Archive for October, 2008

Fatah in turmoil

Posted in Media Watch with tags , , , on October 28, 2008 by The 800 Pound Gorilla

Al-Ahram Weekly
October 23, 2008
The sacking of a Palestinian Authority security chief appears to substantiate allegations of direct Fatah collusion with Israel, reports Khaled Amayreh in Ramallah
The sacking by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas of Intelligence Chief Tawfiq Tirawi on Tuesday seems to be more than just a “formality” related to the latter reaching the age of retirement, as PA spokesmen have been saying.

Tirawi, along with a number of other PA security chiefs, spearheaded the relentless campaign against Hamas’s supporters and institutions in the West Bank, even to the point of active coordination and collaboration with Israel.

This fact, which became well known to many Palestinians, including Fatah’s followers, eventually rendered most security chiefs a serious liability, undermining Fatah’s image as a national liberation movement.

Moreover, critics, including Hamas, have used the “excesses” to portray the PA as a quisling entity working in concert with Israel against the national cause.

Last month, a number of security chiefs met with commanders of the Israeli army at the settlement of Beit El near Ramallah and reportedly told them: “Israel and the PA are allies against a common enemy, which is Hamas.”

According to Israeli journalist Nahom Barnea, who attended the meeting with the Palestinian officers’ consent, the Palestinian participants asked their Israeli “colleagues” for weapons and training for the purpose of “re-conquering the Gaza Strip”.

Moreover, according to Barnea, the Palestinians also sought to impress the Israeli occupation commanders by citing their crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank, with one of them saying, “we usually do more than you ask us to do,” and “we don’t even flinch from entering the mosques when we have to.”

News of the meeting, dubbed by Fatah as a public relations disaster, spread fast through the Internet and in the Hebrew press, embarrassing Fatah and prompting some of its veteran leaders to ask Abbas to fire the security chiefs immediately.

Munzer Irsheid, a former mayor of Jericho and former security figure, now residing in Jordan, suggested in an article published in September that the security chiefs were “traitors to Fatah” and “traitors to Palestine”.

Similarly, Qaddura Fares, a Fatah MP and close confidante to imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Al-Barghouti, called for the “immediate sacking” of the security chiefs who he said didn’t represent Fatah.

The Beit El meeting, along with the perceived close collaboration between the security agencies and the Israeli occupation army, continued to reverberate in the Palestinian arena, with Hamas calling on Abbas to “oust the traitors from your midst”.

One Hamas official in the Hebron region remarked: “How can we possibly have a serious national unity dialogue with people who claim to be patriotic Palestinians in daylight hours while at night they coordinate with the Israeli army the next wave of arrests against our people?”

Earlier this month Fatah MP Isa Qaraqi castigated members of the security agencies, describing them as “panicking rabbits”. He pointed out that thousands of PA security personnel, who are supposed to provide protection for the Palestinian people, flee to their “coops” whenever Israeli occupation troops storm Palestinian population centres.

Qaraqi’s mordant broadside drew sharp reactions from Tirawi and other security officials who responded by arguing that the security agencies gave numerous martyrs for Palestine and that people who drive smart cars and receive hefty salaries were not in a position to question the nationalistic credentials of the soldiers of Palestine.

Tirawi hinted that Qaraqi was effectively aiding Hamas by questioning the integrity of the security agencies. Qaraqi’s supporters retorted forcefully by arguing that “true soldiers of Palestine” don’t spend convivial nights with Israeli occupation army chiefs. “If you are not capable of protecting us, and if you are not capable of protecting yourselves, then what is the justification for your very existence?” one Fatah activist wrote last week.

The heated exchange reflects a growing polarisation between two camps within the Fatah movement: the nationalist, or “Arafatist” camp, which is faithful to the legacy of Yasser Arafat and is determined to maintain the “purity” of the national struggle for independence and freedom; and the so-called “pragmatic camp”, namely the careerist-minded Oslo-era beneficiaries who have profited immensely as a result of the status-quo.

The first camp is represented by such people as Marwan Al-Barghouti and his supporters, Hani Al-Hassan, Farouk Qaddumi and a large number of Fatah MPs and leaders, especially at the grassroots and intermediate levels. The second camp encompasses the security chiefs, PA operatives and functionaries who are small in terms of numbers but powerful due to foreign — especially American — backing and who control the coffers of the PA, Fatah, and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).

President Abbas and his leading aides, such as Ahmed Qurei, Saeb Ereikat, Nabil Amr and Nabil Shaath are often seen trying to bridge the gap between the two camps in order to present Fatah as a united front, especially in the face of Hamas. However, these bridging efforts have not been successful.

Last week, when top Fatah leaders met in Amman in an effort to set a date for holding the repeatedly delayed Sixth Fatah Congress, acrimonious exchanges between Abbas and Qaddumi underscored the serious chasm between the pro- and anti-Oslo camps. Qaddumi reportedly told Abbas that “You are no Yasser Arafat” and that, “You can’t hold all these portfolios at the same time.”

Abbas is chief of the PLO, chief of Fatah and president of the PA, which means that people like Qaddumi are effectively marginalised.

Nonetheless, the real issue impeding — even preventing — the convening of the congress is that the “pragmatists” (i.e. those who would keep up the peace process no matter what Israel does) are worried that they might be voted out of office in the event that Fatah’s rank and file are allowed to decide who Fatah’s next leaders will be.

Earlier, Intesar Al-Wazeer, Um Jihad, the widow of murdered Fatah military commander Khalil Al-Wazeer (who was assassinated in Tunis by Mossad in 1989) told the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper that there is “a conspiracy to weaken and marginalise Fatah” by “people who claim to be Fatah”.

Al-Wazeer accused “people around Mahmoud Abbas” of being “indifferent to Fatah” and of “catering only for their own interests”. She also accused Abbas of “only consulting with a small coterie of people around him” who she suggested had a different agenda.

The meeting in Amman ended inconclusively with no definite date set for the congress, although a statement issued by Hakam Balaawi, Fatah’s secretary, said that there was a determination to hold the congress before the end of 2008. Balaawi’s statement, however, can’t be taken for granted for several reasons.

First, more than two years of intensive negotiations with Israel as well as several high-profile international peace conferences have failed to achieve a breakthrough towards ending the 41-year-old Israeli occupation. It is unlikely that Abbas and his supporters will go “empty-handed” to an all-important convention that would determine their political future.

Second, the new US administration and growing political instability in Israel is not conducive to holding a successful Fatah congress and might even militate in favour of the “radicals” who are fed-up with a peace process that has only seen more Palestinian land being stolen by Israel and the dream of Palestinian statehood shattered.

Still, failure to hold the congress before the end of 2008 would undoubtedly complicate things further within Fatah and increase frustration among the movement’s supporters, especially at the grassroots levels, which is further bad news for Abbas.

Fatah in turmoil


Jesse Jackson: Obama will rid United States of ‘Zionist’ control

Posted in ZioBama with tags , , on October 14, 2008 by The 800 Pound Gorilla

October 14, 2008

The Rev. Jesse Jackson has said the United States will rid itself of years of “Zionist” control under an administration headed by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

The New York Post quoted the veteran civil rights leader on Tuesday as having said that although “Zionists who have controlled American policy for decades” remain strong, they will lose a much of their clout when Obama enters the White House.

Speaking at the first World Policy Forum event in Evian, France, Jackson promised “fundamental changes” in U.S. foreign policy. He said the most important change would occur in the Middle East, where “decades of putting Israel’s interests first” would end.

Jackson said that Obama “wants an aggressive and dynamic diplomacy.” He went on to criticize the Bush administration’s handling of Middle East diplomacy, telling the Post, “Bush was so afraid of a snafu and of upsetting Israel that he gave the whole thing a miss. Barack will change that,” because, as long as the Palestinians haven’t seen justice, the Middle East will “remain a source of danger to us all.”

Jackson has not always been such a strong Obama supporter. In July, he apologized to the Illinois senator for “crude and hurtful” remarks he had made about him after an interview with a Fox News correspondent.

Speaking to a fellow interviewee without realizing his microphone was on, Jackson said, “See, Barack’s been talking down to black people…. I want to cut his nuts off.”

“It was very private,” Jackson said, adding that if “any hurt or harm has been caused to [Obama’s] campaign, I apologize.”

Jesse Jackson: Obama will rid United States of ‘Zionist’ control

Israeli ‘Depositors won’t be harmed by crisis’

Posted in Media Watch with tags , on October 14, 2008 by The 800 Pound Gorilla

The Jerusalem Post
October 12, 2008

Following a four-day holiday, Tel Aviv stocks opened with sharp losses on Sunday, but staged a relative recovery in late trading as the Finance Ministry said it was committed to restoring the public’s confidence in the financial system.

“The government of Israel will take care of the financial system out of concern for the public and its savings. In cooperation with the Bank of Israel, we will emerge from this crisis,” Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On said at the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday. “We know what needs to be done, and we will do everything to stand behind the stability of the financial system. For the past 60 years, depositors have not been harmed, and they won’t be harmed now.”

While pressure heightened on the world’s leading economies over the weekend to detail specific urgent and exceptional steps to stabilize financial markets before they open on Monday, the Finance Ministry and the government are not rushing to take such steps.

Although Bar-On said that intervention in the financial markets was an option that was not being ruled out, he warned that early intervention might cause more damage rather than aid the markets and investors.

“We are still in the midst of the global financial crisis, and it’s already clear that this is a crisis of historic dimensions. However, the economic and financial reality in Israel is different. There are currently no fears of any local bank collapsing,” said Bar-On. “The financial system, especially the banking system, operated more conservatively. It barely adopted the sophisticated financial instruments that other systems are now suffering from. Our system was kept under control, through tight regulatory rules, high capital adequacy ratios, and high levels of disclosure and transparency. As a result we are in a situation in which the financial system’s level of exposure is fairly limited.”

As global stock markets embarked on their roller coaster ride last week, prompted by panic selling sweeping many markets to their steepest falls ever as investors dismissed moves by governments and central banks to calm things, pressure mounted on the reopening of the local stock exchange on Sunday after a four-day break for Yom Kippur.

Trading on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange opened with sharp losses, as local stocks plunged over 8 percent after a delay of nearly an hour as pressure of preliminary orders pushed the Tel-Aviv 25 Index down more than 5%. Under the TASE’s “English opening” policy, if the index points to drops of more than 5% at the opening, trading is postponed for up to 45 minutes. Automatic circuit-breaker rules will activate if the index changes by more than 8% during the session. If the index falls by 12%, trading is suspended for the day.

Following the Finance Ministry’s announcement that it would stand firmly behind the financial system, the TA-25 Index cut early losses and closed down 3.8% at 767.6 points. The Tel Aviv 100 Index was down 4.6% to 683.5 points. The Tel Tech Index was down 11.8% to 150 points, and the Tel Bond 20 was up 0.3% to 199 points, recovering from a loss of over 3% earlier in the day.

“The market has reacted remarkably on the first day local investors had a chance to respond to last week’s tumbling stock markets across the globe. There was a lot of panic and hysteria ahead of the opening – all psychological in nature – and we expected sharper losses,” Yair Alek, CEO of Axioma Investment House, told The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview. “Today is a proof that without an economic bail-out plan or other interventionist plan, the local market functioned properly, closing with modest drops.”

The TASE will close Monday for the Succot holiday and remain closed for trading until Wednesday.

“What happens in the global markets over the next few days will dictate the direction of the local market on Wednesday,” said Alek. “As international government leaders are gathering to formulate new steps in an effort to combat the credit freeze, we could see some upside on global markets, in the form of a correction.”

While the Finance Ministry and the Bank of Israel reiterated that they were not yet rushing to take direct operational steps to secure the public’s invested funds, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai called upon the government on Sunday to adopt an economic rescue plan in the wake of the global market crisis and a serious loss of public confidence.

Yishai’s proposed plan includes a government safety net to insure all the public’s deposits in banks, mutual funds, provident funds, and advanced training. Yishai contends that the measure will help restore the public’s confidence in financial institutions and prevent a capital outflow that could exacerbate the liquidity crisis in the economy.

“If you look at deposit insurance around the world, you see that governments can’t meet the insurance programs. In a situation of a general crisis as there is now, it turns out that deposit insurance is never high enough and at the end of the day is just a bureaucratic plan,” said Bank of Israel Governor Prof. Stanley Fischer in an interview on Channel 10. “I have deposits in the bank, and I am not worried about them. When crises happened in recent years in Israel, the government and the Bank of Israel intervened, and people did not lose all their deposits.”

Regarding the banks, Yishai’s plan demands an increase in the banks’ capital base by at least NIS 10 billion through an issue of more share capital. This, in turn, will work to raise the public’s confidence in the banks and provide more capital for the banks’ activity – especially in credit activity – to boost economic activity.

In a move to avert future erosion of pensions and savers’ future incomes, Yishai proposed an expansion of pension funds’ mandatory investment in Consumer Price Index (CPI)-linked government bonds from the current 30% to at least 50%, which would increase investors’ confidence in pension funds.
Depositors won’t be harmed by crisis
Israeli ‘Depositors won’t be harmed by crisis’

Playing ‘make believe’

Posted in Media Watch with tags , , on October 14, 2008 by The 800 Pound Gorilla

Olmert Shaking hands with Aabbas

Olmert Shaking hands with Aabbas

Al-Ahram Weekly
September 11, 2008

The US is pushing Abbas into another dead end and he is complying, observes Khaled Amayreh in the West Bank

Despite official denial, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel are formulating a “shelf agreement” which both sides will consider the basis of further negotiations to be resumed in 2009.

According to well-informed sources at the Muqataa, the headquarters of PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, Israel and the PA have come to the conclusion that a real breakthrough in the current negotiations is highly unlikely this year.Hence, efforts will be concentrated on reaching an interim agreement or a “shelf agreement” that would keep the process going and enable both sides to claim that the peace talks didn’t fail.

Coincidentally, this is what the Bush administration is demanding, at least privately, in order to save the process from the danger of complete collapse.

In truth, the Israeli-Palestinian talks, and despite the “nearness of a breakthrough”, have utterly failed to tackle the main contentious issues such as Jerusalem, refugees and Jewish colonies in the West Bank.

Given Abbas’s acquiescence, the very legitimacy of the PA now depends on the continuation of the talks, regardless of whether progress is made or not. Needless to say, this posture is more than good news for Israel since it allows the Jewish state to keep on building settlements in the West Bank and create more irreversible facts in East Jerusalem, all under the rubric of the peace process.

Israel also benefits from Abbas mouthing optimistic remarks about “considerable progress” at the talks. while all the time Palestinian officials keep making contradictory statements as to the status of the talks and continue their bitter struggle with Hamas. While in Rome attending a peace forum earlier this week, the Palestinian leader vowed to continue the talks, saying that the negotiation path was the only path available to the Palestinians.

Abbas normally refuses to answer questions as to what alternative the PA has in case the “negotiations path” reaches a dead end, as it virtually has. In contrast to Abbas’s optimism, the chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurei continues to declare, almost on a daily basis, that no progress has been made on the main contentious issues.

Last week, Qurei voiced mounting frustration with Israel’s stalling tactics and lack of goodwill. “I don’t know if the Israelis are serious or not, but if the continued settlement expansion is a criterion for being unserious, then certainly they are not serious about reaching a just and lasting peace with the Palestinian people.”

Qurei suggested that the Israeli government was trying to draw out the talks for as long as possible in order to mentally exhaust Palestinian negotiators and Palestinians in general while at the same time continuing to create facts on the ground.

However, apart from warning that Palestinians might switch to the one-state solution strategy, Qurei refused to say if the Palestinians possessed a counter strategy to foil Israeli designs.

Actually, the PA doesn’t seem to have a real counter strategy nor is it interested in creating alternatives in case the peace process ends up in failure, especially if a new more extremist government comes to power in Israel. Statements by Abbas and his close aide, Saeb Ureikat, suggest that the PA will keep indulging in peace talks indefinitely no matter what.

According to Palestinian columnist Hani Al-Masri, the PA is effectively surrendering to the American concept that the “process” must continue regardless of the outcome. “The PA realises that its financial lifeline, and therefore its political survival, depends on the continuation of the peace process.”

More to the point, the PA is coming under no significant internal pressure to change course either from the Palestinian street nor from the legislative council, paralysed thanks to the mass arrest by Israel of nearly one third of its members.

The PLO, to which the PA is supposed to be at least nominally answerable, is completely subservient, politically and financially, to the PA regime. Indeed, after the PLO moved to Ramallah following the conclusion of the Oslo Accords 15 years ago, the PA and PLO became indistinguishable.

As part of the American-led efforts to keep the process “going”, Abbas is due to travel to Washington later this month to discuss with President Bush the progress that has been made in peace talks with Israel. According to Palestinian sources, Bush is expected to ask Abbas to “stay the course”. And most Palestinians expect Abbas to comply. Critics in the Palestinian arena, and they are many, call Abbas’s upcoming visit to Washington “mere analgesics.” Abbas argues there is not much he can do other than being pragmatic.

In reality, however, the matter goes far beyond being pragmatic or not. The continued failed talks with Israel serve mainly to erode and weaken the overall Palestinian position. A sign of this weakness appeared this week when Abbas reportedly said that he understood he wouldn’t be able to demand the return of all the refugees. Abbas, say critics, may sound reasonable, but a skillful negotiator doesn’t say such things at such a crucial time.

Abbas’s statement on the refugee plight has already angered some Fatah leaders in the West Bank, including Hossam Khadr, a prominent advocate of refugee rights who was freed from Israeli custody last month. Khadr, a former member of the Legislative Council and vocal critic of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, said Abbas had no right to compromise on the paramount issue of the right of return. “The refugee issue is the heart and soul of the Palestinian problem,” Khadr told reporters at the Balata refugee camp near Nablus, where he lives.

He also castigated the deep security coordination between the PA and Israel, saying it only served Israeli interests. With a paralysed Palestinian parliament, and with Fatah thoroughly occupied with its enduring showdown with Hamas, many Palestinians are worried that Abbas might embark on giving far- reaching concessions to Israel.

“I am worried that he will surprise us one evening and tell us that we have to be realistic and forget about the right of return and large areas of East Jerusalem, and that we have two choices, either we accept what we can extract from Israeli hands, or remain in a state of repression and pain for the rest of our lives,” said a prominent Fatah leader in the Hebron region.

Al-Masri thinks that this scenario is not far fetched. “For this leadership, the peace process has become a way of life, the talks are not a means to achieve an end; they are becoming an end in themselves. The peace process justifies the continued existence of the PA,” said Al-Masri. He added that the continued process was serving the financial and other interests of certain individuals and strata who are spreading the word that there is no other alternative available, either to the leadership or to the Palestinian people at large. “For those influential people, negotiations are a way of life, and the word ‘struggle’ was dropped irreversibly from their lexicon.”

Some Palestinian intellectuals label Abbas’s approach to peace talks with Israel “pragmatic capitulation” to the Israeli-American hegemony.

Meanwhile, Abbas faces a host of immediate problems. Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, seems to be counting his days as prime minister after police recommended that he be indicted on charges of graft and corruption. Olmert’s increasingly heterogeneous and inharmonious party, Kadima, has been urging him to resign sooner rather than later to save face and protect the party’s stature and dignity. It is not unlikely that Olmert may decide to leave office sooner than many people think.

For the time being, the most likely successor is Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. However, observers in Israel believe that a government headed by Livni will be short-living and that general elections will be held probably in the first half of 2009.

Given the present political currents in Israel today, it is highly likely that fresh elections in Israel will bring the Likud back to power, probably in alliance with some of the most extreme right-wing and religious parties.

Predictably, a government formed by such parties as the Likud, Shas and pro- settler groups such as MIFDAL (the National Religious Party) and the quasi- fascist National Union will be more than just bad news for the peace process.

This is probably one of the reasons Abbas is striving to reach whatever understanding or agreement he can with the current Israeli government before it is too late. Playing ‘make believe’

Playing ‘make believe’