Friday, February 04, 2005

Dial Up Hell and Palestinian/Israeli Relations

First, I am out of dial up hell. Apparently my old high speed modem from the internet service could not handle the upgrade that allowed 5meg download (over the old 3) and it would no longer read their site. The guy came today and replaced it. I must say, it reminds us to be thankful for the small things in life and to wonder how we ever used to stroll the internet on a 28k modem back in the day.

Iraq Radio Sawa

If you've never done it before, I really suggest that you try listening to Radio Sawa live from Iraq. When you click on the page, it's in Arabic, but you can choose English and then they will give you links to listen to it either through "windows" or "real". You can catch it live and it's very interesting. They play all kinds of music from American Hip Hop, to pop to Arabic hip hop, rock and pop. I can't lie, I kind of dig the Arabic hip hop and pop. Very good rhythm. I can make out one or two words, generally because they are words that have been adapted from English or other languages. Such as the word Amerikiya (American) and solidarita (solidarity). I know that's what the words were because they were translating a message from President Bush to the Iraqi people about American solidarity with the Iraqi people and congratulating them on their elections. If you think the president speaks slow over here, you should have heard his slow and careful pronounciation on this message.

Also, during the news cycle, they were talking about Amerikiya Condoleeza Rice's visit to Europa (Europe) and discussing Israel, Syria and Iran. Of course, I could make out everything they were saying, but this IS an Amerikiya sponsored radio station so I am sure it does not contain anything conspiratorial from the APU (Arab Parallel Universe).

Also interesting was to hear them talking about their musical line up where they call off the names of the artists which included several Arabic artists I could not pronounce along with Ray Charles, Celine Dion, Snoop Dog, just to name a few. Now, what radio station in the US would dare to play that kind of mix? It's all very polite though. You hear songs about love, but not making love. Snoop Dog does not include his more raucus songs. No curse words. Right now they are playing Henrique Iglesias. Then they played an Arabic version of "killing me softly" (the new version). Pretty cool actually. Kind of romantic sounding.

Palestine and Israel

I watched an interesting program on CSPAN today. It was recorded on Tuesday and it had four panelist and a moderator at the Brookings Institute. Two Israeli Representatives and two Palestinian representatives. To break it down, the Israeli representatives were basically saying that the problem with the past agreements like the Oslo Accords, while they were decent plans in terms of content, the language and agreements basically said, "Israel will do X if Palestine does Y" and vis-a-versa. In which case the Israeli rep indicated that the language allowed both sides to nothing because they could claim that the other did not complete the necessary task satisfactorily or to its full intent. The "Road Map" had a similar problem, but had gone to the trouble of at least breaking down each side's responsibility into separate lists. In which case, Israel had decided to take "unilateral" steps to just go forward and start completing their list of responsibilities regardless of what Palestine did or did not do.

For instance, Israel has long demanded that Palestinian Authority take responsibility for stopping terrorism and continued to occupy lands and perform incursions into the Palestinian territories because they would or could not. The Isreali rep basically indicated that, with the completion of the wall, Israel now felt secure enough to begin withdrawing troops and settlers from certain areas. He indicated that they were withdrawing troops from Jericho immediately. Jericho is actually one of the quieter areas of course, but they also indicated they will begin withdrawing settlers and troops from the West Bank very soon.

A question from the audience asked if this was plausible considering the life that the settlers had built up there. The Israeli rep said that a referendum had indicated 79% agreement with removal of the settlements so they believe that it will not be as difficult as some believe. I also had the impression that those that remained behind would be on their own to some degree although I expect that there will be some security agreement by then to insure the protection or at least rights of these people that remain in the Palestinian territory. It would be interesting if they were offered "Palestinian" citizenship (I know, just a side thought).

The Palestinian rep said the word "bilateral" several times concerning decisions to move down the process instead of "unilateral" movements and looking for a "partner" in Israel. Israeli rep said they wanted a partner as well and that Abbas was moving in that direction and doing a decent job to that effect, but had not quite made it quite to the level needed to be a partner in moving the process from "unilateral" to "bilateral". Further, that they were not going to wait anymore, but just move on the process. Basically, the Palestinians could catch up when they were ready.

The Palestinian rep indicated that the PA "unequivacoly" denounced terrorism and those using it saying that they wanted peace very much. Being a jaded viewer of the last two decades of Peace in the Middle East, I did wonder whose "terrorism" they denounced: Palestinian or Israeli (since that is the term that Palestinians and their supporter call Israeli action against them). Honestly, he did sound extremely sincere in his pronouncement.

One thing that nearly knocked me out of my chair, but finally made sense of all the "bilateral" intonations, the Palestinian rep admitted that they were not ready to assume the security for all of the areas that Israel was withdrawing from. I believe that the issue is pretty clear. While the PA has mainstreamed Fatah (the armed wing of the PLO) into the PA security forces, many militias (Hezbollah and Hamas) remain outside and threaten the PA's authority and control within Palestine itself both ideologically and physically. Looking at the entire area, including Syria and the recent Syrian Accountability Act where the US re-enforces Syria's responsibility for cutting off the terrorists that operate within and from Syria (Hezbollah is counted as an official "political party"), it would seem that the US is trying, in a backhanded way, to strengthn Abbas's hand as THE representative of the Palestinians and give him the power to be the sole source of arbitration, negotiation and decision making. Maybe it's not for Abbas himself, but more for the position of a democratically elected president that has the power through his ministers. Many people think this is solely on behalf of protecting Israel from terrorist acts, but I think it has both aspects.

While the Palestinians might be concerned about the "unilateral" withdrawal of Israeli forces and settlers, I think that this action also strengthens Abbas's hand because it makes it appear as if it is by his efforts in some way. This will give him more influence in the mainstream population of Palestinians, but I believe they are correct to worry about what happens when Israel withdraws and the PA is not ready to go in immediately and take control. As in the Gaza Strip where Hamas won an unprecedented 78% (appx) of the government seats in the area, this threatens the PA's position.

I think that Israel does not worry on this issue because they believe, if Hamas comes to power at the state level, they will threaten Israel, one state to another. In which case, the Israelis hold the trump card as they could decide to take unilateral and pre-emptive action to attack Palestine in main force, state on state, and conquer the entire territories. In which case, it would be a final defeat of the elements and they could easily retain the territory or withdraw, leaving it devestated and more worried about keeping the people alive than going back to suicide bombings. BUT, that is a worse case scenario. In the best case, as they pull back, they have coordination with the Palestinian security mechanism to allow them to come in and control their own people.

This sounds nice, but the problem with these security forces is that many of them hold their allegiance to other parties first and above Palestine. They do have a tendency to look the other way in many cases of general lawlessness and guerilla attacks.

I can understand in many ways the PA's concerns on this matter. However, I understand from the Israeli position, as well. They have been blamed this whole time for their "occupation" of the territories and basically villainized in Europe and other far and abroad places. Ostensibly and matter of factly, the occupation of these areas was for their own protection. With the completion of the wall, it is less and less necessary. I understood then about needing to protect. Until now, I did not understand completely the PAs resistance to providing their own security and taking responsibility. I originally had the one track thought that this was because they simply did not want peace or two states side by side with Israel. Certainly, this was true in many elements of the PA, including Mr. Arafat who had a tendency to say one thing to the Europeans and the rest of us about wanting peace while telling his people he would drive the Israelis into the sea. However, it becomes more and more obvious that the PA, as the leadership of Palestine, is very tenuous and that these ploys were to keep that tenuous grip from completely collapsing. If they had to provide real security, not only would their claims of driving the Israelis into the sea be exposed as a bunch of horse manure because they lacked capabilities, but it would expose that weakness to attack by even less stable factions within the territories.

By resisting providing their own security they could retain some illusion of control and claim that it was the Israelis who were at fault, thus gaining sympathy in the world.

Pretty slick for an old terrorist, but I believe I mentioned previously that his control was a trick of the light.

Now, the Israelis are practicing "sink or swim" now. The wall is up. If the PA is going to survive, it's going to have to assert it's control now or it will be anihilated by the much more popular and populist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.

I believe that the US is intent on trying to prop up Abbas and the PA as well. They recently approved $350mil in aid directly to the PA. This had some people's blood boiling about giving "terrorists" support, but in this case, it is the lesser of three evils. The PA, Hamas or Hezbollah. We're betting on the PA because, in order for peace to prevail, there has to be SOMEBODY to negotiate with. It's that, or let all out war ensue again.

Update: US To Train PA Security Forces via: Belgravia Dispatches.

Since I'm not a warmongerer, contrary to popular belief, I am hoping that the PA stands up and gets it done. However, the Hawk in me says, if the PA can't do it, then I'm not going to blame Israel for going to war again.

All The News That's Fit To Print

Two places that you should be checking out for news the rest of the world doesn't see fit to put out, check out Al Sabah, the Iraqi Newspaper. You can get it in English HERE.

Don't forget to check up on Friends of Democracy that has updates on the Iraq elections that you won't see in the news and information about daily life now that elections are over.

No comments: