newsrackblog.com

a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Another alternative Palestinian (and Israeli) agenda

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 9th April 2003

While we’re on the subject: it turns out that Aziz Poonawalla posted an article (“basic needs and desires of all peoples“) about the Israeli-Palestinian issue on Sunday, too.

Aziz argues for a bi-national single state, an even more idealistic solution than the Nusseibeh-Ayalon “People’s Voice” initiative I described. This approach is laid out in detail by a group called the Alternative Palestinian Agenda (APA), whose initiative proposes reconfiguring Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip as a federal union of three U.S.-state-like regions: 1) majority Jewish areas within pre 1967 Israel, 2) West Bank/Gaza/other majority Arab areas, and 3) Jerusalem. The APA provides maps of “Palestine-Israel” and Jerusalem to illustrate their proposal. There would be a single Senate, Parliament, Supreme Court, currency, and military. A great number of additional details are presented in the APA proposal — all the way to a gun ban and anti-discrimination commissions — but these seem the most critical.

This bi-national state solution at least makes the Nusseibeh-Ayalon idea seem attainable and feasible. I won’t pretend to have followed Aziz’ arguments in detail yet, this is more of a “go take a look” post in that respect.

My initial reaction is that this plan and proponents like Aziz choose to ignore what the state of Israel means to Israelis, at least as this non-Jew and non-Israeli understands it. That would be Israel as a place apart, as a refuge for Jews and Judaism. This may be wrong on my part, or it may be wrong, on some level, for Israelis to cling to such views at the expense of fresh thinking like the APA initiative..

Be that as it may, I think a single-state solution like the APA’s would be overwhelmingly rejected by Israeli voters. Given the history of Israel, it would seem a surrender of what Israel has come to mean to many of its defenders. That’s no reason to not try — unless the political resources might be better spent elsewhere. I have the feeling Palestinians would reject such a plan by a similar margin, and for similar reasons: they don’t want to be part of a nation, they want to be a nation of their own, period. But I don’t know.

I have a couple of other feelings as well, though. The first one is that 9/11 has put Americans and Israelis in a similar psychological boat; Americans can’t be said not to “get it” about terrorism, the existential threat affecting Israeli lives and politics every day. The second is that both the historic American support for Israel and the current expenditure of blood and treasure in Iraq has earned the United States a seat at the Israeli table as a road map to peace is drawn.

As I write, “Operation Iraqi Freedom” is knocking down a threat not just to ourselves, but also to Israel, and at real cost and risk to the United States. Americans have thereby earned a deeper right than ever to make demands of Israel: an end to the settlements, serious consideration of the Bush administration “road map,“* and creativity in arriving at an equitable solution, or at least a reasonable cease-fire, for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Given the Iraqi defeat, the United States and Israel couldn’t be reasonably thought to be dealing from a position of weakness or as a reward to terrorism/intimidation, a common argument against negotiations.

But progress seems to be stuck in reverse gear. On Monday, the Guardian reported that the Israeli government permitted a settlement in heretofore off-limits Palestinian Jerusalem. The United States should respond unfavorably, bluntly, and painfully. These days, it’s at least nice to see a way to save a little money.**

=====
* This speech refers to a prior June 24, 2002 speech. While it emphasized the need for Palestinian reforms and the end of support for terrorism, it also contained language directed at the Israeli government.
** Data via this Jewish Virtual Library discussion.
TECH 4/11: In case anyone ever cares: for some reason the automatic permalink for this item remains wrong. Here is the correct permalink.

Posted in Post | No Comments »

“The People’s Voice”

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 7th April 2003

Hamifkad Haleumi, or the “People’s Voice,” is an initiative trying to create grass-roots support for a “two states” political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is headed by the Palestinian Sari Nusseibeh of Al Quds University and Ami Ayalon, a retired Israeli high military official, who have the goal of collecting one million signatures online or otherwise, from the two peoples. From the “Statement of Principles“:

Permanent borders between the two states will be agreed upon on the basis of the June 4, 1967 lines, UN resolutions, and the Arab peace initiative (known as the Saudi initiative). […]After establishment of the agreed borders, no settlers will remain in the Palestinian State. […]

Palestinian refugees will return only to the State of Palestine; Jews will return only to the State of Israel. […]

The Palestinian State will be demilitarized and the international community will guarantee its security and independence.

I learned of this a few weeks ago via “Israeli Guy” Gil Shterzer, who comments:

…I’m pretty skeptic but I sure wish it will succeed. I signed the petition and if you are an Israeli you can sign as well over here.

As folks have commented on Gil’s blog, it’s a little disappointing the Arabic language version of the site is still under construction. In her comments, on the other hand, Diane Moon is dismissive, calling it a “public relations stunt” and urging Gil to “stop trying to get Arabs to like you.” Gil replies,

The point here is not to show that we are nice but to clarify what Israel is willing to compromise on and on what Israel isn’t willing to compromise. Another reason for this campaign is to shake the Israel public out of its numbness. The people here have gloomed into apathy.

There’s not much about “Hamifkad Haleumi” on the web; I’ve found you’ll have better luck Googling about this using the words”Nusseibeh Ayalon,” via which I found this highly negative assessment –“Palestinian rights in the document shredder” — by “Electronic Intifada” writer Ali Abunimah. Mr. Abunimah is mainly upset about the agreement to give up the Palestinian right of return to lands under Israeli control, and about the details of the Jerusalem partition. Yehudith Harel of Gush Shalom, an Israeli peace group, makes similar criticisms.

As near as I can tell, the plan at least doesn’t repeat the Barak error of presenting the Palestinians with a patchwork territory criss-crossed by Israeli roads and zones. The full withdrawal of settlers seems like a major concession under the circumstances, and compensation is envisioned for Palestinians who lose the right of return. Since this is something the agreement envisions being ratified by the governments of the two peoples, it seems like this is not an abrogation of rights, as Abunimah charges, or an evasion of responsibility, as Harel claims.

I’m with Mr. Shterzer: I hope this agreement receives support.

=====
UPDATE, 4/8: Gil updates the story: Nusseibeh and Ayalon are seeking an endorsement from the Israeli president, Moshe Katsav, according to an item in Ha’aretz. Katsav’s post is largely ceremonial, but it’s still a nice touch. Gil also gently chides me for being a “bit misinformed describing Barak’s offer in Camp David”; see the comments to his post, where I present some evidence — and he rebuts fairly effectively. More on this little historical dispute soon.

Posted in Post | No Comments »

When lying gets to be a habit

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 20th August 2002

Terror Leader Is Dead, Palestinian Reports Say: The Associated Press, citing two Palestinian officials in Ramallah who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Abu Nidal’s body had been found in his Baghdad apartment with multiple bullet wounds, though they described his death as a suicide.

Posted in Post | No Comments »

Your weekend Newsrack roundup

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 25th February 2002

# While others might see it as a kind of pocket veto, I prefer to put it down to “stunned silence” from Instapundit that my 2/21/02 rebuttal on reproductive cloning has not yet met with a reply. A post today, however, relegates concern about reproductive cloning to the “chattering classes.” I’ve heard that one before, actually (re my 1/20/02 post). The point, incidentally, seems belied by the polls Reynolds acknowledges (the Fox one unscientific, but not the Time one): lots of outside-the-beltway types do seem concerned about the issue. Their reasons don’t totally match my own, but I’ll take it on faith, so to speak, that plenty of God-fearing Americans believe God is not in favor of human experimentation, just as they take it on faith — perhaps unwisely — that their society won’t allow it.

# Eve Tushnet e-mailed some nice comments about the same posting, and also mentioned her own essay (“Love in the Time of Cloning”) on the subject. That essay may have predated any of mine, and takes the same position (see her essay’s third point). As Ms. Tushnet’s title implies, she approaches the topic from a different direction than I do. But we arrive at the same conclusion, for the same reason. We’ll just keep chattering about it, I suppose.

# All this is arguably “biting the hand that feeds,” but so what. I agree with Mr. Reynolds on many issues, and disagree on many others such as this one. The “Instapundit” effect (or maybe the “bottom of Instapundit’s link list” effect) continues unabated. I’m too cheap or lazy to switch to a stats engine that would tell me whether some of you folks are returning, but I sincerely hope so. Thanks for visiting! The idea here is to generate some civil discussions; please feel free to leave your comments!

# Patrick Nielsen Hayden (“Electrolite”) commented on the same “Best of the Web” article that got my goat a couple of days ago, citing some of my comments but adding his own well-crafted scorn to the cause:

… I’ll take even the flakiest student antiwar protestor over this kind of braying declaration that might makes right.

# Gary Farber (“Amygdala“) continues to scan every interesting magazine or newspaper article days and weeks before I do. He mentions Joe Klein’s thought-provoking piece on Iran in one of the latest New Yorkers (on which more myself sometime this week, I hope), comments on the “anti-Semitism, redefined” (and whitewashed?) piece by Peter Beaumont in the Guardian, and many others. He also agrees with Chris Patten (EU Foreign Affairs Plenipotentiary, or something like that) that Patten doesn’t “get it” about 9/11, with words more succinct than my own — and how could they not be — on the same general topic a couple of days ago. Patten offers a skilfully blunted apology by “admitting” that Europeans don’t get how the attack shattered our “sense of invulnerability.” As Farber notes, it wasn’t that so much, it was all those hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people incinerated, or crushed, or compelled to jump to their deaths that sort of upset us, blank you very much, Chris. I’m not altogether on the same page with Gary on issues like Iraq, but he’s always well-informed, thoughtful and well-spoken.

# Disappointing drop-off in German hits. May have to rev up another German blogger episode, but that takes a lot of research in search of a point. My hope for German readers isn’t for its own sake, it’s to try to generate some transatlantic exchanges on and relationships about these issues. The “We’re not in the same boat” magnum opus below failed in that respect, it may well have been too long, too vague, and ultimately too critical to make for enjoyable reading, especially by Germans. Left out “too wrong” there, I suppose, I’m open to comments, though.

# Before my work crunch hit, I was indebted to Jim “Unqualified Offerings” Henley for some nice comments about the various Palestinian issue posts; I never got around to saying so. Thanks, Jim. Jim’s point was that while Arafat should have made a counteroffer at Camp David, Barak had probably already promised more than he could deliver. (For a review of the Camp David impasse, see this New York Review of Books article, “Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors,” by negotiators Hussein Agha and Robert Malley, as well as the response by Dennis Ross.)

=====
UPDATE: Ouch; note to self: must follow all Electrolite links in future. Hey, this was a weekend roundup; get a life, Weekly Standard.

Posted in Post | No Comments »

The State Palestinians Are In

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 3rd February 2002

…is the title of a New York Times Magazine article by Deborah Sontag, that complements the pieces I’ve posted about Palestinian polling data, politics, and the settlement issue below, and which I mentioned in an ensuing discussion on Charles Johnson’s “little green footballs” site. As I acknowledge there, this is anecdotal stuff, a reporter’s notebook of her conversations with Palestinians from all (or at least many) walks of life and political persuasions. The point is, there’s a debate going on among Palestinians, too, one that is obscured by polling numbers. It’s worth reading in full; herewith some interesting excerpts:

[Abed al-Raouf Barbakh, Fatah street leader, impatient with Arafat:] ”We are tired and fed up with all the fighting,” he said. ”We want all the blood that has been shed to be enough. Give us our small, little country, our West Bank and Gaza, and then it will all end. Israel can keep Israel and leave us the hell alone.” […]

[Father of Palestinian Christian businessman rebukes son for being impressed with suicide bombers:] ”Excuse me, David, but what did they do, these noble creatures? Blow themselves up? They blew themselves up and blew us up with them. To hell with them. What is the result of their self-sacrifice? Now America is saying Arafat is bin Laden? Bravo for Hamas.” […]

In Palestinian eyes, however, the outline of an offer put on the table by Ehud Barak ”fell far short of minimum requirements for a viable, independent Palestinian state,” as a senior Palestinian negotiator wrote in a letter to members of the United States Congress. Barak was offering nothing more than ”three noncontiguous cantons” surrounded by Israeli-controlled territory in the West Bank, the letter continued, concluding, it ”would have made Palestine nothing more than Arab ‘Bantustans’ perpetually at the mercy of Israeli economic and military closures.”

[Hussam Khader, Palestinian independent member of Parliament. agrees with above, considers Arafat corrupt. He says, if negotiations start again:] ”it will be the same corrupt people representing us,” Khader said. ”I pray to God that I wake up one morning and discover that these people have fled to Europe with their money and their children. If I were Yasir Arafat, I’d start to clean house. If he wants to end his life as a hero, he will do this. Otherwise, Arafat will not be remembered by history. I am told that there is a saying in the Torah that many who are now in their graves believed that life would not continue without them. But it did.” […]

On the fateful day in October 2000 when a Palestinian mob set upon two Israeli soldiers in Ramallah, Abdel Jawad went to the scene, which was near his house, and urged Palestinian police officers to turn their weapons on the mob. ”I was almost lynched myself,” he said. … He last left Ramallah in June, when he traveled to Amman. On his return, he ended up stuck at a checkpoint near Jericho, baking in a clot of traffic as young Israeli soldiers slowly examined each car, single-file. ”As I sat there, with the cars beeping and the soldiers barking at people twice their age, I actually had a fantasy — it was like in slow motion — of getting out of my car and killing those soldiers. And I am a humanist. But I felt it firsthand; these are the daily humiliations that push Palestinians to commit acts that are not in our self-interest. Israel is doing its best to get us all to join Hamas.” […]

Sari Nusseibeh, the president of Al-Quds University in Jerusalem and the P.L.O. representative in the city, even went so far as to gore a sacred cow: the right of return of Palestinian refugees to the towns and villages they lost in 1948. Nusseibeh said publicly [link by TN] what Palestinian negotiators have long known — that the right of return is a deal breaker. A two-state solution, he said, implied one home for Israelis and one for Palestinians — not one for the Palestinians and the other also for the Palestinians.” His remarks caused a tremendous ruckus, but Arafat stood by Nusseibeh. […]

[Ahmad Abu Salem, truck driver wounded by in Israeli/Palestinian crossfire:] ”I think it’s in the interest of the people to calm things down because we are the ones who are paying a heavy price. I feel bad that the Israelis have lost innocent civilians. But we have lost more. We are under siege. We are hungry. We are unemployed. We are — I am — crippled.” […]

[A patriarch and his family in Gaza; some sons in PA police, others are pro-Hamas. Some are wearing New York Giants knitted caps:] I asked the Hamasniks if they were Giants fans. ”It’s just for warmth,” one said, squirming and folding under the logo on the knitted hat. The other barked out, ”I like New York because of what happened to it in September.” A Palestinian police officer brother jumped to his feet: ”I condemn that remark. Eat it! Eat it!” The Hamasnik snickered, ”Or what, you’ll arrest me?” The patriarch laughed throughout the conversation. ”This is normal for Gaza,” he said. ”You find a father who’s Hamas, his son may be Fatah or vice versa.”

None of this proves anything, other than that there are a lot of opinions out there, some I like and some I don’t. Note, though, that there is Palestinian discussion of the “right of return” to Israel proper, by highly placed Palestinians; check out that “said publicly” link above. And that there is a war-weariness and willingness to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist by “regular radical” Palestinians like Barbakh. But also think about good people like Abdel Jawad, who tried to prevent the lynching of those Israeli soldiers and is therefore a good deal braver than I think I’d be. If he’s running out of good will, too, no wonder those poll results look so ugly.

I’m not saying I even know what I think. I’m profoundly disturbed by the poll results I see out of the West Bank and Gaza, and I utterly condemn bombing and strafing pizza parlors, discos, and bar mitzvahs in the name of resistance. Yet I also know the blame for the current situation is not all on the Palestinians or their leadership. We can not allow ourselves to become as simplistic and bloodthirsty as the worst of the players in the Middle East, the Mughniyahs and Hamas types. Nor can we allow ourselves to be duped by duplicitous voices like Arafat’s. Yet Arafat remains the acknowledged leader of the Palestinians. Were there elections, he’d likely be re-elected, judging from other results in the same poll. So … what? Kill him? Bomb the West Bank day and night? Will that work? Has it so far?

Posted in Post | No Comments »

Report: Arafat recorded discussing Karine A weapons shipment

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 3rd February 2002

Via Sean McCray (“next right”), the New York Post article “GODFATHER ARAFAT’S LIES ABOUT TERROR“, by Uri Dan:

Then Israel provided the audio – months of intercepted conversations between Arafat and his aides discussing the $20 million arms deal with Iran.

The Israeli surveillance operation even caught Arafat and his aides’ involvement with Imad Mughnia, one of the 22 men on a U.S. most-wanted list of terrorists.

The name of Mughnia, a Lebanese Shiite with close ties to Iranian intelligence, emerged in the investigation of the Marine-barracks blast in Lebanon in 1983 that killed 250 Americans, and later as the commander of the hijacking of a TWA plane to Beirut.

Assuming the story holds up, and the technical evidence bears out that these recordings were of Arafat et al, that pretty much ends my theory that this was done by other political factions within the PA; I suppose it was always a stretch. And if Arafat is dealing with Mughniyah, that’s worse news than the Karine-A. Mughniyah is a bona fide sociopath, personally responsible for torturing CIA station chief William Buckley to death in Lebanon, and beating to death a Navy Seal aboard that hijacked plane. Now affiliated with Hezbollah, Mughniyah was once part of Arafat’s Fatah group.

Posted in Post | No Comments »

Palestinian opinions, Israeli settlements: neither help

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 2nd February 2002

On Tuesday, I briefly noted some of the results of a survey by a Palestinian polling group. Gary Farber (“Amygdala”) picked up on that; yesterday, he wrote in far more detail about that survey than I did. He broke up his comments in to three parts; have a look. Farber itemizes findings like these:

 

  • An overwhelming majority, ranging between 91%-98%, views all Israeli violent acts against Palestinians as acts of terror.
  • An overwhelming majority, ranging between 81%-87%, does not view Palestinian violent acts against Israelis as acts of terrorism.
  • While 94% would view as an act of terrorism a future use by Israel of chemical and biological weapons against Palestinians, only 26% would view the same act as terrorism if carried out by Palestinians against Israelis.

Now, the final item above is just ugly; the 74% of Palestinians who accord themselves the unbridled right to use heinous weapons are evidence of a population in a vicious frame of mind. Many of the other poll findings are equally unsettling; yet settlements, checkpoints, and all the rest of the real grievances of occupied Palestinian (or, if you prefer, occupied Jordanian) life can not be excuses for contemplating chemical attacks, or for carrying out suicide bombings and other mass attacks on civilian targets.

But as Farber points out, polls like these are snapshots; I would add that this one is a wartime snapshot. Americans themselves are in the grip of wartime thinking; “and rightly so,” we think and I agree. But not so long ago, we weren’t; we now contemplate wars (plural) each of which Americans would have rejected out of hand prior to September 11. Similarly, not so long ago, Palestinian polling numbers looked very different, too; indeed, this point is developed within the polling director’s article in Foreign Affairs which I also mentioned on Tuesday. Substantial majorities supported the peace process, radical Islamist groups were much less popular; in July, 2000 the level of support for violence was around half of the roughly 60% figure it would be one year later.

What has changed is that an an Oslo peace accord was derailed by Palestinian radicals — but also by Israeli ones. Remember the 1994 Hebron mosque massacre? At least 39 people died in a hail of bullets — and the perpetrator’s grave has been turned into a shrine by radical Israelis. Remember who killed Rabin? But mainly, remember that since the 1993 Oslo accord, over 20,000 housing units — over half financed with public funds — were started in the occupied areas.* A self-respecting, patriotic Palestinian would be about as fed up with Israel now as many Americans are about Al Qaeda, and that can make for a lot of ugly opinions, especially if you’re losing. And so an uprising began, one that is morphing into a war before our eyes. The Palestininan Authority fans the flames with its school curricula, its media and information policy, and its attitude towards violence — whether that attitude amounts to “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” or direct support for weapons shipments, bombings, riots, and the rest of it. I believe that Arafat and the Palestinians made a dreadful miscalculation in turning down the Barak proposals at the 2000 Camp David summit. But Israel has arguably pursued a miscalculated, two-faced strategy of its own since Oslo as well, a strategy that even Barak shared in.

I don’t for a second hold with suicide bombings of civilian targets. That, more than anything else, is why I have been closing my eyes to the settlements issue; the people who do such things are not seeking real negotiations, in my view. If Israel dismantled every settlement and retreated to pre-1967 borders, such people would continue their war; to them, Israel itself is the provocation, not the settlements. Such people must be defeated no matter what; at the end of the day, Israel’s right to defend its citizens against such criminality is paramount and undeniable, by any means necessary.

But in the long run, and in fact even in the middle and short run, Israel’s right to occupy Palestinian(/Jordanian) land and provoke, humiliate, and sometimes abuse its inhabitants is not paramount and is eminently deniable**. I should think even the most fiery “warbloggers” over here (in fact, especially the most fiery ones) might well find themselves ardent Palestinian nationalists if they were to walk a mile in Palestinian shoes, and would find themselves sorely tempted to split hairs, set aside scruples, and lie, cheat, steal and kill generally in the fight against their enemies.

Under the current circumstances, a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories may be the best outcome we can realistically hope for. But that outcome will be fought tooth and nail by many settlers, a sizeable number of whom have come to view their settlements as part of God’s plan, more than some return to their literal ancestors’ homeland. That can’t be good enough for the rest of us; any old Tom, Menachem, or Mohammed can come along claiming he’s doing Yahweh’s, the Lord’s, or Allah’s will. Americans owe it to themselves and their Israeli friends to resume urging Israel to cease settlement construction, and ultimately to find a way to end the occupation. That doesn’t amount to “letting the terrorists win”; it amounts to being honest with ourselves and our friends.

=====
*The Oslo accord took no specific position on the settlements issue. The chief ongoing argument against the settlements is that they violate the Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention stating that “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” Israel’s supporters argue that the settlements are not illegal under international law. But the very double-edged argument is that Jews and Israelis have a “right of return” to the lands they were expelled from after 1948; this very assertion by Palestinians to land within Israel’s pre-1967 borders that they were just as arguably expelled from after 1948 is considered the deal-killer sine qua non by many Israel supporters. The legalities of the matter may be in dispute; but the Israeli position seems intransigent, and based on the calculation that the settlements can be defended by force, just as Israel’s pre-1967 borders can be defended by force. That’s no better a basis for negotiations than the Palestinian one many Israelis suspect, bent on pushing Israel back into the sea.

**Even by soldiers in its own army, it seems: the New York Times reports “Reservists Balk at Occupation, Roiling Israel“.

Update: Jim Henley and Charles Johnson respond (+/- favorably, +/- skeptically). Read their comments for yourself, of course; summarizing, Henley points out that the Barak proposal wasn’t all that great, and left settlements in place. Johnson points out that there will still be lots of Arab troublemakers egging Palestinians on to continue the fight, even if Israel withdraws. I join in a discussion of Johnson’s post.

Posted in Post | 1 Comment »

From a recent Palestinian poll

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 30th January 2002

The poll was conducted by PSR (see prior post) from December 24-29, 2001, questioning 1357 Palestinians in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; margin of error +/- 3%. Among the most telling results:

  • 92% support attacks against settlers, 58% support attacks against civilians inside Israel.
  • In the event of a peace agreement, 66% would support joint Palestinian-Israeli economic institutions and ventures — but only 6% would support adopting school curriculum that recognizes Israel and teaches children not to demand return of all Palestine to Palestinians.
  • 94% oppose the US campaign against Bin Laden; only 16% believe that Bin Laden was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
  • Only 17% would support a political system “as in Iran” for the future Palestinian state. 42% said they would prefer a system “as in other Arab countries, like in Egypt, Jordan, and Syria; and 19% said they would prefer a system “as in the US, Europe and Israel.”It’s hard to pick the most depressing item above, but I’d pick number 2; it tells me Israel’s right to exist is not really acknowledged at all by 94% of Palestinians, that any settlement is just a preliminary truce before the next round of bombings. But maybe I’m missing something.

Posted in Post | 1 Comment »

Palestinians Divided

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 30th January 2002

…is the title of a very interesting and well-linked article in Foreign Affairs by Khalil Shikaki, Associate Professor of Political Science at Bir Zeit University, and Director for Policy and Survey Research at the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) in Ramallah. Khalil begins,

Has Yasir Arafat, the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), orchestrated and led the second Palestinian intifada in order to gain popularity and legitimacy while weakening Israel and forcing it to accept extreme Palestinian demands? Or has the uprising been a spontaneous response by an enraged but disorganized Palestinian “street” to Likud Party leader (and later Israeli Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon’s September 2000 visit to the site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as al Haram al Sharif, and the failure of the Oslo peace process to produce an end to Israeli military occupation? Most Israelis take the first position, whereas most Palestinians take the second. Both are mistaken.

The truth is that the intifada that began in late September 2000 has been a response by a “young guard” in the Palestinian nationalist movement not only to Sharon’s visit and the stalled peace process, but also to the failure of the “old guard” in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to deliver Palestinian independence and good governance. The young guard has turned to violence to get Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip unilaterally (as it withdrew from South Lebanon in May 2000) and simultaneously to weaken the Palestinian old guard and eventually displace it.

Shikaki describes a “young nationalist guard” in an alliance of convenience with Islamist groups like Hamas, and with political goals of its own in opposition to the “old nationalist guard” centered around Arafat. (This is similar to but obviously better informed than guesses and observations of my own about the Karine-A affair — which happened after this article was published.) Shikaki describes three scenarios for this internal Palestinian struggle and the winners:

  • continuation of the status quo, benefiting the Islamist groups as resistance to compromise grows and willingness to use violence gains
  • an Israeli unilateral withdrawal, (a popular idea among Israelis, depending on how much land is surrendered) which “would be an unqualified victory to the young guard.”
  • a negotiated outcome — either comprehensive agreement, a stabilization package to “tone down the violence,” or something in between — which would be a win for the old guard.

Shikaki lists conditions for a comprehensive agreement which seem like a mission to Mars these days, but reminds us that in the post-Camp David days, they seemed attainable. Willingness to withdraw from most of the 1967 territories, evacuate most of the settlements, and accept a land swap to allow the remaining ones to stay under Israeli control are some key elements. While Israelis would have to elect a new government for this, Shikaki believes that the Palestinian old guard would have to adapt to its rebellious youths by embracing domestic political reform, or face continued internal opposition.

This is a pretty steep path up and out of the mess. Given its unlikeliness, at least in the near term, Shikaki’s analysis of option 2 is interesting. He believes the PA would refuse to move into vacated areas in the absence of an agreement, but the “young guard,” people such as Samhadaneh in Rafah, Barghouti in Ramallah, or Khader in Nablus and their allies would be more than willing to take over. He seems to think that’s bad, and no doubt he knows better than I do; but no doubt, also, he’s got his own allegiances which seem to be more or less “old guard” with his nose pinched shut against the smell of corruption.

Personally, I’d guess that many Israelis, even Sharonites and Likud types, would rather negotiate with the “young guard” than an old fraud like Arafat. If they pull a unilateral withdrawal, they might be well advised to make it a pretty deep one, throw up a pretty high wall, and let the Palestinians fight it out among themselves for a change.

Posted in Post | 1 Comment »

Israel targets PA naval facilities, Arafat targets PA naval personnel

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 12th January 2002

As predicted here earlier — not that it was a tough call — the Washington Post reports fewer PA boats that float, or at least fewer PA boats that look brand new:

Israel, dismissing the Palestinian moves as insufficient, fired on Palestinian naval targets in Gaza early Saturday, setting a fuel depot and a barracks on fire, Palestinian security sources told the Associated Press. A small patrol boat was also hit. There were no reports of casualties.

Likewise, Arafat moved to arrest the ringleaders-or-scapegoats Fuad Shubaki and Adel Mughrabi. Israel continues to maintain that only Arafat could have authorized such an important transaction, while PA officials deny he had knowledge of the operation.

Posted in Post | No Comments »