Easing some of the obstacles to Palestinian unity

Obama move alarms Israel supporters

The Obama administration, already on treacherous political ground because of its outreach to traditional adversaries such as Iran and Cuba, has opened the door a crack to engagement with the militant group Hamas.

The Palestinian group is designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization and under law may not receive federal aid.

But the administration has asked Congress for minor changes in U.S. law that would permit aid to continue flowing to Palestinians in the event Hamas-backed officials become part of a unified Palestinian government. [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — The Israel lobby will want to portray this as a step down the slippery slope towards the legitimization of Hamas. What it really means is that the Obama administration is setting aside the Bush administration’s policy of fomenting division among Palestinians.

For the former administration, under Elliot Abrams’ direction, Palestinian “unity” was only of value if it involved the exclusion of Hamas. What the Obama administration appears to recognize is that Palestinian unity based on reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas is a practical necessity if any semblance of a peace process can be revived.

Israel: PA recognition of Jewish state ‘crucial’ for reconciliation

The Foreign Ministry said Monday that Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state was ‘crucial’ for reconciliation between the two sides after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas dismissed Israeli calls to do so.

“Recognition of Israel as the sovereign state of the Jewish people is an essential and necessary step in the historic reconciliation process between Israel and the Palestinians,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The sooner the Palestinians internalize this basic and essential fact, peace between the two peoples will progress and come to fruition.” [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — Here’s one of the central paradoxes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Supposedly, Israelis attach a great deal of importance to what Palestinians think — do the Palestinians recognize our right to exist? Do they accept that Israel is a Jewish state?

At the same time, the Israelis think its acceptable to kill Palestinians, hold them under siege, restrict their movements and curtail their political rights.

It’s an absurd contradiction. The only rational way of interpreting these demands for recognition is to see them as facets of a more fundamental demand: We reserve the right to exert absolute control over the terms of our co-existence.

The Israelis lay down the demands and the Palestinians either meet or fail to meet those demands. The right of return, the end of the occupation, the dismantling of settlements — all of these Palestinian demands have effectively been made inert by “formaldehyde”: the Israeli decision, five years ago, that the political process would indefinitely be placed on hold.

Barak tells Haaretz: No existential threat to Israel

[In an interview with Haaretz that appears in full on Friday, Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak] struck a blustery yet pragmatic tone [on Iran’s nuclear program]. “There is no one who will dare try to destroy Israel. We are not in a position of being able to tell the Americans whether to talk to the Iranians. I told American leaders: First learn from the professionals about what is going on in Iran, what they are doing behind the smoke screen, acquaint yourselves with the intelligence material, and from this you will understand they are working determinedly to deceive, confuse and blur things, and that under the headline of ‘nuclear power for peaceful purposes,’ they are trying to achieve military nuclear capability.

“I told them negotiations should be short and have a deadline, accompanied by ‘soft’ sanctions such as limitations on money transfers, while preparing the ground for harsh sanctions that involve authorizing action afterward. This has to be done in deep cooperation with the Russians and the Chinese, and we say we are not removing any option from the table. We have a tendency to hope for a heroic operation that will end everything, as with the bombing of the Iraqi reactor in 1981. Is that realistic?

“There is no comparison,” he said. “In the Iraqi case there was one target that existed and was working, and a surgical strike eliminated it. We thought we were delaying the project for three to four years, whereas in practice it was delayed forever. Here we are up against something far more complex, sophisticated and extensive.”

“The Iranians don’t play backgammon, they play chess, and in fact they invented the game. They are proceeding with far greater sophistication and are far more methodical. The Iranian nation is a collection of people held together by an identity that includes the perception of being an empire from the dawn of history. Part of their nuclear pretensions have nothing to do with Israel, but with their place in the world and the Orient.” [continued…]

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