Arafat on way out?

October 28, 2004

According to Ha’aretz, Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat is in critical condition in his headquarters in Ramallah.

According to a bodyguard who was in the compound at the time, Arafat had been eating soup during a meeting with Qureia, Abbas and senior Palestinian official Yasser Abed Rabbo between 8 P.M. and 9 P.M. when he vomited. He was brought to the clinic inside the compound, where he collapsed and was unconscious for about 10 minutes, the guard said.

Some Palestinian officials said Arafat has been unconscious virtually ever since; others said he has been slipping in and out of consciousness; and still others said he was conscious, but delirious.

Rumours state that a 3 man committee of Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala), former PM Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and parliament speaker Salim al-Zaanoun has been appointed to run things until Arafat recovers.
Should he die, Rowhi Fattouh (as speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council) would take over the PA for 60 days until new elections can be held. This is under question however, as Fattouh does not command the same respect levels as the previous holder of this position, Qureia. The PLO, however, contains no such provisions, and the resulting power-vaccuum could even lead to civil war.

For the past year, the central command of the IDF has worked on a plan it calls “A New Leaf”, for a post-Arafat situation. IDF commanders would be instructed to do everything possible to reduce tension and to respect Palestinian mourning.

The question of who will take over of course also as huge implications for the currently stalled peace process.

Word on the street is that Abbas and Qureia, two of the most senior and respected government officials, would divvy up the powers between them. There are others in the picture, however, including Marwan Barghouti (currently in an Israeli prison), Mohammed Dahlan (Security Chief in the Abbas government) and Jibril Rajoub (a Qureia confidant).
Ha’aretz reports, however, that Dahlan and Rajoub would “lend their support to the two veterans, who will divide up the governing authority between themselves.”

I shed no tears for Arafat, a man who has been a terrorist, a corrupt leader and has done huge damage to the very real cause of Palestinian self-determination. I do worry, however, about the day after.

More from Ha’aretz:
- Yasser Arafat, a veteran national leader, has survived crisis after crisis
- Jordan braces for stormy demonstrations
- Analysis: Without Arafat, main justification for pullout is lost


Focus on the rights, not the man

October 27, 2004

Front: Leftire makes a good point on the Ahmed Zaoui case that I think far too many people forget:

I think we shouldn’t get too hung up on Ahmed Zaoui the man. I’m sure he’s charming, so is Mack the Knife. I don’t think we should start fighting for refugees on the basis of how much we like their cause or them as a person. I think we should judge people seeking assylum on the basis of whether they need assylum, and if they do, only denying them assylum if there is a credible reason why giving them assylum would be bad for us, for instance if they are a well known international terrorist.

I think there is a clear divide between people who believe in his cause (would Islamic students stand up Benjamin Netanyahu if was to seek assylum because Israel had been taken over by a military dictatorship out for his blood?) and people who believe that civil liberties should be defended

Now, one has to remember that Zaoui is not trying to come into New Zealand as a normal immigrant. He does not need to qualify according to our complicated immigration system, with points for english ability, qualifications, family etc etc. Rather, he wants refugee status, something governed more by international conventions (namely the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees which NZ ratified on June 30th 1960) than New Zealand law.

I haven’t met Ahmed Zaoui, I haven’t heard him speak, I haven’t had the opportunity to properly judge his personality for myself. If he does indeed advocate sharia law (as has been suggested), I vehemently disagree with his politican persuasion. That does not mean, however, that he should be refused refugee status.

If he does indeed pose a security risk, then that risk should be detailed to the courts. If the court then so decides, deportation can occur. If he does not pose a significant security threat, then his merits should be judged. His merits as a refugee that is, not as a person.


An interesting story…

October 21, 2004

I recently heard the following story about pre-1948 Palestine.

It was originally told by a woman who had grown up there, more specifically in a place called Gan HaShlosha.

She told of how it was somewhat famous as a place that protected pre-state Jewish fighters/terrorists (and yes, there were both) from the ruling British soldiers.

The fighters would flee to Gan HaShlosha, where they would be hidden until such a time as it was free for them to move on.

She told of how, when British soldiers would come to arrest the Jewish fighters, everyone in the settlement over the age of 6 would have to run towards the perimeter fence, picking up stones from the ground on the way.

When the British soldiers got close, they would throw these stones at the representatives of the (undoubtedly) cruel occupying force.

Children as young as 6. Throwing stones. At occupying soldiers.

Now, where have I heard that before?


Disengagement and Formaldehyde

October 20, 2004

“The disengagement is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that’s necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.”

So said Dov Weisglass, senior aide to Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister of Medinat Yisrael (the State of Israel) and one of the main creators of the Tochnit HaHitnatkut (Disengagement Plan), which proposes that Israel unilaterally withdraw it’s forces and settlements from the Gaza Strip (Where 7500 settlers currently occupy 16% of the Strip, and over 1 million Palestinians struggle in the rest of it) and also 4 meaningless settlements from the northern West Bank (Weisglass said of those four, “The withdrawal in Samaria is a token one”). He said those words in an interview with Ha’aretz

In theory, this isn’t a terrible plan. While a bilateral agreement is always preferable, a unilateral action has the potential to at least be better than nothing. This unilateral action, however, falls short of even that.

The issue is, of course, it’s ramifications for the future of the peace process, if it ever recovers from this formaldehyde.
The letters exchanged between Bush and Sharon (with implied assurances that Israel will get to keep it’s major blocs of settlements, which control the West Bank’s major water aquifiers and split it into small virtual-bantustans) have virtually guaranteed that any final settlement that is reached will not be just or remotely fair to all but the most biased observer.

“Arik can say honestly that this is a serious move because of which, out of 240,000 settlers, 190,000 will not be moved from their place. Will not be moved.”

That’s our dear Dov again.

You know, the term `political process’ is a bundle of concepts and commitments. The political process is the establishment of a Palestinian state with all the security risks that entails. The political process is the evacuation of settlements, it’s the return of refugees, it’s the partition of Jerusalem. And all that has now been frozen.

there will be no timetable to implement the settlers’ nightmare. I have postponed that nightmare indefinitely. Because what I effectively agreed to with the Americans was that part of the settlements would not be dealt with at all, and the rest will not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns. That is the significance of what we did. The significance is the freezing of the political process. And when you freeze that process you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state and you prevent a discussion about the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package that is called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed from our agenda indefinitely.”

When asked by the Ha’aretz reporter “So you have carried out the maneuver of the century?”, Weisglass replied

“When you say `maneuver,’ it doesn’t sound nice. It sounds like you said one thing and something else came out. But that’s the whole point.”

It’s really simple Dov. If you don’t like the way it sounds, thats because it was accompanied by the destruction of the legitimate hopes and dreams of a nation of over 3 million people.


The Future Of Avodah

October 17, 2004

As in most democratic countries, there are 2 major political parties in Israel – Ariel Sharon’s Likud and Shimon Peres’ Avodah (Labour).

Avodah evolved from many parties over many years, but it’s main (and most important) ancestor was Mapai, the party of Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion.

Avodah claims to be centre-left, but in reality, it is currently centre-left in the same ways as John Kerry’s Democrats – i.e: None whatsoever.

Avodah hit crisis point at the last elections, when, led by Amram Mitzna, they managed to garner just 19 seats in the Knesset (Israeli parliament), a significant drop. Couple that with Likud’s gathering of 40, and it’s hardly surprising that Mitzna, a decent person but an awful politician, was soon dumped from his role as party chairman, and back came Peres, for his 3rd crack at the dice.

Shimon Peres, the supposed “dove”. As the Tui billboards would say: Yeah, right.
Before Ehud Barak’s election as Prime Minister in 1999, when Bibi Netanyahu was Prime Minister, Shimon Peres went on national television proclaiming his support for Bibi, a “man of peace”, and urging Avodah to join a unity government with him. With Bibi Netanyahu. The leader of the right wing (as opposed to centre-right) faction in Likud.
After (radical peace group) Gush Shalom announced their consumer boycott of products from the settlements, Shimon Peres blasted them, saying that it was “a knife in the back of Netanyahu”. Excuse me, but, coming from the left wing, since when is that a bad thing?
While serving as Defense Minister for the first Rabin government, Shimon Peres founded, in defiance of Rabin, the first settlement in the heart of the West Bank, Kadumim. The stated purpose of the settlers was to prevent any possibility of a peace agreement that would include the return of the West Bank and the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Peres long pushed for the “Jordanian Option”, which became his clarion call. He complained that Yitzhak Shamir rejected the secret agreement which Peres had achieved with King Hussein. The “Jordanian Option” was, of course, a code-name for a renewed Jordanian/Israeli alliance against the Palestinians, an alliance tried once before during the War of 1948 and again during Black September in 1970.

And all this, severing Avodah further and further from the left, comes in a period where 2 of the most prominent left-wing members of Avodah have left – Yossi Beilin to Shachar (now part of Yachad) and Avraham Burg to private life.

Top that off with the awful memory of Ehud Barak (who even Peres has said is too right-wing to be in Avodah, prime minister from 1999-2001, and it does not paint a pretty picture for Avodah’s present, or it’s immediate future.

This, in turn, makes the outlook for a left/centre-left government in Israel poor at best – the sad reality is that Yahad and Hadash will never be popular enough to be the major coalition partner, so the left needs a strong, truly left of centre Avodah in order to function.

Now, all indications are that in the elections for the leadership of Avodah, to be held next year, Peres will stand down, and Ehud Barak will run against Amir Peretz.

Ehud Barak’s proposed run has mobilised Avodah’s true believers like nothing before. There is a popular groundswell of support for anyone who will run against him, and, at the moment, that groundswell is firmly behind Peretz.

Peretz is currently the leader of Am Echad, a small party focussed on workers rights, and is also the head of the Histadrut (federation of trade unions). He is best known for two things – organising and negotiating in workers strikes, and his fantastic moustache. In his role as leader of Am Echad, he tended to avoid talking about security/peace issues, and rather focus solely on the economic. This lasted until a few months ago.

At a mass peace demonstration in Kikar Rabin in Tel Aviv, Peretz spoke boldly of peace initiatives, land-for-peace and more. This was as rumours were swirling about a possible merger of Avodah and Am Echad.

Since then, Peretz has spoken up with increasing frequency in all matters in Israel, in an effort to change his stereotype from a one-issue politician. It has officially been announced that, in January, Am Echad will merge with Avodah, and Peretz has released several statements announcing he will run for chairman (so far, only if Peres does not run OR if Barak does, both of which are likely to happen).

Peretz, with his roots solidly in the Histadrut and trade unions, with a strong socialist background, is perhaps Avodah’s only chance to recapture their old stomping ground, and move away from the current centre/centre-right positions shared by themselves, Shinui and Likud.


Rak B’Yisrael

October 17, 2004

What better way to start off a new blog than with a bit of “Rak B’Yisrael” (Only in Israel) humour?

This headline from Haaretz:

Pomegranate tossed at parked cars in Carmel area; no injuries reported, damage caused to number of cars

Gotta love it!


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