Commentary Magazine


Topic: Palestinian parliament

Palestinian Authority Announces ‘Surprise’ Elections

The Associated Press reports that, in a “surprise move,” Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad’s cabinet said it would set dates for local elections soon. The AP says the announcement reflects fears that Egypt-like protests could inspire unrest in the West Bank.

You can understand the thinking. Hosni Mubarak got protests while he was still serving his term of office; Mahmoud Abbas is about to begin the 74th month of his 48-month one. Mubarak at least had a presidential election scheduled for September, even if he (or his son) would have run — like Abbas in 2005 — effectively unopposed. Abbas has no election scheduled, nor any prospect of scheduling one, since he cannot campaign in half his territory and might not win in the other half, as his standing has been damaged by disclosures that he made minimal private concessions in peace talks with Israel.

Nor will elections be scheduled for the non-functioning Palestinian parliament, because its principal factions cannot co-exist with each other in a single state, ever since one of them threw members of the other off the top of buildings, and the other started arresting its opponents in the West Bank as part of efforts to build a security state much like … Egypt.

At least elections for local councils may now be held, even though they will result from fear rather than compliance with last year’s order of the Palestinian “High Court,” which the formerly fearless Abbas/Fayyad government ignored as it headed into the final months of its two-year plan to build a state.

The Associated Press reports that, in a “surprise move,” Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad’s cabinet said it would set dates for local elections soon. The AP says the announcement reflects fears that Egypt-like protests could inspire unrest in the West Bank.

You can understand the thinking. Hosni Mubarak got protests while he was still serving his term of office; Mahmoud Abbas is about to begin the 74th month of his 48-month one. Mubarak at least had a presidential election scheduled for September, even if he (or his son) would have run — like Abbas in 2005 — effectively unopposed. Abbas has no election scheduled, nor any prospect of scheduling one, since he cannot campaign in half his territory and might not win in the other half, as his standing has been damaged by disclosures that he made minimal private concessions in peace talks with Israel.

Nor will elections be scheduled for the non-functioning Palestinian parliament, because its principal factions cannot co-exist with each other in a single state, ever since one of them threw members of the other off the top of buildings, and the other started arresting its opponents in the West Bank as part of efforts to build a security state much like … Egypt.

At least elections for local councils may now be held, even though they will result from fear rather than compliance with last year’s order of the Palestinian “High Court,” which the formerly fearless Abbas/Fayyad government ignored as it headed into the final months of its two-year plan to build a state.

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The Resolution and the Process

The Palestinians are upset at the unanimously adopted Congressional Resolution, authored by the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and its ranking Republican member, which opposes any attempt to establish a Palestinian state outside a negotiated agreement. The resolution calls on the administration to lead a diplomatic effort against a unilaterally declared state, affirm that the U.S. would not recognize it, and veto any UN resolution seeking to establish one. The resolution — and the Palestinian reaction to it — caps a series of clarifying developments over the past year and a half:

First, the Palestinians refused to negotiate unless Netanyahu endorsed a two-state solution and froze settlement construction; Netanyahu did both, and the Palestinians refused to negotiate. They had to be dragged into “proximity talks” and then dragged into “direct negotiations” and then left.

Second, the Palestinian Authority canceled local elections in the West Bank, unwilling to risk them even in the part of the putative state it nominally controls. The PA is now headed by a “president” currently in the 72nd month of his 48-month term, with a “prime minister” appointed by the holdover “president” rather than by the Palestinian parliament (which, unfortunately, is controlled by the terrorist group the Palestinians elected five years ago). These days, the PA turns for approval not to its public or its parliament but rather to the Arab League, while the other half of the putative state is run by the terrorist group. As a democratic state, “Palestine” is already a failed one.

Third, the peace-partner Palestinians rejected the two criteria that Netanyahu set forth for a peace agreement: recognition of a Jewish state and demilitarization of the Palestinian one. The first requirement reflects a series of essential points: the Palestinians cannot have a state and a “right of return” to the other one; there cannot be a two-stage plan to obtain a second state and then work to change the character of the first one; and a peace agreement must contain an “end-of-claims” provision precluding further disputes. The second requirement reflects the obvious fact that, having withdrawn completely from Lebanon and Gaza only to have them become staging areas for new wars, Israel would be crazy to expose its eastern border to the same thing with a militarized Palestinian state. But the Palestinians rejected both of the requirements.

Fourth, the peace-partner Palestinians objected to an Israeli referendum on any peace agreement, considering democratic approval an obstacle to peace. A referendum serves as a necessary check on the legitimacy of the process; it is why the PA itself continually assures its own public (and the terrorist group in Gaza) that any peace agreement would be subject to a Palestinian referendum. But the peace-partner Palestinians do not want one for the Israeli public if it would serve as a check on further one-sided concessions.

Israel is currently faced with a PA that is unwilling to meet the basic requirements of a permanent peace, lacks the political authority to enter into a peace agreement (much less the ability to implement one), opposes any process in which the Israeli public can assure itself of the result, and wants a state simply imposed on Israel by the U.S. or the UN. If the Congressional Resolution helps disabuse it of these notions, it will be a significant contribution to the current non-peace non-process.

The Palestinians are upset at the unanimously adopted Congressional Resolution, authored by the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and its ranking Republican member, which opposes any attempt to establish a Palestinian state outside a negotiated agreement. The resolution calls on the administration to lead a diplomatic effort against a unilaterally declared state, affirm that the U.S. would not recognize it, and veto any UN resolution seeking to establish one. The resolution — and the Palestinian reaction to it — caps a series of clarifying developments over the past year and a half:

First, the Palestinians refused to negotiate unless Netanyahu endorsed a two-state solution and froze settlement construction; Netanyahu did both, and the Palestinians refused to negotiate. They had to be dragged into “proximity talks” and then dragged into “direct negotiations” and then left.

Second, the Palestinian Authority canceled local elections in the West Bank, unwilling to risk them even in the part of the putative state it nominally controls. The PA is now headed by a “president” currently in the 72nd month of his 48-month term, with a “prime minister” appointed by the holdover “president” rather than by the Palestinian parliament (which, unfortunately, is controlled by the terrorist group the Palestinians elected five years ago). These days, the PA turns for approval not to its public or its parliament but rather to the Arab League, while the other half of the putative state is run by the terrorist group. As a democratic state, “Palestine” is already a failed one.

Third, the peace-partner Palestinians rejected the two criteria that Netanyahu set forth for a peace agreement: recognition of a Jewish state and demilitarization of the Palestinian one. The first requirement reflects a series of essential points: the Palestinians cannot have a state and a “right of return” to the other one; there cannot be a two-stage plan to obtain a second state and then work to change the character of the first one; and a peace agreement must contain an “end-of-claims” provision precluding further disputes. The second requirement reflects the obvious fact that, having withdrawn completely from Lebanon and Gaza only to have them become staging areas for new wars, Israel would be crazy to expose its eastern border to the same thing with a militarized Palestinian state. But the Palestinians rejected both of the requirements.

Fourth, the peace-partner Palestinians objected to an Israeli referendum on any peace agreement, considering democratic approval an obstacle to peace. A referendum serves as a necessary check on the legitimacy of the process; it is why the PA itself continually assures its own public (and the terrorist group in Gaza) that any peace agreement would be subject to a Palestinian referendum. But the peace-partner Palestinians do not want one for the Israeli public if it would serve as a check on further one-sided concessions.

Israel is currently faced with a PA that is unwilling to meet the basic requirements of a permanent peace, lacks the political authority to enter into a peace agreement (much less the ability to implement one), opposes any process in which the Israeli public can assure itself of the result, and wants a state simply imposed on Israel by the U.S. or the UN. If the Congressional Resolution helps disabuse it of these notions, it will be a significant contribution to the current non-peace non-process.

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Is Israel’s Safety No Longer a Western Interest?

A senior Hamas leader reportedly told a British emissary yesterday that Hamas is ready to amend its charter calling for Israel’s destruction and recognize Israel’s right to exist. A breakthrough? Unfortunately, no. But the real bad news is the emissary’s response.

What Palestinian parliament speaker Aziz Dwaik told major Labour Party donor David Martin Abrahams is clearly eyebrow-raising. Just last month, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told a rally in Gaza that “our goal is Palestine, all of Palestine” — which, in Palestinian parlance, includes all of Israel. So was Dwaik speaking without authorization, or has Hamas’s stance really shifted radically since December?

Actually, neither, as the Jerusalem Post’s report makes clear: Dwaik said he was merely reiterating Hamas’s well-known support for a Palestinian state in the pre-1967 lines. What he neglected to mention is that this support has always come with two caveats: first, Israel must agree to absorb millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees, thereby eradicating the Jewish state demographically; and second, in exchange, Israel would get not a peace agreement, but a long-term truce — meaning that if death by demography failed to materialize, Hamas reserved the right to resume trying to finish Israel off militarily.

Needless to say, none of this bothered Abrahams, who is scheduled to brief British Foreign Secretary David Miliband on his meeting this weekend. He said he would urge Miliband to “consider the implications of Hamas’s positive overtures” and was “very excited” about facilitating dialogue between Hamas and the international community. “I’m prepared to give them [Hamas] a chance because I’ve got faith and confidence in Dwaik and Haniyeh,” he gushed. “We can’t allow 1.5 million to be festering in the Gaza Strip while the majority of them are good and well-educated.”

Dialogue with the European Union is, as Dwaik acknowledged, precisely what Hamas wants. As long, of course, as it can be achieved by mouthing slogans that useful idiots like Abrahams willfully misconstrue as moderate, without actually having to stop launching rockets at Israel or otherwise working toward Israel’s destruction. Certainly, it’s hard to find any explanation other than willful idiocy for why, if Abrahams has “confidence” in Haniyeh, he so readily assumes Haniyeh is lying when he publicly proclaims his goal as “all of Palestine.” Or why he views “well-educated” as apparently synonymous with “good,” given that most leaders of terrorist organizations are extremely well-educated: think physicians Mahmoud al-Zahar of Hamas or Ayman al-Zawahiri of Al-Qaeda.

But the truly chilling part was his conclusion. “Hamas is different from Al-Qaida,” Abrahams asserted. “Hamas is no threat to Western interests.”

Yet even Abrahams would presumably admit that, currently, Hamas is still a threat to Israel. So if Hamas is no threat to Western interests, then Israel’s safety is evidently not a Western interest.

Many Europeans may think this, but public statements to this effect have so far been confined to the fringes. That a mainstream, highly influential (and, of course, Jewish) member of Britain’s ruling party is now willing to say it openly is a development that should keep Israel supporters awake at night.

A senior Hamas leader reportedly told a British emissary yesterday that Hamas is ready to amend its charter calling for Israel’s destruction and recognize Israel’s right to exist. A breakthrough? Unfortunately, no. But the real bad news is the emissary’s response.

What Palestinian parliament speaker Aziz Dwaik told major Labour Party donor David Martin Abrahams is clearly eyebrow-raising. Just last month, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told a rally in Gaza that “our goal is Palestine, all of Palestine” — which, in Palestinian parlance, includes all of Israel. So was Dwaik speaking without authorization, or has Hamas’s stance really shifted radically since December?

Actually, neither, as the Jerusalem Post’s report makes clear: Dwaik said he was merely reiterating Hamas’s well-known support for a Palestinian state in the pre-1967 lines. What he neglected to mention is that this support has always come with two caveats: first, Israel must agree to absorb millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees, thereby eradicating the Jewish state demographically; and second, in exchange, Israel would get not a peace agreement, but a long-term truce — meaning that if death by demography failed to materialize, Hamas reserved the right to resume trying to finish Israel off militarily.

Needless to say, none of this bothered Abrahams, who is scheduled to brief British Foreign Secretary David Miliband on his meeting this weekend. He said he would urge Miliband to “consider the implications of Hamas’s positive overtures” and was “very excited” about facilitating dialogue between Hamas and the international community. “I’m prepared to give them [Hamas] a chance because I’ve got faith and confidence in Dwaik and Haniyeh,” he gushed. “We can’t allow 1.5 million to be festering in the Gaza Strip while the majority of them are good and well-educated.”

Dialogue with the European Union is, as Dwaik acknowledged, precisely what Hamas wants. As long, of course, as it can be achieved by mouthing slogans that useful idiots like Abrahams willfully misconstrue as moderate, without actually having to stop launching rockets at Israel or otherwise working toward Israel’s destruction. Certainly, it’s hard to find any explanation other than willful idiocy for why, if Abrahams has “confidence” in Haniyeh, he so readily assumes Haniyeh is lying when he publicly proclaims his goal as “all of Palestine.” Or why he views “well-educated” as apparently synonymous with “good,” given that most leaders of terrorist organizations are extremely well-educated: think physicians Mahmoud al-Zahar of Hamas or Ayman al-Zawahiri of Al-Qaeda.

But the truly chilling part was his conclusion. “Hamas is different from Al-Qaida,” Abrahams asserted. “Hamas is no threat to Western interests.”

Yet even Abrahams would presumably admit that, currently, Hamas is still a threat to Israel. So if Hamas is no threat to Western interests, then Israel’s safety is evidently not a Western interest.

Many Europeans may think this, but public statements to this effect have so far been confined to the fringes. That a mainstream, highly influential (and, of course, Jewish) member of Britain’s ruling party is now willing to say it openly is a development that should keep Israel supporters awake at night.

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Friends, Enemies–What’s the Diff?

Of course we know that Hamas’ acts of terror “must be understood as being a painful but inevitable consequence of colonialism, apartheid or occupation,” as a UN Human Rights council report stated earlier this year. Palestinian terrorism, while deplorable, is defensive and not to be confused with the morally and strategically unjustifiable terrorism of al Qaeda, who want to establish a global caliphate. Too bad someone forgot to tell Hamas:

A sermon last Friday by a prominent Muslim cleric and Hamas member of the Palestinian parliament openly declared that “the capital of the Catholics, or the Crusader capital,” would soon be conquered by Islam.

The fiery sermon, delivered by Yunis al-Astal and aired on Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV, predicted that Rome would become “an advanced post for the Islamic conquests, which will spread though Europe in its entirety, and then will turn to the two Americas, even Eastern Europe…Today, Rome is the capital of the Catholics, or the Crusader capital, which has declared its hostility to Islam, and has planted the brothers of apes and pigs in Palestine in order to prevent the reawakening of Islam…Very soon, Allah willing, Rome will be conquered, just like Constantinople was, as was prophesized by our prophet Muhammad.”

So, the Pope visits the United States while simultaneously former U.S. President Jimmy Carter goes to talk righteousness with the gang who wants to unseat the Pope. This must be how Democratic diplomacy is going to restore America’s image abroad.

Of course we know that Hamas’ acts of terror “must be understood as being a painful but inevitable consequence of colonialism, apartheid or occupation,” as a UN Human Rights council report stated earlier this year. Palestinian terrorism, while deplorable, is defensive and not to be confused with the morally and strategically unjustifiable terrorism of al Qaeda, who want to establish a global caliphate. Too bad someone forgot to tell Hamas:

A sermon last Friday by a prominent Muslim cleric and Hamas member of the Palestinian parliament openly declared that “the capital of the Catholics, or the Crusader capital,” would soon be conquered by Islam.

The fiery sermon, delivered by Yunis al-Astal and aired on Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV, predicted that Rome would become “an advanced post for the Islamic conquests, which will spread though Europe in its entirety, and then will turn to the two Americas, even Eastern Europe…Today, Rome is the capital of the Catholics, or the Crusader capital, which has declared its hostility to Islam, and has planted the brothers of apes and pigs in Palestine in order to prevent the reawakening of Islam…Very soon, Allah willing, Rome will be conquered, just like Constantinople was, as was prophesized by our prophet Muhammad.”

So, the Pope visits the United States while simultaneously former U.S. President Jimmy Carter goes to talk righteousness with the gang who wants to unseat the Pope. This must be how Democratic diplomacy is going to restore America’s image abroad.

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Candlelight by Daylight

Illustrating the old adage that a lie travels halfway around the world before the truth can get its pants on, the story of Israel cutting off power to Gaza continues to circulate. What really happened? Something very typical, alas: a collaboration between journalists and Palestinians in manufacturing anti-Israel propaganda. As Khaled Abu Toameh (among others) reports:

On at least two occasions this week, Hamas staged scenes of darkness as part of its campaign to end the political and economic sanctions against the Gaza Strip, Palestinian journalists said Wednesday.

In the first case, journalists who were invited to cover the Hamas government meeting were surprised to see Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and his ministers sitting around a table with burning candles.

In the second case on Tuesday, journalists noticed that Hamas legislators who were meeting in Gaza City also sat in front of burning candles.

But some of the journalists noticed that there was actually no need for the candles because both meetings were being held in daylight.

A bit under a third of Gaza’s electricity is supplied by a power station inside of Gaza; a tiny bit is supplied by Egypt, and the rest is supplied by Israel. It was the power station inside of Gaza that was shut down, and not shut down by Israel, but by Hamas, in order to lend credibility to its effort to generate international pressure against Israel’s blockade of the Strip. For the media, it staged candle-lit scenes and trumpeted the fiction that Israel had plunged Gaza into darkness.

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Illustrating the old adage that a lie travels halfway around the world before the truth can get its pants on, the story of Israel cutting off power to Gaza continues to circulate. What really happened? Something very typical, alas: a collaboration between journalists and Palestinians in manufacturing anti-Israel propaganda. As Khaled Abu Toameh (among others) reports:

On at least two occasions this week, Hamas staged scenes of darkness as part of its campaign to end the political and economic sanctions against the Gaza Strip, Palestinian journalists said Wednesday.

In the first case, journalists who were invited to cover the Hamas government meeting were surprised to see Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and his ministers sitting around a table with burning candles.

In the second case on Tuesday, journalists noticed that Hamas legislators who were meeting in Gaza City also sat in front of burning candles.

But some of the journalists noticed that there was actually no need for the candles because both meetings were being held in daylight.

A bit under a third of Gaza’s electricity is supplied by a power station inside of Gaza; a tiny bit is supplied by Egypt, and the rest is supplied by Israel. It was the power station inside of Gaza that was shut down, and not shut down by Israel, but by Hamas, in order to lend credibility to its effort to generate international pressure against Israel’s blockade of the Strip. For the media, it staged candle-lit scenes and trumpeted the fiction that Israel had plunged Gaza into darkness.

The terrorists of Hamas may be brutal, but they understand how to wage war in the media far better than the Israelis do. They knew the fact that Israel had never cut the electricity to Gaza or even reduced it was entirely beside the point, and would probably not be investigated by reporters–and they understand that images of people sitting in darkness with their faces illuminated by candlelight are visually compelling and can do more to convince the world of Palestinian victimization than a hundred press releases could ever accomplish.

Yet the fact remains that the speciousness of this story is readily available to anyone with an internet connection and a basic sense of skepticism and curiosity. But that hasn’t stopped the rigorously fact-checked exemplars of the MSM from repeating it. Here is yesterday’s New York Times editorial:

We are deeply concerned about the many innocent Israelis who live along the border with Gaza and must suffer through the constant bombardment. But Israel’s response—shutting off power and other essential supplies—is a collective punishment that will only feed anger and extremism.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the Times editorialists could become deeply concerned with getting their facts straight?

Here is the Washington Post‘s editorial:

Israel closed its border with the territory and disrupted power supplies over the weekend in response to a massive escalation of Palestinian rocket launches from Gaza at nearby Israeli towns.

And for the greatest hilarity, check out this photograph in TIME magazine, which is captioned: “The Palestinian Parliament was forced to meet by candlelight on Tuesday night.” Now look at the window in the upper left corner of the picture: The curtain blocking it has a rather curiously bright, luminous border around it, doesn’t it? Tuesday night? Do TIME’s editors know how gullible they look?

The New York Times, the Washington Post, TIME magazine: When it comes to Israel, the lies often find themselves traveling first class. I doubt corrections will be forthcoming.

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Hamas, Slipping

Yesterday Noah Pollak (at Middle East Journal) cited some encouraging new poll numbers from Gaza:

Hamas got only 23 percent support, down from 29 percent in the previous survey last month, while Fatah climbed from 31 percent to 43 percent.

The poll, the first major survey since the Hamas takeover, also showed that 66 percent of Hamas supporters said they would vote Fatah if it undertook reforms.

Trust in the Gaza-based deposed Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas stood at 37 percent, compared to 63 percent for Abbas. [Fatah] Prime Minister Sallam Fayad got higher trust marks than Haniyeh, 62-38 percent.

A bit more than eighteen months ago, Hamas took a majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament (though it won just 44 percent of the popular vote). These new numbers don’t constitute a directly comparable result, but they suggest (as Pollak and others argue) that Hamas may be its own worst enemy. The tumble in Hamas’s standing also means that Fatah has a chance to recapture and retain power—provided that Abbas can remake his party into one capable of governing a functional (or less dysfunctional) state.

This would mean not only establishing a firm monopoly on violence, but addressing the rampant political corruption, internal tribal divisions, and rotten or non-existent infrastructure that have plagued Palestinian life for years. It would also mean, ultimately, ending hostilities—whether government-sanctioned or not—against Israel. (Dennis Ross took this line of argument at TNR.) Abbas may be too weak to accomplish this, but the opportunity is there. One hopes the Palestinian leadership won’t squander it.

Yesterday Noah Pollak (at Middle East Journal) cited some encouraging new poll numbers from Gaza:

Hamas got only 23 percent support, down from 29 percent in the previous survey last month, while Fatah climbed from 31 percent to 43 percent.

The poll, the first major survey since the Hamas takeover, also showed that 66 percent of Hamas supporters said they would vote Fatah if it undertook reforms.

Trust in the Gaza-based deposed Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas stood at 37 percent, compared to 63 percent for Abbas. [Fatah] Prime Minister Sallam Fayad got higher trust marks than Haniyeh, 62-38 percent.

A bit more than eighteen months ago, Hamas took a majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament (though it won just 44 percent of the popular vote). These new numbers don’t constitute a directly comparable result, but they suggest (as Pollak and others argue) that Hamas may be its own worst enemy. The tumble in Hamas’s standing also means that Fatah has a chance to recapture and retain power—provided that Abbas can remake his party into one capable of governing a functional (or less dysfunctional) state.

This would mean not only establishing a firm monopoly on violence, but addressing the rampant political corruption, internal tribal divisions, and rotten or non-existent infrastructure that have plagued Palestinian life for years. It would also mean, ultimately, ending hostilities—whether government-sanctioned or not—against Israel. (Dennis Ross took this line of argument at TNR.) Abbas may be too weak to accomplish this, but the opportunity is there. One hopes the Palestinian leadership won’t squander it.

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