Monday, July 01, 2013

Arlene Kushner on Results of Kerry's Trip To Israel and Analysis of Egyptian Protest

From Arlene Kushner:
July 1, 2013

Temporary Reprieve

I would like to begin with a link to a Youtube that provides an audio news broadcast about Muslim Brotherhood leader Qaradawi and Obama's connection to him.

It well worth listening to and sharing.  People sometimes receive audio information better than the written word.  And this information is pure dynamite. (With thanks to Salomon Benzimra of the Canadians for Israel's Legal Rights.)
As to that reprieve...I am referring, of course, to the fact that Secretary of State John Kerry left the area yesterday without having been able to achieve a "breakthrough" that brought the Israelis and the PA to the negotiating table.
Temporary, however, because he left behind two staff members to continue his efforts, and declared that progress has been made.  ("I know progress when I see it.")  The expectation is that, having stated his intention to pursue this, he'll be back here before long.
I could track his movements over the past few days, but will not.  Suffice it to say that he did "shuttle diplomacy," with multiple meetings both with Netanyahu and with Abbas (both in Amman and in Ramallah).
As to the "progress," there are conflicting unofficial reports.  At no time has there been any solid indication that Abbas has relinquished his pre-conditions -- a freeze on building past the '67 line, acknowledgment that this line represents the basis for negotiations, and release of 123 specified prisoners convicted before the advent of Oslo. 
See the statement by an Abbas spokesman yesterday:
"Abu Rudeineh said that Abbas affirmed the Palestinian national fixed positions regarding the establishment of an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital based on the 1967 borders, and the release of prisoners."
Read: Abbas Meets with Kerry in Ramallah
What Abbas may have done (and this is not clear) is soften his pre-conditions just a bit, so that a partial freeze might be acceptable to him, and perhaps the release of fewer prisoners than he had wanted before the start of negotiations, with the rest to follow.
See here for information on those prisoners, who are frequently referred to as "political prisoners" but in many cases have blood on their hands:

CAMERA Details Pre-Oslo Prisoners-terrorists-not political prisoners
The big question from the Israeli perspective is what Netanyahu has offered.  According to Maariv, he would be willing to freeze building outside of Jerusalem and the major settlement blocs, and to release 60 of those prisoners.  He balks at conceding that negotiations would be based on the '67 line (as well he must!),
"...sources close to Netanyahu [are] saying that [the demand for acknowledgment of the '67 line] was ridiculous because borders were a final-status issue that couldn’t be decided before talks were even resumed."  
I find this statement scary because it implies that there is the possibility of deciding for the '67 line (with adjustments) after negotiations started.
According to one report, Netanyahu would mention that line if "Abbas accepted some of Netanyahu’s long-held views on a final-status agreement: that the Palestinian state must be demilitarized, that its western border must run along Israel’s West Bank security fence, and that Israel must maintain military control of the Jordan."

Read: Netanyahu, Abbas reportedly closer to talks deal after Kerry meetings
This is, in my opinion, shtuyote -- unmitigated nonsense and double talk.  Not only will Abbas never mention these things (which Netanyahu well knows and surely counts on), if Abbas must accept the view that the western border would run along the security fence (not sufficient anyway), then Netanyahu's mentioning the '67 line becomes moot.  This merely points up the enormity of the differences.
But it's all speculative anyway.  For according to Israel Hayom:
A senior Israeli diplomatic official said Netanyahu stuck to his position that there should be no preconditions for the renewal of negotiations."

Read: Israeli official: Kerry disappointed in Abbas
If this is accurate, and not the above report, then great, as far as it goes.
My deep regret is that we don't have a leader who stands up and says, "Look, there was no '1967 border' -- only a temporary armistice line.  There was a war in 1967 in the first place because that armistice line was not secure, and after that war the UN Security Council acknowledged (Resolution 242) that another border providing greater strategic depth was necessary." 
As long as this is not clarified, officially, by Israel, the world continues to swallow the Arab myth that Israel "belongs" behind the "1967 border."
However Kerry chooses to paint the situation regarding how "close" the parties have drawn, what I see is still an enormous gap. 
Should the parties actually sit down together -- something I still consider doubtful -- this hardly means that there will then be a slow, steady progression in negotiations until a "two state solution" is achieved.  The differences between the parties are insurmountable: There are the PA demands on Jerusalem, return of "refugees," etc. And the PA is not going to sign off on that "two state" situation, with "end of conflict" and recognition of Israel as the Jewish state. is far preferable that there be no negotiations for a host of reasons. 
A few additional comments before turning entirely to other subjects:
Netanyahu and other members of his administration refer repeatedly to the need for Israeli security.  We need the Jordan Valley for security. We need sufficient strategic depth for security.  Israel must guard the high lands of Samaria so there can be no rockets launched at the airport. But all of this, while valid, is entirely insufficient.  And this I will most certainly be returning to.  Israel has rights in Judea and Samaria -- totally aside from security requirements.
As was totally expected, the PA is pointing a finger at Israel, saying that our intransigence is the stumbling block. But I am pleased that, when "Kerry was asked by reporters if it was Israel's refusal to impose a building freeze in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem that was responsible for the fact that no negotiations had been set...Kerry said that 'the answer is no.'"

Read: Kerry: Yesha Building Not to Blame for Lack of Talks With PA
This represents a change from the time when Obama breathed down Netanyahu's neck demanding that freeze.
What makes me totally bananas is when left wing Israelis blame Israel for the failure of negotiations to take place.  For example:  "So what are Kerry's chances for success?  Eventually they boil down to whether Netanyahu breaks the habit of a lifetime and commits to negotiating, in good faith, with the Palestinians."
Outrageous in the extreme, considering the PA positions.
Meanwhile, the good news is that right wing nationalists won some important Likud party positions in elections yesterday:
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon is now chair of the Likud Central Committee.

Danny Danon
Credit: Israelmatzav
Deputy Foreign Minister Ze'ev Elkin is now chair of the Bureau (Ideological Committee).

Ze'ev Elkin
Credit: Wikipedia
And in a tightly contested race against Miri Regev, Transportation Minister Israel Katz retained the chairmanship of the Likud Secretariat.

Israel Katz
Credit: savedem
All have pledged to work with Netanyahu, and the prime minister has shown signs of becoming more involved in the goings-on of his party (something he has neglected).  But the results of these elections are read as a sure sign that Netanyahu's control within the party is slipping.
Protests in Egypt
Credit: Jewishpress
Yesterday marked the first anniversary of the inauguration of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and millions (17 million according to the JPost) took to the streets to demonstrate against the Islamist Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.  Demands were made for Morsi's resignation and Brotherhood headquarters in Cairo came under attack.
Shades of the "Arab Spring" uprising against Mubarak, with Tahrir Square in Cairo packed and major unrest in places such as Alexandria.  Reportedly less violent than demonstrations against Mubarak had been, the turmoil has nevertheless brought with it some 10 deaths. 
There is huge anger, that Morsi co-opted the revolution and turned it towards his ends. Elections are due in just months. But, without a doubt, the exceedingly dire economic situation -- with hunger and the near-implosion of the economy -- is a precipitating factor in the unrest. 
While four government ministers have resigned, Morsi has shown no inclination to do likewise.
A key issue in all of this is the role of the army, which is not powerless but stepped back with the Morsi election, allowing him to proceed.
Today I asked two of my key Israeli, Arabic-speaking experts on Middle East what the role of the army was likely to be.  One advised me that if the situation got out of hand, the army, indeed, was likely to move back into play.  The problem, which we discussed, is that the army would then have responsibility for addressing the dire economic conditions of the country, something that it was reluctant to undertake.  (There are those who believe that the army pulled back a year ago understanding that Morsi was doomed because of those ever-worsening conditions.)
A second expert, however, provided a key piece of information:  The Egyptian military, he told me, is seeking major economic support from Saudi Arabia. (The Saudis are eager to see Morsi come down.)  Should the military receive this assistance, said my source, then it would be prepared to step in without the same fear that it would be left with an impossible situation.
Today a major military announcement -- an ultimatum to Morsi to share power -- was broadcast on state television, declaring that Egypt was in danger.
The Egypt Independent is providing the clearest understanding of what is going on (emphasis added):
"A spokesperson for the General Command of the Armed Forces, speaking in an audio statement broadcast by state television, gave all political groups in Egypt a 48-hour grace period to respond to the demands of the people.

"The army reiterated its 'call that the demands of the people be met and gives [all parties] 48 hours, as a last chance, to take responsibility for the historic circumstances the country is going through,' the statement, read out on television, said.

"'If the demands of the people are not met in this period...[the army] will announce a future roadmap and measures to oversee its implementation.'

"The statement praised Sunday's protests against the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood and President Mohamed Morsi.

"On June 23, Defence Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sissi (pictured below) said that the moral responsibility of the army towards the people compels it to intervene and prevent the country from sliding into a dark tunnel of conflict, internal strife, criminality and treason.

"This responsibility demanded the army save Egypt from the possibility of becoming a failed state."
Read: Armed forces gives 48-hour ultimatum until take-over

Credit: Stabroek News
What is more, according to the Egypt Independent:
"Thousands of protesters erupted in joy on Monday after the military said it would intervene if the people's demands were not met in 48 hours, an AFP journalist said, after millions took to the streets to call on President Mohamed Morsi to step down.

"'Come down Sissi, Morsi is not my president,' the protesters chanted, urging the country's Minister of Defence, Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, to intervene.

"On the streets of Cairo, cars beeped their horns and waved Egyptian flags after the army statement."
While the army is certainly not a democratic institution, it would assert a good measure of stability, while tilting pro-West and supporting the peace treaty with Israel.  Apparently troops have already been deployed in cities along the Suez Canal to protect it.
There are those who believe the fall of the Brotherhood in Egypt would have a domino effect.  All I know for certain is that it would be a major embarrassment to Obama, who has supported the Brotherhood.
A very serious comment with regard to a statement made by the ranking Republican members of the US Senate Armed Services Committee, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, at a press conference here in Jerusalem last night. 
First they indicated that, while they supported Kerry's efforts here, the Syrian situation was far more pressing.    Said Graham, "The peace process is important but Syria is literally blowing apart: 100,000 dead."
Indeed, severely misplaced priorities within the Obama administration. Indicated the two, Obama has demonstrated a severe lack of leadership. They dismissed the idea of an international conference as worthless. 
All true, too true.
However, concerned that the killing stop, they suggest that there be real US intervention in Syria:  Addressing the Obama administration, Graham said, "If you don't get this right soon, the whole region is going down."
McCain elaborated, saying that Hezbollah was helping Assad, as were the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and there was Russian equipment for them to use.
"Meanwhile the freedom fighters have only light weapons...It is an unfair fight." (Emphasis added)
FREEDOM FIGHTERS? We're talking jihadists here.  Extreme Islamist radicals who have co-opted the fight against Assad.
"So what we want to see is the declaration of a no-fly zone. We can take out their runways and negate their air power using Patriot missile batteries close to the no-fly zone and provide weapons they [the rebels] really need... They need anti-tank and anti-air weapons.  That's what I mean by American leadership."
Read: Senior Republican senators urge Obama to intervene in Syria
I never thought I would say this, but this proposal makes the do-nothing policy of Obama look like great leadership.  How disheartening, how frightening, that ranking members of the US Armed Services Committee should be so clueless.
They claim to be strong supporters of Israel.  And yet they seem to have not a notion of what it would mean that radical Islamists, directly to our north and determined to destroy Israel for the sake of their Caliphate, should have anti-aircraft weapons.  One of the things we worry about is that, if Assad falls, his sophisticated weaponry might end up in these radical hands.
The radical horse is out of the barn, and that is how it is.  Had Obama acted sooner in strongly supporting a more moderate rebel force in Syria, that would have been leadership that might have made a positive difference. But now?? 
Syria indeed may be finished as an autonomous nation, and destruction is leaking into Lebanon.  But it's an exaggeration to say that "the whole region is going down."  We're doing OK, and so far Jordan, in spite of the Syrian refugees that have flooded in, is holding on.  But give jihadists those weapons -- Heaven forbid! -- and that's when there would be a risk to the whole region.
We have here a sterling example of that old saying, The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
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