s Tomb, it is simply a lie to consider it anything but a Jewish synagogue. No faith but Judaism has ever held worship services in the place or considered it a shrine. Palestinian propaganda that has attempted to portray it as some sort of a Muslim site are of recent vintage and utterly false.

But much like the history of the Western Wall in Jerusalem, where Jews were forbidden even to visit while it was under Muslim sovereignty from 1949 to 1967 during Jordan’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem, the only thing that has guaranteed Jewish access to both the Hebron and Bethlehem sites has been Israel’s control of these areas. Moreover, and this is a crucial point, the only time in the history of Jerusalem or Bethlehem or Hebron that these religious sites have been kept free and open to all visitors of all faiths has been the 42 years since the Six-Day War. Netanyahu’s Heritage Plan is no threat to other faiths, because only Israel is committed to religious freedom and the protection of all religious shrines.

Should the UN coordinator have his way and Rachel’s Tomb or the Cave of the Patriarchs ever fall under the control of the Palestinian Authority, let alone Hamas, we know very well what would happen. Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus, a longtime site of Jewish worship and study, was sacked and burned by a Palestinian mob aided and abetted by PA policemen in 2000 at the outset of the second intifada. The PA has prevented the reconstruction of the site. An ancient synagogue in Jericho, also under PA control, met the same fate.

By opposing the Jewish Heritage Plan, the UN isn’t merely sniping at Netanyahu. It is signaling its backing of a Palestinian and Muslim approach to the history of the land in which Judaism is systematically erased. If indeed Serry and the UN are actually interested in preserving these sites for members of all faiths to visit, rather than in merely chasing the Jews out of them, the only formula for their preservation lies in continued Israeli control.

Earlier today I wrote about the implications of an important new archeological discovery that highlights the 3,000-year-old Jewish heritage in East Jerusalem. Such finds have political significance specifically because the whole focus of Palestinian nationalism has been to deny Jewish ties to the land and to attempt to rewrite history in such a way as to expunge the historicity and continuity of the Jewish presence.

But the reason why this issue is so important was brought home again today by a statement coming from Robert Serry, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. In it, Serry went out of his way to condemn the recently announced National Heritage Plan announced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu because two ancient Jewish religious shrines were included in the list of sites to be preserved and protected. Serry objected to the inclusion of Rachel’s Tomb outside Bethlehem and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron in the list of essential places in Jewish history, because the two are in the West Bank and thus, in his view, “occupied Palestinian territory.” The fact that they are located on land that is subject to dispute between the two parties is of no interest to the UN official who, despite his status as a peace mediator, is ready to dictate where the borders of a putative Palestinian state must be. But Serry’s argument is not merely one of borders, because in the same statement he claimed that the sites “are of historical and religious significance not only to Judaism but also to Islam, and to Christianity as well.”

It is true that Christians and Muslims have an intrinsic interest in any biblical site. And since Muslims, like Jews, consider Abraham to be one of their patriarchs, they have a religious stake in the Cave of the Patriarchs. But Muslims have never been willing to share this most ancient of Jewish shrines with other faiths. Throughout the history of Muslim control of the land of Israel, through the Ottoman era and even during the time of British rule, Jews were forbidden to enter the cave and were, instead, constrained to ascend no higher than the seventh step of the entrance to the sacred place. Jewish prayer inside the cave only resumed in June 1967, after the Israeli conquest of Hebron, after which the two religions have shared the place despite the history of tension and bloodshed in the Hebron area.

As for Rachel’s Tomb, it is simply a lie to consider it anything but a Jewish synagogue. No faith but Judaism has ever held worship services in the place or considered it a shrine. Palestinian propaganda that has attempted to portray it as some sort of a Muslim site are of recent vintage and utterly false.

But much like the history of the Western Wall in Jerusalem, where Jews were forbidden even to visit while it was under Muslim sovereignty from 1949 to 1967 during Jordan’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem, the only thing that has guaranteed Jewish access to both the Hebron and Bethlehem sites has been Israel’s control of these areas. Moreover, and this is a crucial point, the only time in the history of Jerusalem or Bethlehem or Hebron that these religious sites have been kept free and open to all visitors of all faiths has been the 42 years since the Six-Day War. Netanyahu’s Heritage Plan is no threat to other faiths, because only Israel is committed to religious freedom and the protection of all religious shrines.

Should the UN coordinator have his way and Rachel’s Tomb or the Cave of the Patriarchs ever fall under the control of the Palestinian Authority, let alone Hamas, we know very well what would happen. Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus, a longtime site of Jewish worship and study, was sacked and burned by a Palestinian mob aided and abetted by PA policemen in 2000 at the outset of the second intifada. The PA has prevented the reconstruction of the site. An ancient synagogue in Jericho, also under PA control, met the same fate.

By opposing the Jewish Heritage Plan, the UN isn’t merely sniping at Netanyahu. It is signaling its backing of a Palestinian and Muslim approach to the history of the land in which Judaism is systematically erased. If indeed Serry and the UN are actually interested in preserving these sites for members of all faiths to visit, rather than in merely chasing the Jews out of them, the only formula for their preservation lies in continued Israeli control.

Read Less

Palestinians See Netanyahu as a “Man of His Word”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is trying hard to blame Israel for the absence of peace talks, with predictable support from Europe: addressing the European Parliament last week, brand-new EU foreign minister Catherine Ashton parroted PA criticisms of Israel wholesale, not even hinting at any Palestinian responsibility for the impasse. But Washington has yet to weigh in. Before doing so, it should consider the following astounding report:

“This is the place to note that, surprisingly, [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is widely perceived in the West Bank as a man of his word,” Haaretz’s Palestinian affairs reporter wrote, commenting on Abbas supporters’ claim that Netanyahu’s actions are mere “maneuvers” aimed at avoiding final-status talks. “In the period of [his predecessors] Ehud Olmert, Ariel Sharon and [Ehud] Barak there may have been peace talks, but the number of checkpoints reached a new high every week and chaos reigned in the West Bank.”

Netanyahu, in contrast, has kept his promise to remove checkpoints and otherwise facilitate Palestinian economic development — and it’s working. As the Jerusalem Post noted yesterday:

Only 14 major IDF security checkpoints remain inside the West Bank, easing the commute between Palestinian population centers. Unemployment is down to 18 percent (compared to over 40% in Gaza). The local stock market is on an upswing; likewise foreign investment.

A new mall has opened in Nablus. The cornerstone of a new neighborhood in Jenin was laid by PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Plans for a new suburb in the hills of Ramallah for middle-class Palestinians are advancing. A Bethlehem industrial zone is in the works. …

People are buying more cars. Bethlehem alone hosted a million tourists last year. West Bank imports and exports have exceeded $4.3 billion this year.

Indeed, the Haaretz report quoted a Palestinian journalist who termed the situation in the West Bank “not only better than in the past, but ‘terrific.’ ”

Netanyahu seems equally determined to keep his word on the settlement freeze, judging by a document leaked by an Israeli army source to settlers, and thence to Haaretz. The army has clearly been ordered to treat the freeze like a military operation.

For instance, the document states, “all agencies will be used” to detect violations of the freeze, “including the intelligence branch of the [Central] Command, the Shin Bet [intelligence agency] and regular troops.” And any illegal construction will be destroyed in blitzkrieg operations in which “tactical surprise” will be achieved “by blocking off the area with large forces so as to paralyze” resistance.

One might question the wisdom of a full-throttle military operation against one’s own citizens, but it certainly indicates determination on Netanyahu’s part to keep his word.

So might Netanyahu be equally sincere in claiming that he truly wants to reach an agreement with Abbas? If “agreement” is defined as complete capitulation to Abbas’s demands, no. But a deal produced by genuine negotiations, in which both sides make concessions? There’s only one way to find out. And it isn’t by letting Abbas demand ever more upfront concessions just to get him to the table.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is trying hard to blame Israel for the absence of peace talks, with predictable support from Europe: addressing the European Parliament last week, brand-new EU foreign minister Catherine Ashton parroted PA criticisms of Israel wholesale, not even hinting at any Palestinian responsibility for the impasse. But Washington has yet to weigh in. Before doing so, it should consider the following astounding report:

“This is the place to note that, surprisingly, [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is widely perceived in the West Bank as a man of his word,” Haaretz’s Palestinian affairs reporter wrote, commenting on Abbas supporters’ claim that Netanyahu’s actions are mere “maneuvers” aimed at avoiding final-status talks. “In the period of [his predecessors] Ehud Olmert, Ariel Sharon and [Ehud] Barak there may have been peace talks, but the number of checkpoints reached a new high every week and chaos reigned in the West Bank.”

Netanyahu, in contrast, has kept his promise to remove checkpoints and otherwise facilitate Palestinian economic development — and it’s working. As the Jerusalem Post noted yesterday:

Only 14 major IDF security checkpoints remain inside the West Bank, easing the commute between Palestinian population centers. Unemployment is down to 18 percent (compared to over 40% in Gaza). The local stock market is on an upswing; likewise foreign investment.

A new mall has opened in Nablus. The cornerstone of a new neighborhood in Jenin was laid by PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Plans for a new suburb in the hills of Ramallah for middle-class Palestinians are advancing. A Bethlehem industrial zone is in the works. …

People are buying more cars. Bethlehem alone hosted a million tourists last year. West Bank imports and exports have exceeded $4.3 billion this year.

Indeed, the Haaretz report quoted a Palestinian journalist who termed the situation in the West Bank “not only better than in the past, but ‘terrific.’ ”

Netanyahu seems equally determined to keep his word on the settlement freeze, judging by a document leaked by an Israeli army source to settlers, and thence to Haaretz. The army has clearly been ordered to treat the freeze like a military operation.

For instance, the document states, “all agencies will be used” to detect violations of the freeze, “including the intelligence branch of the [Central] Command, the Shin Bet [intelligence agency] and regular troops.” And any illegal construction will be destroyed in blitzkrieg operations in which “tactical surprise” will be achieved “by blocking off the area with large forces so as to paralyze” resistance.

One might question the wisdom of a full-throttle military operation against one’s own citizens, but it certainly indicates determination on Netanyahu’s part to keep his word.

So might Netanyahu be equally sincere in claiming that he truly wants to reach an agreement with Abbas? If “agreement” is defined as complete capitulation to Abbas’s demands, no. But a deal produced by genuine negotiations, in which both sides make concessions? There’s only one way to find out. And it isn’t by letting Abbas demand ever more upfront concessions just to get him to the table.

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What if a Synagogue Were Burned and Other Silly Questions

The New York Times reports that the “West Bank Is Tense After Arson at Mosque,” which is believed to be the work of Jewish extremists. Palestinian Arabs are rightly upset at this crime. So are Israelis. And therein hangs the tale of Middle East peace.

The fire at the mosque in the village of Yasuf appears to have been set last week by some Jewish settlers demonstrating their anger toward Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to temporarily freeze building in Jewish communities in the West Bank. Extremists have vowed to counter such moves by increasing tensions with the Arabs. If it is true that Jews committed this crime, this is clearly madness and is rejected not only by the overwhelming majority of the people of Israel but also by the overwhelming majority of the approximately 300,000 Jews who live in the settlements. Local Jewish religious leaders attempted to visit Yasuf to express their condolences, but they were prevented from going there. So instead they met with Munir Abbushi, the Palestinian Authority’s regional governor, and presented him with new Korans. Abbushi accepted the Korans but then stated that Palestinian independence would mean that all Jews would have to be removed from the region. The Palestinians reject the right of Jews to live in their midst under any circumstances and regardless of who has or has not committed crimes.

But if you really wanted to get a feel for how differently the two communities think about these things, ask yourself what would happen if, instead of a mosque, a synagogue had been burned down. But this is not a hypothetical question.

In October 2000, at the start of the Palestinians’ second intifada, the Tomb of Joseph, a Jewish holy site in Nablus that served as a synagogue and religious school, was literally torn to pieces by an Arab mob. As Palestinian Authority “police” looked on, the mob destroyed the building and burned the sacred texts inside. But instead of treating the crime as an embarrassment to the national cause, among Palestinians it was treated as a cause for celebration. Another ancient synagogue in Jericho was also burned down that month. And even before the intifada, the Tomb of Rachel, a Jewish shrine near Bethlehem, was subjected to continual attacks. It had to be surrounded by fortifications to keep both the building and worshipers from harm.

In 2005, the Israeli government evacuated Gaza and removed every single Jewish soldier and settler from the area. The only things left behind were buildings, including the synagogues that had served the Jews who were forced out. But rather than treat these edifices with respect, if only to use them for their own purposes, the Palestinians burned every one down in a barbaric communal orgy of destruction. Again, no apologies were forthcoming from the Palestinians. Nor did world opinion treat this incident as worthy of condemnation. The fact that the Palestinians could not bring themselves to let even one former synagogue stand was a frightening reminder that the two sides still don’t view the conflict in the same way. To the Palestinians, this is not a tragic misunderstanding between two peoples but rather a zero-sum game.

So, as much as friends of Israel are right to condemn the mosque attack, let us not forget that when the tables were turned and Jewish sensibilities were offended, the Palestinians were not only unwilling to condemn similar incidents but instead celebrated them. Until that imbalance changes, hopes for peace will never be realized.

The New York Times reports that the “West Bank Is Tense After Arson at Mosque,” which is believed to be the work of Jewish extremists. Palestinian Arabs are rightly upset at this crime. So are Israelis. And therein hangs the tale of Middle East peace.

The fire at the mosque in the village of Yasuf appears to have been set last week by some Jewish settlers demonstrating their anger toward Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to temporarily freeze building in Jewish communities in the West Bank. Extremists have vowed to counter such moves by increasing tensions with the Arabs. If it is true that Jews committed this crime, this is clearly madness and is rejected not only by the overwhelming majority of the people of Israel but also by the overwhelming majority of the approximately 300,000 Jews who live in the settlements. Local Jewish religious leaders attempted to visit Yasuf to express their condolences, but they were prevented from going there. So instead they met with Munir Abbushi, the Palestinian Authority’s regional governor, and presented him with new Korans. Abbushi accepted the Korans but then stated that Palestinian independence would mean that all Jews would have to be removed from the region. The Palestinians reject the right of Jews to live in their midst under any circumstances and regardless of who has or has not committed crimes.

But if you really wanted to get a feel for how differently the two communities think about these things, ask yourself what would happen if, instead of a mosque, a synagogue had been burned down. But this is not a hypothetical question.

In October 2000, at the start of the Palestinians’ second intifada, the Tomb of Joseph, a Jewish holy site in Nablus that served as a synagogue and religious school, was literally torn to pieces by an Arab mob. As Palestinian Authority “police” looked on, the mob destroyed the building and burned the sacred texts inside. But instead of treating the crime as an embarrassment to the national cause, among Palestinians it was treated as a cause for celebration. Another ancient synagogue in Jericho was also burned down that month. And even before the intifada, the Tomb of Rachel, a Jewish shrine near Bethlehem, was subjected to continual attacks. It had to be surrounded by fortifications to keep both the building and worshipers from harm.

In 2005, the Israeli government evacuated Gaza and removed every single Jewish soldier and settler from the area. The only things left behind were buildings, including the synagogues that had served the Jews who were forced out. But rather than treat these edifices with respect, if only to use them for their own purposes, the Palestinians burned every one down in a barbaric communal orgy of destruction. Again, no apologies were forthcoming from the Palestinians. Nor did world opinion treat this incident as worthy of condemnation. The fact that the Palestinians could not bring themselves to let even one former synagogue stand was a frightening reminder that the two sides still don’t view the conflict in the same way. To the Palestinians, this is not a tragic misunderstanding between two peoples but rather a zero-sum game.

So, as much as friends of Israel are right to condemn the mosque attack, let us not forget that when the tables were turned and Jewish sensibilities were offended, the Palestinians were not only unwilling to condemn similar incidents but instead celebrated them. Until that imbalance changes, hopes for peace will never be realized.

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Calling a Crime a Crime

It’s a measure of how badly the “peace process” has warped Israel’s language of values that the most intelligent response to Friday’s torching of a mosque near Nablus, allegedly by extremist settlers, came from the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Its secretary general, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, correctly identified the crime as “blatant aggression against the sanctity of sacred places.”

That’s more than Israeli politicians seemed capable of doing. Defense Minister and Labor Party chairman Ehud Barak, for instance, sounded as if the real crime were the potential damage to the peace process. “This is an extremist act geared toward harming the government’s efforts to advance the political process,” he declared. Similarly, opposition leader and Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni condemned it as a “despicable act of provocation” — as if the crime were the response it might provoke.

If the perpetrators were settlers, they probably did intend to undermine the peace process by provoking a violent Palestinian response. But that’s not what made their act criminal. The crime isn’t the impact on the peace process; it’s the wanton destruction of a house of worship.

This perversion of language began when Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres deemed the suicide bombings that followed the 1993 Oslo Accord “crimes against the peace process” and the victims, “sacrifices for peace.” For them, this was a political necessity: If Oslo were seen as producing more anti-Israel terror rather than less, Israelis would turn against Oslo — and its sponsors. Hence they had to paint the attacks not as the same old anti-Israel terror, but as a new form of terror, aimed equally at Israel and its Palestinian partner — i.e., at the peace process itself.

This recasting of the crime led inevitably to the next perversion: the frequent labeling of settlers by leftist politicians and journalists as Israel’s equivalent of Hamas. If Hamas’s crime is mass murder, this comparison is clearly false: Blowing up buses and cafes is not a standard practice of settlers. But if the real crime is opposition to the “peace process,” the comparison becomes plausible: Settlers were trying to stop Oslo. The only difference was their choice of tactics: demonstrations and lobbying rather than violence.

And that is precisely what makes this new language, and the value system it embodies, so warped. If the crime is what you oppose rather than how you choose to oppose it, there is no difference between a peaceful protest and blowing up a bus. So why shouldn’t settler extremists torch a mosque, if they deem that a more effective means of “harming … the political process”? Their very opposition to the process makes them criminals regardless of what tactics they use.

Clearly, most Israelis think no such thing. But language does shape thought. So if they don’t want to raise a generation that indeed sees no difference between peaceful and violent tactics, Israelis need to realign their language with their values. That starts with saying clearly that the crime is torching the mosque — not its impact on the peace process.

It’s a measure of how badly the “peace process” has warped Israel’s language of values that the most intelligent response to Friday’s torching of a mosque near Nablus, allegedly by extremist settlers, came from the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Its secretary general, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, correctly identified the crime as “blatant aggression against the sanctity of sacred places.”

That’s more than Israeli politicians seemed capable of doing. Defense Minister and Labor Party chairman Ehud Barak, for instance, sounded as if the real crime were the potential damage to the peace process. “This is an extremist act geared toward harming the government’s efforts to advance the political process,” he declared. Similarly, opposition leader and Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni condemned it as a “despicable act of provocation” — as if the crime were the response it might provoke.

If the perpetrators were settlers, they probably did intend to undermine the peace process by provoking a violent Palestinian response. But that’s not what made their act criminal. The crime isn’t the impact on the peace process; it’s the wanton destruction of a house of worship.

This perversion of language began when Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres deemed the suicide bombings that followed the 1993 Oslo Accord “crimes against the peace process” and the victims, “sacrifices for peace.” For them, this was a political necessity: If Oslo were seen as producing more anti-Israel terror rather than less, Israelis would turn against Oslo — and its sponsors. Hence they had to paint the attacks not as the same old anti-Israel terror, but as a new form of terror, aimed equally at Israel and its Palestinian partner — i.e., at the peace process itself.

This recasting of the crime led inevitably to the next perversion: the frequent labeling of settlers by leftist politicians and journalists as Israel’s equivalent of Hamas. If Hamas’s crime is mass murder, this comparison is clearly false: Blowing up buses and cafes is not a standard practice of settlers. But if the real crime is opposition to the “peace process,” the comparison becomes plausible: Settlers were trying to stop Oslo. The only difference was their choice of tactics: demonstrations and lobbying rather than violence.

And that is precisely what makes this new language, and the value system it embodies, so warped. If the crime is what you oppose rather than how you choose to oppose it, there is no difference between a peaceful protest and blowing up a bus. So why shouldn’t settler extremists torch a mosque, if they deem that a more effective means of “harming … the political process”? Their very opposition to the process makes them criminals regardless of what tactics they use.

Clearly, most Israelis think no such thing. But language does shape thought. So if they don’t want to raise a generation that indeed sees no difference between peaceful and violent tactics, Israelis need to realign their language with their values. That starts with saying clearly that the crime is torching the mosque — not its impact on the peace process.

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Building Peace by Ending Endism

In the past four years, there have been two experiments in peace-processing. The first was to dismantle every Israeli settlement, withdraw every Israeli settler, and turn over the entire area to the Palestinian Authority. The result of that experiment was a terrorist mini-state in Gaza — one that used the land to launch rockets at its neighbor and eventually caused a war, and that is today preparing for yet another one.

The second experiment is what Benjamin Netanyahu has referred to as the establishment of an “economic peace.” Tom Gross, a Middle East analyst and former Jerusalem correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph, provides a glimpse of what is happening with that approach, reporting on a day spent in Nablus, the largest city on the West Bank — a city bustling “in a way I have not previously seen in many years of covering the region”:

Wandering around downtown Nablus the shops and restaurants I saw were full. There were plenty of expensive cars on the streets. Indeed I counted considerably more BMWs and Mercedes than I’ve seen, for example, in downtown Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

And perhaps most importantly of all, we had driven from Jerusalem to Nablus without going through any Israeli checkpoints. The government of Benjamin Netanyahu has removed them all since the Israeli security services (with the encouragement and support of President George W. Bush) were allowed, over recent years, to crush the intifada, restore security to the West Bank and set up the conditions for the economic boom that is now occurring.

And it’s not just Nablus:

Life is even better in Ramallah, where it is difficult to get a table in a good restaurant. New apartment buildings, banks, brokerage firms, luxury car dealerships and health clubs are to be seen. In Qalqilya, another West Bank city that was previously a hotbed of terrorists and bomb-makers, the first ever strawberry crop is being harvested in time to cash in on the lucrative Christmas markets in Europe. Local Palestinian farmers have been trained by Israeli agriculture experts and Israel supplied them with irrigation equipment and pesticides.

A year ago, Uzi Arad, a prominent Israeli foreign-policy academic, suggested that the way forward in the “peace process” is to put an end to “endism” — the belief that “we are within reach of resolving everything in one fell swoop.” Endism is what marked the two-week final-status negotiations at Camp David; the subsequent four-month process, culminating in the unsuccessful Clinton Parameters; and the failed one-year Annapolis Process under President Bush. Against advice from both the Left and Right, President Obama tried his own hand at endism, and his efforts cratered in less than a year.

Netanyahu has endorsed a two-state solution, as long as the Palestinians recognize one of them as Jewish and demilitarize the other so it cannot threaten Israel. Both conditions have been rejected even by the peace-partner Palestinians, not to mention those in control of the land handed over to them in 2005. Thus another attempt at endism is proving to be futile– and four times is enough in any event. Endism needs to be ended, not mended.

It is time, as the title of Gross’s article suggests, for “Building Peace Without Obama’s Interference” — and long past the time for Obama to turn his full attention, as Arad suggested a year ago, to Iran.

In the past four years, there have been two experiments in peace-processing. The first was to dismantle every Israeli settlement, withdraw every Israeli settler, and turn over the entire area to the Palestinian Authority. The result of that experiment was a terrorist mini-state in Gaza — one that used the land to launch rockets at its neighbor and eventually caused a war, and that is today preparing for yet another one.

The second experiment is what Benjamin Netanyahu has referred to as the establishment of an “economic peace.” Tom Gross, a Middle East analyst and former Jerusalem correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph, provides a glimpse of what is happening with that approach, reporting on a day spent in Nablus, the largest city on the West Bank — a city bustling “in a way I have not previously seen in many years of covering the region”:

Wandering around downtown Nablus the shops and restaurants I saw were full. There were plenty of expensive cars on the streets. Indeed I counted considerably more BMWs and Mercedes than I’ve seen, for example, in downtown Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

And perhaps most importantly of all, we had driven from Jerusalem to Nablus without going through any Israeli checkpoints. The government of Benjamin Netanyahu has removed them all since the Israeli security services (with the encouragement and support of President George W. Bush) were allowed, over recent years, to crush the intifada, restore security to the West Bank and set up the conditions for the economic boom that is now occurring.

And it’s not just Nablus:

Life is even better in Ramallah, where it is difficult to get a table in a good restaurant. New apartment buildings, banks, brokerage firms, luxury car dealerships and health clubs are to be seen. In Qalqilya, another West Bank city that was previously a hotbed of terrorists and bomb-makers, the first ever strawberry crop is being harvested in time to cash in on the lucrative Christmas markets in Europe. Local Palestinian farmers have been trained by Israeli agriculture experts and Israel supplied them with irrigation equipment and pesticides.

A year ago, Uzi Arad, a prominent Israeli foreign-policy academic, suggested that the way forward in the “peace process” is to put an end to “endism” — the belief that “we are within reach of resolving everything in one fell swoop.” Endism is what marked the two-week final-status negotiations at Camp David; the subsequent four-month process, culminating in the unsuccessful Clinton Parameters; and the failed one-year Annapolis Process under President Bush. Against advice from both the Left and Right, President Obama tried his own hand at endism, and his efforts cratered in less than a year.

Netanyahu has endorsed a two-state solution, as long as the Palestinians recognize one of them as Jewish and demilitarize the other so it cannot threaten Israel. Both conditions have been rejected even by the peace-partner Palestinians, not to mention those in control of the land handed over to them in 2005. Thus another attempt at endism is proving to be futile– and four times is enough in any event. Endism needs to be ended, not mended.

It is time, as the title of Gross’s article suggests, for “Building Peace Without Obama’s Interference” — and long past the time for Obama to turn his full attention, as Arad suggested a year ago, to Iran.

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Hitting the Streets in Jenin (and Nablus)

When the vast quantities of baroque rhetoric that accumulate around the peace process are distilled, a basic formula for progress remains: Israel must cease building settlements, and the Palestinian Authority must field a non-corrupt, non-terrorist, non-incompetent police force in the Palestinian territories. If the day arrives when the PA security forces become crack anti-terror squads, the Israeli security presence in the West Bank, the argument goes, will be rendered unnecessary, and the creation of a Palestinian state will quickly follow. The PA will have fulfilled Max Weber’s basic definition of a state: it will have a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence.

It is regrettable that this linchpin of Palestinian statehood–the competence of the security forces–is the subject of only desultory attention. But if you look closely you can discern a little bit of what’s happening in the realm of PA security on the West Bank. Nablus has been since late 2007 a test case for the PA security effort, and what appears to be happening there is similar to the longstanding relationship between UNIFIL and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon — a tacit agreement between terrorists and western-backed security forces not to create problems for each other. From an LA Times story on two brothers from Nablus, we learn that

There is another explanation for the calm [in Nablus], according to Palestinians informed about security matters: a quiet understanding that police will not pursue militant groups that pose a threat to Israel as long as they lie low and do not challenge the Palestinian Authority.

And when such “militant groups” decide to put on a show of arms, the PA seems helpless to stop them. After a group of Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades gunmen battled the PA police two weeks ago, they “held a parade in Nablus in which they carried weapons, promised not to give in to the PA and vowed to continue to fight the Israeli occupation.”

The PA’s security efforts were extended this week to the Jenin area, provoking more clashes. In Qabatya, a village outside of Jenin, a firefight between the PA police and militants left a bystander dead. Thus, the PA “had planned to remain in Qabatya for a few days in a show of force but withdrew to the entrance of the town fearing tension after the killing.”

And so it goes. All of this is not to ridicule the PA effort, which actually I think deserves some limited praise. What’s going on today in the West Bank is unprecedented, inasmuch as it is something that Yasser Arafat certainly never attempted to do — his creation and manipulation of Palestinian security forces revolved entirely around solidifying his own rule and preparing for a terror war against Israel.

The current Palestinian Authority, though, is attempting to impose a western-style centralized order on a land that has been home for centuries to a traditional Arab pattern of social organization, in which families and tribes exist as the arbiters of power across territories and villages. Palestinian terror groups have been adept at operating from within and around this power structure, and Yasser Arafat was a master of playing Palestinian groups and interests off each other. What the PA is attempting today, though, is different — it is a kind of intra-Arab clash of civilizations. And it is one, alas, that the Palestinian Authority is not likely to win.

When the vast quantities of baroque rhetoric that accumulate around the peace process are distilled, a basic formula for progress remains: Israel must cease building settlements, and the Palestinian Authority must field a non-corrupt, non-terrorist, non-incompetent police force in the Palestinian territories. If the day arrives when the PA security forces become crack anti-terror squads, the Israeli security presence in the West Bank, the argument goes, will be rendered unnecessary, and the creation of a Palestinian state will quickly follow. The PA will have fulfilled Max Weber’s basic definition of a state: it will have a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence.

It is regrettable that this linchpin of Palestinian statehood–the competence of the security forces–is the subject of only desultory attention. But if you look closely you can discern a little bit of what’s happening in the realm of PA security on the West Bank. Nablus has been since late 2007 a test case for the PA security effort, and what appears to be happening there is similar to the longstanding relationship between UNIFIL and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon — a tacit agreement between terrorists and western-backed security forces not to create problems for each other. From an LA Times story on two brothers from Nablus, we learn that

There is another explanation for the calm [in Nablus], according to Palestinians informed about security matters: a quiet understanding that police will not pursue militant groups that pose a threat to Israel as long as they lie low and do not challenge the Palestinian Authority.

And when such “militant groups” decide to put on a show of arms, the PA seems helpless to stop them. After a group of Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades gunmen battled the PA police two weeks ago, they “held a parade in Nablus in which they carried weapons, promised not to give in to the PA and vowed to continue to fight the Israeli occupation.”

The PA’s security efforts were extended this week to the Jenin area, provoking more clashes. In Qabatya, a village outside of Jenin, a firefight between the PA police and militants left a bystander dead. Thus, the PA “had planned to remain in Qabatya for a few days in a show of force but withdrew to the entrance of the town fearing tension after the killing.”

And so it goes. All of this is not to ridicule the PA effort, which actually I think deserves some limited praise. What’s going on today in the West Bank is unprecedented, inasmuch as it is something that Yasser Arafat certainly never attempted to do — his creation and manipulation of Palestinian security forces revolved entirely around solidifying his own rule and preparing for a terror war against Israel.

The current Palestinian Authority, though, is attempting to impose a western-style centralized order on a land that has been home for centuries to a traditional Arab pattern of social organization, in which families and tribes exist as the arbiters of power across territories and villages. Palestinian terror groups have been adept at operating from within and around this power structure, and Yasser Arafat was a master of playing Palestinian groups and interests off each other. What the PA is attempting today, though, is different — it is a kind of intra-Arab clash of civilizations. And it is one, alas, that the Palestinian Authority is not likely to win.

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