Saturday, May 27

The U.S, Israel and The Palestinians

President George Bush and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have had their first meeting and joint Press Conference since the e lection of Ehud Olmert as prime minister of Israel.  The speeches made by both leaders were encouraging and reflected the U.S. continued support of Israel’s position. However, there is a certain amount of surrealism in this meeting. A certain reality in a vision that will not bear fruit in the very near future as far as peace with the Palestinians is concerned. Olmert.  in his speech to Congress, expressed his readiness to negotiate with Mahmoud Abbas. Both leaders also mentioned the Iranian nuclear threat in the background that threatens stability in the Middle East and the world.

Both leaders emphasized that the Palestinian Leadership must meet three conditions in order to continue on the road to peace:

  1. Recognition of Israel’s right to exist.

  2. There must be total cessation of terror against Israel.

  3. Both sides must observe previous signed agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.

Both Pres. Bush and P.M. Olmert paid lip service to the importance of conducting negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in order to bring the peace negotiations back on track.

While, there is no objection to negotiating with President Mahmoud Abbas if only he would not be so weak and ineffectual. The constant harping on the relevance of Mahmoud Abbas seems to be overplayed by both the US and Israel. If only he would be more relevant! He is a good person and does have worthy intentions. His statements are compromising, and filled with the “right music” towards peace with Israel.

The truth of the matter is that Mahmoud Abbas’s attitude is contrary to the Hamas dominated Palestinian Authority, which has remained intransigent and unwilling to give up terror or recognize Israel’s right to exist. Negotiations with Abbas are a futile exercise and lacks relevance.
There is not much room for optimism. According to Danny Rubinstein of Haaretz who interviewed Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas Prime Minister, on 23rd May, told Haaretz that the Hamas government is prepared to agree to an extended cease-fire if Israel withdraws to the 1967 lines. "If Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders, peace will prevail and we will implement a cease-fire [hudna] for many years," Haniyeh said during an interview in his south Gaza office. "Our government is prepared to maintain a long-term cease-fire with Israel." Palestinian Transportation Minister Ziad Zaza described the hudna during the interview as "the cease-fire that will be renewed automatically each time."
On the other hand, President Mahmoud Abbas has made some rather decisive statements concerning Hamas in its attitude towards Israel. It may be an ultimatum. He stated that if Hamas is not prepared to accept the “Prisoners’ Covenant”, then he will call a referendum so that the Palestinian People will decide the issue. It is doubtful if Abbas has the will or power to carry out his threat.
Once again, Hamas is playing a dubious tread water game when it comes to its attitude towards Israel. There are signs of unrest between Hamas and Abbas. It is unlikely that Hamas will accept Abbas’s threat to hold a referendum. Hamas will display its anger in the streets with more civil unrest and extremists will threaten to assassinate Mahmoud Abbas. Despite all denials to the contrary, Palestine is on the threshold of a civil war between Fatah and Hamas.
The E.U. and U.S are tightening screws on the Palestinians by withholding funds to the Hamas led Palestinian Authority. Palestine is on the verge of economic collapse and yet Hamas remains as intransigent as ever in its attitude.  It is very difficult to draw any conclusions as to what Hamas will decide in the very near future in its attitude towards Israel. There is a power struggle between Hamas and Fatah despite the two sides’ attempts to downplay their differences.
The victims of this power struggle will be the Palestinian People. Many government employees have not received their salaries since Hamas won the Palestinian Elections. The Palestinian regime will blame Israel and the United States.
The situation in the Palestinian Camp is hopeless and it will boomerang in an escalation of terror against Israel. Iran will finance Hamas and Co terror. It is doubtful whether Mahmoud Abbas will hold a referendum on the “Prisoner’s Covenant”. The dubious attitude of Hamas and the weakness of Abbas will ensure total anarchy and havoc as well as further suffering for the Palestinians.  

Sunday, May 21

Mr Ronald Kasrils is Wrong

Mr. Ronald Kasrils, the South African Minister of Intelligence, has put his foot in it again as he has done in the past. He is now advocating sanctions against Israel for its "inhumane treatment" of the Palestinians. According to him, Israel ought to be punished for not recognizing the Palestinian right of democratic choice in electing Hamas in the Palestinian Elections. He equates Israel blindly with the South African Apartheid policies of the past. He is resorting to the anti-Israel tactics once again that characterized the notorious Conference on Racism held in Durban in September 2001 that turned out to be an Israel-bashing charade.
 Normally, the world would recognize the Palestinian choice of government in free and democratic elections. However, the world does recognize Hamas in the same way as it recognized Germany’s democratic choice of government in 1933 when the majority of the German People elected Hitler to power. This may seem an oversimplification. The problem began when Hitler, with the support of the German people, adopted a policy of rabid anti-Semitism and murdered six million Jews. Logically, must the world accept that because the German Electorate voted for Hitler and the Nazi Party in democratic elections, this gave him the right to murder innocent people because of their creed?
 Hamas was also the democratic elected choice of the Palestinian People. Nobody is arguing about that. However, when Hamas, does not wish to recognize Israel’s right to exist and embarks on a policy to destroy the Jewish People - surely, this is intent of genocide! This is unacceptable! Hamas has no desire at all to come to terms with Israel’s right to exist. If Hamas would change its attitude to Israel, Israel would be more than accommodating in future peace negotiations. According to Comrade Ronnie, Hamas, (like the Hitler Nazi Party of old) deserves legitimacy because it is the democratic choice of the Palestinian People. Clearly not a deep thinking man is our Ronnie.
Ronnie Kasrils, has proved once again, that he is self-servingly insensitive to the Jewish People. Some Jews, during the Hitler terror (the Kapos), had betrayed their own people to save their own skin. It did not work! Comrade Ronnie should heed his history that he forgets so conveniently! He shows no knowledge or sensitivity to the suicide bombings and indiscriminate murder of Jews by Palestinian terrorists. He overlooks the reason why Israel built the Security Fence in order to save lives from the indiscriminate terror that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa Brigades carry out against innocent Israelis of all creeds. The Security Wall has saved many lives from Palestinian terror.
 Apartheid in South Africa is now confined to the dustbin of history and we are pleased about that. As an ex-South African Jew who had lived in South Africa during the apartheid era and loathed the injustices committed against the black majority only because of their skin colour, I welcomed the democratic change in South Africa. Today, living in Israel, seeing and experiencing what happens in this country, with all due respect to Comrade Ronnie Kasrils, I think that I am in a better position to pass judgment on his odious comparison of Israel to apartheid South Africa.
Comrade Ronnie attempts to deligitimize Israel. By his attitude, he has made a strange alliance with Mahmoud Ahmadinajad, the anti-Israel president of Iran who advocates the destruction of Israel. Ahmadinajad has expressed the desire to pass a law to differentiate between Moslems, Jews, Christians and other non-Moslem communities by coloured badges on their clothing, reminiscent of the Nazi Era in Germany. South Africa is silent on this matter and does not criticize Iran at all. Comrade Ronnie is so involved in Israel bashing that he overlooks the injustices and human rights abuses in many Moslem countries of the Middle East, including Palestinian violence on Palestinians. When it suits him or his agenda, Kasrils is silent!
Comrade Ronnie does not criticize the human rights abuses of his ally Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe who has carried out horrendous acts against those who oppose him 
South Africa today has the highest crime and AIDS rate in the world. The ANC have become prosperous and undemocratic fat cats, insensitive to the suffering of their electorate! Buying sprees to Qatar by croneys of the ANC are common practices these days. Comrade Ronnie has managed to ingratiate himself very well into this system. People who live in glass houses should not throw stones and this applies to you, Comrade Ronnie!
President Thabo Mbeki views himself as an honest broker who wishes to see the achievement of peace between Israelis and the Palestinians. It is doubtful if you do, Comrade Ronnie. Your actions and regular publishing of your opinions guarantee that South Africa is not an honest broker and has no part to play or contribution to make in attempting to find peace in the Middle East!

Saturday, May 13

The Tentative Movement of Hamas towards Recognizing Israel

There are reports in various newspapers of signs of “winds of change” in Hamas in its attitude towards Israel. It all began in an Israeli prison where many Hamas and Fatah people are doing their prison sentences for various activities against Israel. One must not underestimate the influence that these prisoners have on the policy makers in Palestine. Somehow, their ideas come out from behind the prison walls to those who rule Palestine. Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas hold these prisoners in high esteem. They view them as martyrs who have made sacrifices for the Palestinian People by landing in prison.

These prisoners have come out with a proposal suggesting that Hamas recognize Israel’s right to exist and to start negotiating with her. This may seem an almost revolutionary change in attitude towards Israel. These proposals are very tentative at this stage and the Hamas leadership is prepared to study them seriously.

The reason for this possible “change of heart” is the crisis facing the Hamas dominated Palestinian Authority. The European Union and the U.S. have been boycotting negotiations with Hamas and cutting off aid to the Palestinians. Only a trickle of aid is getting through and this is earmarked for humanitarian purposes only. Palestinian workers have not received a salary for months and this will increase the discontent that will boomerang on Hamas eventually.

Time is not on the side of the Palestinians. Essential funds are not getting through at the rate required in order to subsidize the running of Palestinian services for residents. The economic situation in Palestine is desperate with poverty and suffering rising rapidly. The Palestinian infrastructure is destroyed and has to be rebuilt. The main victims of this hopeless situation are the children whose future is uncertain. There are even cases of small children infiltrating into Israel through the breaks in the security fence begging for money to buy food. If the economic situation deteriorates further, Hamas will loose the Palestinian support that they had gained in order to win the Palestinian elections on 25th January 2006. It is unlikely that a starving Palestinian nation will support the non-compromising Hamas attitude towards Israel forever.  

Qassam rockets are still being fired into Israel from Gaza. Many suicide-bombing attempts have been stopped successfully by the Israel Security Forces.  

Dr. Mahmoud Zahar, the Palestinian Foreign Minister, praised an interesting proposal by one of the senior prisoners, Sheik Abdel Halek Natshe of Hebron. He calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state on the lands Israel captured in the 1967 War: the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

“The Palestinian people, in the homeland and in the Diaspora, aspires to liberate its land and realize its self-determination, including the establishment of an independent state on all the land occupied in 1967, and to assure the right of return for refugees and the liberation of all prisoners and detainees," reads the first section of the document.

There is no doubt this does represent a possible shift in attitude by Hamas towards recognizing Israel. This proposal will be viewed with a large amount of ambivalence by the Hamas leadership and certainly by Israel. Israel will not have a problem with the establishment of a Palestinian state on land occupied in the 1967 Six Day War. It will be a matter of deciding the exact borders of this Palestinian state. There will be difficulties in establishing East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. Then again, it depends on what the definition of East Jerusalem will be in a final settlement. The right of return of Palestinian refugees will never be acceptable by Israel. They have stated that on enumerable occasions. The liberation of prisoners and detainees will be less of a problem. Prisoners “with blood on their hands” will remain in Israeli prisons, but then who knows what decisions will be made in the future regarding their release.

The amazing point about the prisoner proposals is the recognition of Israel. This is in total contrast to the Hamas Manifesto, built on non-recognition of Israel’s right to exist and the establishment of an Islamic state in its place. An important point about this proposal is that Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas Prime Minister, has even made some positive comments concerning the document and said that it needs to be studied further. He did not reject it out of hand.    

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the document, calling it an "important plan" that constitutes a basis for future Palestinian policy. The accord calls on all the factions in the Palestinian parliament, starting with Hamas and Fatah, to establish a national unity government. However, the Hamas hardliner, Khaled Mashal, who resides in Damascus, Syria, has not shown any signs of changing his stance of non-recognition of Israel. He has called for the unification of Hamas and Fatah in order to destroy Israel. The possibility of a split between the hardliners in Hamas and the pragmatic Hamas members cannot be ruled out in the near future. It is still early days to judge whether this proposal will be widely accepted by Hamas. Nevertheless, it is significant that a moderate stand is coming out from the Hamas prisoners in Israel jails thatw given positive press coverage even from the Arab states. The stand is not moderate enough from Israel’s point of view, nevertheless there are aspects that are worth studying and perhaps it could be a basis for a change in attitude towards Israel by the Hamas leadership.

If Hamas lays down her arms, ceases supporting terror, recognizes Israel’s right to exist and decides to negotiate a peace agreement that is viable and fair to both sides, Israel will be more than forthcoming and progress could be made for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

A fresh start must be made in order to solve this conflict. We must be aware of the tragic history and antagonism between Israelis and Palestinians, but this should not be an obstacle to make a fresh start with new and imaginative ideas to end this tragic conflict. This prisoner proposal, while it still has a long way to go to be accepted, is nevertheless a tentative attempt for a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict.  

Saturday, May 6

South Africa and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Thabo Mbeki, the President of South Africa, sees himself as a potential peace broker in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. He intends to use the South African experience in its weaning the whites from apartheid when the negotiations from white rule to multi-racial rule took place in the 1990’s after the release of Nelson Mandela. He seems to draw a parallel between the two situations and sees this conflict in those terms. This is dangerous and misleading. The situation between Israel and apartheid South Africa is totally different and the methods of solution ought to be viewed from a different perspective entirely.

According to Haaretz of 5 May 2006, Benjamin Pogrund wrote that Thabo Mbeki wishes to pay a visit to the region in order to visit Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and pay a visit to the Hamas leadership as well. He hopes to include a visit to Israel. This visit will not produce any positive results because of the mindset of Hamas. Apart from that, it is unlikely that Israel will permit him to its shores after meeting with Hamas. Thabo Mbeki claims that he wishes to delve on the South African experience in the hope that he will convince Hamas to change its position vis a vis Israel. One wonders if Israel would reject any world leader who talks with Hamas to a state visit. This remains to be seen.

The official positions of South Africa in its attitude towards this conflict are:

  1. Acceptance of the Oslo Accords of 1993.

  2. Acceptance of the Road Map that the Quartet had formulated.

There are differences between the South African apartheid regime and the situation between Israel and the Palestinians that Mbeki tends to overlook and oversimplify. The occupation of territory because of the June 1967 Six Day War was a war of defense for Israel’s existence. Israel’s establishment in 1948 was never accepted by the Arab states at the time. Negotiations with Israel were never accepted.

Even after the signing of the Oslo Accords, Arafat continued making provocative and rabble rousing statements against Israel. He never accepted Israel’s right to exist and this became clear over the years through his rhetoric despite the fact that he signed the Oslo Accords. He used the two-tongue approach. One tongue was for international consumption in moving towards peace while the other tongue was rhetoric for his people’s consumption including the marching of martyrs to conquer Jerusalem-Al Quds.

We were all witnesses to the deteriorating situation and the movement towards the use of the suicide bomber and the beginning of the second Intifada of October 2000. The violence catapulted and communications between Israel and the Palestinians had reached a point of almost no return.

Today the situation has reached a new low. The Palestinians elected Hamas to replace the corrupt and inept Palestinian Authority despite the fact that a year before that they had elected Mahmoud Abbas to be their president. This has resulted in the Hamas-dominated Palestinian Authority with its irreconcilable attitude towards Israel and Mahmoud Abbas remaining the president. His attitude towards Israel is pragmatic.

How can Mahmoud Abbas show readiness to negotiate with Israel while his Hamas dominated parliament is opposed to any recognition of Israel’s right to exist? This situation is paradoxical and untenable! The Palestinian Authority is still talking with two voices. In the past, both voices were those of Yasser Arafat. Today these two voices are divided between Mahmoud Abbas (the moderate) and Hamas (uncompromising and extreme). The problem today is the inability of the Hamas regime to come to terms with Israel’s existence and to cease terror against Israel. It is futile negotiating with Mahmoud Abbas while Hamas still supports and carries out terror attacks against Israel. They entertain the fantasy of achieving the destruction of Israel and establishing an Islamist Palestinian state in its place. The most they are prepared to concede is a temporary cessation of terror or hudna for an unspecified period of their choosing.

In South Africa, there was a desire of all of South Africa’s people irrespective of race, colour and creed, to solve her problems peacefully and to reject apartheid outright. Nelson Mandela, the greatest political leader that South Africa had ever produced, had risen from prisoner to president in democratic elections. He had embarked on a programme of uniting all South Africans and he had succeeded in that quest. The reason was that all South Africans showed a desire to solve their problems. This is not the case in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. There is no negotiating partner for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. This is unfortunate as both sides have much to gain from a peaceful solution to this cruel conflict.

In the not so distant past and present, many countries accused Israel of subjecting the Palestinians to much suffering due to the occupation after the Six Days War of June 1967. The establishment of Israeli settlements in the conquered territories was a grave mistake and resulted in a stalemate. Today the occupation is one of many facets that the Islamist terrorist uses to justify terrorist activity on a worldwide basis. The situation is not in the hands of Hamas alone, but external and evil players have now closed ranks with them. Iran, Syria, Al Qaeda and certain Al Qaeda elements in Iraq under Zarqawi have also made use of vitriolic rhetoric against the State of Israel. Iran is threatening Israel with total destruction and the development of nuclear facilities in Iran is a means towards that end. When it comes to hate of Israel there is unity of ranks between the Shiite and Sunni Islamist extremists. Their hate goes beyond the Israeli occupation of territory captured in the Six Day War.

President Thabo Mbeki has false sense of illusions if he feels that he will be able to bridge this gap of hate by relating it to the South African experience and teaching Hamas and Co the lessons South Africans had learned from the demise of apartheid. The basic ingredients for the promotion of a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians are not there.

The desire to achieve peace must come from both sides to the conflict. We all desire an end to the conflict and the establishment of a Palestinian State living at peace with Israel in dignity and respect between both sides. New, imaginative ideas for ending the conflict are now even further from fruition than ever before with the Hamas controlled Palestinian Authority. Abu Mazen is not a factor anymore in this situation, which is a great pity.

Spring in Israel

It is Spring in Israel and the indigenous spring flowers this time of the year are out. Some of these flowers are in our garden in Bat Chefer, such as the Kalaniyot (Poppies), Amaryllus while the Dandelions are scattered all over.

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