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The logic behind the current Israeli-Palestinian "cease-fire" is that it is possibly better than nothing, and that in any case, Israeli military activities in Gaza were not accomplishing any positive goals. True, Palestinians violated the cease fire yesterday by firing three Qassam rockets and again today by firing two more, but they were firing more rockets before. True too that the smuggling of arms into Gaza and the manufacture of rockets will not stop, but it was not stopping anyhow, and nothing that the IDF or Israel could do within reason seemed to make much difference.

What the military operations seemed to be accomplishing, unfortunately, was cementing Palestinian "unity" and slowly turning world opinion, and particularly EU opinion, against Israel. Formation of a Palestinian unity government is becoming more and more of a real possibility, but the unity government would not be be formed on the principles that Mahmoud Abbas had originally announced, of repecting all previous agreements, and would not recognize the right of Israel to exist, as Hamas repeatedly proclaimed. At the same time, persistent rumors about the Baker-Hamilton panel that is reviewing US policy in the Middle East, suggest that it will recommend "engaging" Syria and Iran to win their cooperation in Iraq, which is bound to mean pressure on Israel to make concessions. The erosion of the Israeli position raised the very real probability that the EU and possibly the US would grant legitimacy to this Palestinian "unity government" and rescind the donor boycott, which is at least putting some pressure on the Palestinians.

By agreeing to the cease fire, Israel becomes the "good guy." Olmert is supporting moderate Mahmoud Abbas and offering to free large numbers of prisoners in return for freeing of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, and the prospect of independence if the Palestinians abandon violence. For a change, not only the BBC, but even the Beirut Daily Star had some good things to say about Israel.

Olmert's approach is clearly to offer a "carrot" that will undermine Palestinian support for Hamas and make the route of moderation and non-violence more attractive, as AP reports:

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered wide-ranging peace concessions to Palestinians on Monday if they turned away from violence, saying they would be able to achieve an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in real peace talks with Israel.

In some of his most conciliatory remarks since winning election in March, Olmert directly addressed the Palestinians, promising to reduce checkpoints, release frozen funds and free prisoners in exchange for a serious Palestinian push for peace.

"The uncompromising extremism of your terror organizations ... haven't brought you closer to achieving the goal that I'm convinced many of you share ó to establish a Palestinian state," he said.
...
He said that if the Palestinians establish a new government committed to carrying out the U.S.- backed "road map" peace plan and securing Shalit's release, then he would call for an immediate meeting with Abbas "to have a real, open, honest, serious dialogue between us."

That catch is, of course, that the Hamas are not ready to negotiate a peace settlement as called for in the road map, and this appeal is designed to sweep the rug out from under their position.

As a diplomatic move, the government's initiative is preferable to the inertia of the past months. The question is, what happens in the more than likely event that the Qassam rockets continue to fall on Sderot, and that the Palestinians form a government that evades the key conditions of the roadmap and of the quartet: recognition of the right of Israel to exist, cessation of violence and disarming of the different terrorist groups. Will these violations be glossed over euphemistically as euphemisms?

Ami Isseroff




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When something is only "possibly better than nothing", the odds are that it is not better than nothing and certainly inferior to something. Is it an accident that the call for a ceasefire came only after definite plans were announced for an IDF incursion into Gaza? It is unfortunate that Ms Isseroff lends credence to several false ideas:
1) "Israeli military activities in Gaza were not accomplishing any positive goals" --Of course not so long as they were done tentatively and w/o any imaginative response to such actions as "human shields". ( Dumping permanent dye and skunk smell --and possibly pig manure--on the houses and shields should at least be tried ).
2) It is not at all clear that Palestinian "unity" was being cemented. Allowing a unity government and showing that a combination of pseudo-moderation and Hamas violence will produce concessions from Israel is what cements unity. When King Abdullah warns about the possibility of civil war among the Palestinians, unity seems far and civil strife is not counter to Israeli interests ( despite it being unPC to say so ).
3) EU opinion is already against Israel and trying to buy it with concessions is a mug's game. Making extreme concessions in the face of outrageous Palestinian acts cements Euro and other ideas that the Israelis consider THEMSELVES to be "at fault".
4) Allowing a "unity government" that does not recognize prior agreements creates an impossible situation. An honorable negotiator cannot enter into agreements with parties that do not honor previous agreements.
5) Agreeing to absurd concessions does not make Israel "the good guy", it makes Israel the expendable punching bag. When the BBC says "good things...about Israel..." one must realize that Israel has gone too far in knuckling under.
6) The AP and Ms Isseroff might think that concessions can undermine Palestinian support for Hamas but history and the most basic understanding of the culture indicates quite the opposite. Concessions are indicia of Hamas success.

Olmert promises to be the very worst PM Israel has ever had and his efforts to shore up his political support short-term at the expense of national security is close to treason. It is certainly appeasement. Approving these feckless policies is a very bad idea.

Stuart L. Meyer, Tuesday, November 28th


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