Posts Tagged Fatah

The Middle East trust deficit

Don’t you love it when someone succinctly puts exactly what you feel? Gershon Baskin using the “both sides” equivalency, but being right:

Encountering Peace: Q&A on the fu… JPost – Opinion – Columnists.

Q: The Palestinians breached every agreement they ever signed with Israel, how can we trust them?

A: Israel and the PLO, representing the Palestinian people, signed five agreements. Every one of those agreements was breached by both sides. Neither side fulfilled its obligations, and the breaches were substantive in all of the agreements.

…Breaches upon breaches piled up and created a total breakdown. The failure of both sides to implement in good faith and to repair the damage in real time led to a total collapse of trust between the parties. The basic idea of an interim period (of five years) was to develop the trust that would be required to negotiate the main issues in conflict.

That trust never developed – quite the opposite. Today, objectively speaking, there is absolutely no reason why Israel and Palestine should trust each other – they have completely earned the mistrust that exists between them.

… There is no possibility for progress without negotiations, yet while both sides recognize this truth it seems that the complete absence of trust, what I call the “trust deficiency,” is more powerful than the desire to reach an agreement at this time. This is enhanced by the complete belief on both sides of the conflict that there is no partner for peace on the other side. Both sides say that they want peace, and both sides blame the other for lack of any progress.

Yup, that’s pretty much the situation. Abbas doesn’t trust Bibi; Bibi doesn’t trust Abbas; neither of them trust Obama; Obama is sick of them both; Obama, Abbas and Bibi all don’t trust Hamas and Hamas’ leaders don’t even trust each other, let alone anyone else.

The Israelis don’t trust the Palestinians because Israeli concessions are just met with violence and condemnations; the Palestinians don’t trust the Israelis because no one in Israel can agree on anything and the same government seems to have 5 different policies; the Palestinians don’t trust each other because every second person is an informant for Israel or secretly working for whichever of Hamas/Fatah the first person is worried about; the Jordanians don’t trust the Palestinians because Arafat tried to overthrow King Hussein in the ’70s; the secular Egyptians don’t trust the Palestinians because Hamas is too close to the Muslim Brotherhood; the Israelis don’t trust the Egyptians because they think they’re all Muslim Brotherhood; The Muslim Brotherhood don’t trust Fatah because they’re against Hamas…

I’m going to stop here, you get the picture. Anyone see a way out?

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Saudi beheadings, Pakistani journalists and trouble in (Paradise) Palestine

So there hasn’t been a post here since last Friday. I could point out that this has actually been an extremely quiet week so far as the Middle East is concerned, however it’s not like nothing has happened and to be honest, I’ve just been quite lax in posting anything (unless you follow my Twitter feed, which is available to the right of the screen –>).

So, I have decided to do a round-up of some of the interesting articles/developments that I’ve seen over the past few days.

Firstly, there was this news item on beheadings in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia – Group Condemns Increase in Beheadings – NYTimes.com

Amnesty International on Friday condemned what it said was a sharp rise in beheadings in Saudi Arabia and urged the authorities there to halt executions.

I believe that Saudi officials later announced that the sharp rise would be followed by a sudden drop…and then possibly a loud “thud”.*

Meanwhile, there was this very disturbing account, by Umar Cheema in the New York Times on Pakistan’s suppression of journalists. He describes the murder of a friend of his, then recounts his own experience of being abducted and tortured by the authorities for merely writing truths that they did not want to hear. He, however, was fortunate enough to survive the ordeal.

Pakistani Journalists, Dying to Tell the Story – NYTimes.com.

WE have buried another journalist. Syed Saleem Shahzad, an investigative reporter for Asia Times Online, has paid the ultimate price for telling truths that the authorities didn’t want people to hear. He disappeared a few days after writing an article alleging that Al Qaeda elements had penetrated Pakistan’s navy and that a military crackdown on them had precipitated the May 22 terrorist attack on a Karachi naval base. His death has left Pakistani journalists shaken and filled with despair.

…When my attackers came, impersonating policemen arresting me on a fabricated charge of murder, I felt helpless. My mouth muzzled and hands cuffed, I couldn’t inform anybody of my whereabouts, not even the friends I’d dropped off just 15 minutes before. My cellphone was taken away and switched off. Despite the many threats I’d received, I never expected this to happen to me.

We all know that these kinds of things go on in too many countries, but reading the stories still shocks me every time. Although, as someone pointed out to me recently, when you really have to be worried is when you are no longer shocked.

There was also this little story by Bangladeshi journalist Mohshin Habib on the absurd fact that his country does not permit its citizens to travel to Israel.

What if I want to visit Israel? :: Weekly Blitz

It is my dream, since long time to visit the State of Israel. But is there any way to fulfill my dream? It has different reasons for me to get high concentration to visit this extra ordinary country. One of the reasons is, mankind always look to break the barrier as said ‘Adam’ was provoked by ‘Eve’ to have that very fruit which was forbidden by the Lord or the God or the Allah, whoever it is. Sadly enough, being a Bangladeshi, I am banned to visit this beautiful, historic land of ancient history. According to Bangladesh passport, no citizen is allowed to visit Israel. It is written prominently in each of the Bangladeshi passports, ‘ALL COUNTRIES OF THE WORLD EXCEPT ISRAEL’!

Finally, I thought that I would cover the Palestinian unity agreement a little. I had previously written about how Fatah’s capitulation to Hamas in preventing Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad from staying in the new unity government would pretty much destroy all of the recent progress that has been made in the West Bank. That’s why I was very happy to see that this may not, in fact, be the case:

Fayyad nominated by Fatah to head Palestinian unity government – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

The Fatah movement nominated Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to head a transitional Palestinian government Saturday as part of a unity deal with their rivals in the Islamic militant group Hamas.

The nomination of the economist could ease Western concerns over the reconciliation deal, which offers Hamas an equal say in the administration that will govern until elections next year.

However, Hamas then came out strongly against the idea.

Bardawil: Hamas will not accept Fayyad as premier or minister

We do not comment on such media leaks, but it is a sure thing that we will not accept Fayyad as premier or minister. Four years of siege, arrest and torture of Hamas cadres, were linked to Fayyad, who is also responsible for the debts that accumulated on the Palestinian people.

Would the fragile unity deal split over Fayyad? To be honest, I’m quite hopeful that this will happen. Not because I think a united Palestine is a bad thing (I don’t), but because I do not want to see anything containing Hamas be given any power ever.

*I’m sorry if I offended any victims of beheading, this is a serious issue really. 

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So Fatah is not necessarily “committed to Israel’s elimination”

Because of an angry comment on my last post, I felt that I needed to clarify this point. As the below article observes, Fatah is not necessarily trying to destroy Israel.

They do broadcast a lot of rhetoric about destroying Israel to all levels of society, including their children, and they teach that all of Israel is actually “Occupied Palestine” in their textbooks. And they tend to name things like town squares, sports centres and schools after terrorists. And there is concern with this unilateral declaration of statehood thing. But at the moment, Fatah is working with Israel and, at least in theory, committed to a two state solution. They have recognised Israel as a state, if not a Jewish state.

Co-operation, not collision, with Israel is the only route out for the Palestinian Authority – On Line Opinion – 13/1/2011.

It is easy to overlook the progress that has been made as a result of this relative calm. Having grown weary of violence and seeing a greater existential threat from Hamas than from Israel, the Palestinian Authority has been cooperating with Israeli security forces on an unprecedented level, helping to penetrate terror networks and bringing violence in the West Bank down to virtually nil.

In return, Israel has removed most internal checkpoints in the West Bank and every-day life has become increasingly normal for the residents there. Arguably the most important Palestinian figure has been PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who is the first Palestinian leader in history to push for his people to break out of the mentality of victimhood and “resistance” and rather focus on actually improving their lives.

Fayyad, who previously worked at the IMF and the World Bank, has been steadily building-up the West Bank’s economy – with a great deal of support from Israel and the US.

This has lead to some impressive feats – the economy of the West Bank grew by 8.5% in 2009, when most of the world was in recession; improved tax collection has increased tax revenue by 15% and unemployment has been reduced by over 30%. Also, where Arafat was often criticised for corruption and embezzlement of PA funds, Fayyad has focussed on transparency and used the money to dramatically improve the West Bank’s infrastructure.

In just two years, he has built over 120 schools, 1800km of new roads, and 1500km of new water networks, as well as building 11 new health clinics and expanding an additional 30 in the last year. This represents a very positive shift in Palestinian mentality – where the vast majority of Palestinians and their supporters blame Israel for poor water services and roads, he has decided to stop pointing fingers and actually improve the situation.

With cooperation and training from the US and Israel, the Palestinian security forces, traditionally little more than militias for corrupt leaders, have been transformed into a competent organisation that is able to maintain law and order in Palestinian areas. This has made for a far more liveable West Bank.

On a personal note, during a recent visit to Bethlehem, I witnessed my taxi driver being pulled-over for making an illegal turn; I have never before seen anyone so overjoyed to receive a traffic fine. He explained that until a year or two ago, there were never any traffic laws in the area.

Even in Gaza the situation has been improving, albeit at a very slow rate. 2010 saw the opening of Gaza’s first Olympic-size swimming pool and its first shopping mall, as well as the easing of Israel’s blockade, allowing most goods into the enclave and all but putting the tunnel smuggling trade out of business.

Doubtless there are still major issues, including widespread homelessness, unemployment and aid dependency; as well as the oppressive Hamas regime, which refuses to renounce violence and recognise Israel, tortures and kill political enemies and clamps down on “un-Islamic” practises such as surfing for adult females. Still, since the previous war ended in early 2009, there has been a relative calm.

Rather than its myopic focus on the issue of settlement construction and its bafflingly inconsistent policy of pressuring one party or another, the US may have made significant headway in peace negotiations by building on the positive trends that have been happening in spite of, rather than because of, the lacklustre “peace process”. Unfortunately, in the case of both Palestinian territories, the situation is likely to deteriorate in the near future.

As time heals the wounds of the 2008/2009 war and increasingly sophisticated weaponry is smuggled into Gaza, the militant groups there – some aligned to Hamas and some independent of it – are growing more and more bold, with a series of attacks on Israel in the last few weeks which induced reprisals and escalated tensions to the highest levels in two years.

Unless Hamas can be convinced to again clamp down on such activities, it is very likely that they will sooner or later spiral out of control and lead to another vicious conflict.

Meanwhile, a worrying trend from the Palestinian Diaspora has infiltrated the PA leadership – the idea of cutting ties and cooperation with Israel.

This has manifested itself both as an attempt to boycott Israel and thus cut economic and social ties, as well as by Fayyad and PA President Mahmoud Abbas eschewing negotiations in favour of a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood.

Having already recruited several countries in Latin American, the PA is pushing for a UN resolution in favour of this. The policy, which was attempted before in 1988, risks driving a wedge between the two sides, ending the mutually beneficial cooperation and re-igniting emotions around key issues such as borders and Jerusalem – which could only ever lead to conflict.

The progress from the end of the last decade is hanging by a thread. Only strong and intelligent leadership from the US – focussing on improving the existing practical West Bank cooperation, strengthening deterrence of Hamas, and signalling strongly to the Palestinian Authority that there is no viable alternative to serious negotiations with Israel – will be able to prevent the conflict from spiralling out of control and preserve the practical progress toward a two-state peace which has emerged in recent years.

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