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This Dysfunctional Desert

While Bibi says that peace talks could begin as early as the middle of August, only a few days after the Arab League said that it would back direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, five rockets hit the southern town of Eilat and Aqaba, purportedly fired from the Sinai Peninsula. This is just a day after Hamas militants lobbed an upgraded Kassam rocket at Sderot, thereby destroying a hydrotherapy rehabilitation center for children at Sapir College.

Oh and mortar fire too.

Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian chief negotiator said the Palestinians had submitted a “far-reaching” peace proposal to Barack Obama which would end the conflict with Israel and resolve Palestinian claims – too much hookah puffing?

Obama has pledged to the Palestinians that if Mahmoud Abbas agreed to go into direct talks, there would be an augmentation of the West Bank construction freeze, set to end in late September – too many Marlboro Lights and booze has clearly blurred the President’s Middle East outlook.

As for the Sinai attack, a Jordanian man was killed and three wounded when one of the rockets hit central Aqaba, the Jordanian Red Sea port city. There were, thank God, no casualties reported in Eilat where the rocket struck north of the hotels.

The IDF is in contact with the Jordanian and Egyptian armies.

Egyptian officials told the Israeli media that the attack could not have come from Sinai, which they say is heavily secured – however, Egypt recently sentenced 26 alleged members of a Hezbollah spy cell on charges of plotting attacks on tourist sites and smuggling weapons to Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

Will Egypt begin to work closer with the Jewish Country to keep the border secure?

Will Hamas succeed in destroying peace talks between Israel, Fatah and Obama, which will, as always, prove ineffectual, anyway?

Stay tuned and find out…

The Test

construction of new apartments in the West BankPalestinian construction workers should be finding new work soon, as Bibi has authorized the construction of new apartments in the West Bank.

Is it:

a) To put Palestinian construction workers back to work

b) To house more Jews in Samaria…resuscitating the injured Zionist dream

c) To tell the Obama administration that Israel is NOT a territory of a Middle-Eastern American empire, and therefore under Uncle Sam’s jurisdiction, despite any amount of welcome donations, as Vice President Joe Biden arrives in the Holy Land for a piece of the Peace Talks with our Bibi and Mahmoud Abbas.

d) To deny Palestinians of their human rights

Only G-D knows!

There will be 112 new apartments in the Beitar Illit ultra-Orthodox settlement, known as the “The Torah city of the Judean Hills.”

In this action, the Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat accused Israel of trying to undermine the peace talks even before they began:

“If the Israeli government wants to sabotage Mitchell’s efforts by taking such steps, let’s talk to Mitchell about maybe not doing this (indirect talks) if the price is so high… put a big question mark on what it is that we came to do.”

The Palestinians presented the U.S. envoy with a document outlining their desired agreement: a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank, with minor border adjustments.
This is what Bibi said after speaking to Biden:

“I believe we will succeed in advancing the diplomatic process…But the diplomatic process is not a game, it is real, and rooted first and foremost in (Israel’s) security.”

Peace Now settlement expert, Hagit Ofran said:

“The Israeli government is welcoming the vice president by demonstrating, to our regret, that it has no genuine intention to advance the peace process.”

Hamas and other known trouble-makers, have condemned Abbas’ decision to renew talks, accusing moderate Palestinians of caving in to U.S. pressure.

On Monday Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad unveiled a $3.13 billion budget for 2010, about $80 million more than last year, funded by the international community. He said that after years of a conflict-driven downturn, Palestinian government revenues are up, partly due to economic growth projected at 7% this year. Fayyad also said he will more than triple spending on development projects to $667 million, in accordance with donor countries desiring to see more money earmarked for infrastructure, health and education.

How Long will the Delay Game Continue?

bibi obama abbasA few days ago we saw the much anticipated tripartite meeting between Mahmoud Abbas, PM Netanyahu, and President Obama, in that usual stance where Israeli and Palestinian leader are clasping hands and the US leader is in the middle, hands outstretched, in that sort of “I know, deep down, you really do love each other,” type of body language.

rabin clinton arafatLet’s take a quick analysis of this picture, comparing it to the old one back in 1993. First of all, Obama looks a lot less happy then Clinton. Oh, but wait a minute: So does Abbas, and Bibi for that matter. They all look fairly miffed, like nobody really wants to be there, or they’re all constipated and need some fiber capsules. It’s hard to tell.

What’s really interesting, though, is that Israel is on the same side of the picture as she was in 1993. The left side. Abbas is on the right, as Arafat was. What is the significance of this? Take a look at any popular book on body language. What it will tell you is that to show the palm of your hand is an expression of capitulation, whereas to show the back of your hand is an expression of power and domination. When Bibi is on the left side of the picture, shaking Abbas’ hand with his right, he shows the back of his hand in the photograph. Abbas is left open-palmed and helpless.

I solute Bibi on this move, whether or not he did it accidentally.

But then again, it doesn’t really matter all that much. Nobody wanted to be in that picture in the first place anyway. And back home, everybody is griping about it. Following the meeting, Minister Without Portfolio (AKA Minister of Absolutely Nothing – there are a few of those in Bibi’s government) Benny Begin (son of the late PM Menachem Begin) called the chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat a “wild beast of a man” quoting the Bible in describing Ishmael.

Senior PA officials who came along with Abbas to New York called it something of a “complete failure,” in that Obama is reportedly no longer demanding a total settlement freeze from Israel. Further, Bibi and Abbas reportedly came back from the meeting with totally different conclusions, Bibi’s being that negotiations will proceed without preconditions, and Abbas’ being that negotiations will only resume after a total settlement freeze. At least they both came away with conclusions at all.

MK Danny Danon, a Likud lawmaker, said that now that Obama failed to obtain any concessions from Arab countries, Netanyahu must restart unlimited building in Judea and Samaria. That’s the right. And on the left…

Even Yossi Beilin, architect of the Oslo Accords and former Meretz chairman, is all hot and bothered. In his words, “It was clear that the participants were not enthusiastic about the meeting. It wasn’t a meeting of people who want to make peace.”

What would give you that idea? Could it be the looks on their faces? So I repeat the question posed in the title of this article. How long will this game of picture-taking and delay go on until somebody makes a move, somewhere, on some sort of principled stance involving any kind of conviction?

Could be a while. I wouldn’t count on anybody currently in office moving anywhere significant.

Putting a positive spin on Hamas’s win

Saeb Erakat.
Saeb Erakat at the Muqata, February 25 2006. Photo by Lisa Goldman.

Saeb Erakat, the chief negotiator for the PLO, has written a fascinating op-ed piece for the New York Times. In it he explains why he, a supporter of Mahmoud Abbas, does not view Hamas’s victory in the recent Palestinian elections as a setback for peace and democracy in the Middle East.

Of course Erakat manages to slip in a “blame Israel” (such a surprise!) for the routing of Fatah, but he does admit that Fatah needs to do some internal housecleaning in order to regain the voters’ trust. He also seems to think that Hamas’s Islamist platform does not represent the views of the majority of the people, and that Hamas will therefore find it rough going trying to implement sharia (Islamic law) in the West Bank.

Read the whole thing, below, to find out why.

What the P.L.O. Has to Offer
By SAEB EREKAT

Jericho, West Bank

MANY have argued that Hamas’s winning of a decisive majority in the Palestinian Parliament provides yet another setback for peace and democracy in the Middle East. Some have even suggested that it vindicates Israeli unilateralism. I, however, think the opposite is true: A negotiated and lasting peace may now be closer than many of us could have imagined just weeks ago.

The parliamentary elections could be seen as a referendum on the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas, who came to office a year ago after winning nearly two-thirds of the popular vote. Mr. Abbas ran on a platform of job creation, internal security and a negotiated resolution of the conflict with Israel based on two states living side by side in peace.
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