A NY Times editorial, As if That Fire Needed Fuel today took all the major parties to task for their irresponsible behavior involving the PFLP killers of Rehavam Ze’evi and the reverse jail break which snatched them from a Jericho prison and brought them to their eternal resting place in an Israeli prison:
Wouldn’t it be nice if, just once, the players in the disaster movie that is Middle East politics didn’t perform true to type? Unfortunately, the events in the Palestinian city of Jericho this week show that’s a pretty far-fetched thought, so the conflict continues its never-ending run, fueled, this time, by Britain and America.
The list of misdeeds is, as usual, lengthy and widespread. The militant group Hamas should not have provoked Israel with chatter about freeing Ahmed Saadat, the head of the PFLP, who is being held in the killing of Rehavam Zeevi, the Israeli tourism minister, in 2001.
…Mahmoud Abbas, should have thought hard before offering his support for such a boneheaded idea.
…Ehud Olmert should not have allowed the desire to do some election-season muscle-flexing to push him into storming the prison in Jericho with tanks, bulldozers and helicopters. Israeli Army officials ordered inmates to strip to their underwear, which many did, marching out with clothing on their heads, an embarrassing and completely unnecessary provocation that trampled the dignity of any Palestinian watching that spectacle…
Most to blame, however, are Britain and the United States, for withdrawing their prison monitors. They cited security concerns that British and American officials maintain have existed ever since a 2002 agreement established the conditions under which Mr. Saadat and five other Palestinian prisoners would be held. “Regrettably, the Palestinian Authority has never in the past four years met all its obligations under the Ramallah agreement, despite our repeated demands that they do so,” the British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, said Tuesday.
That raises the question of why the United States and Britain waited until now to withdraw the monitors. This is an extremely tense time in both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, with Hamas working to form a cabinet after its election triumph and Israel heading for elections on March 28. There’s no way the British and Americans could not have known that their withdrawal would be tantamount to throwing a match into dry kindling.
Here at this blog, I’ve already covered the issues of Israeli and Palestinian culpability for the mini-disaster. The Times editorial correctly assesses blame on the American and Brits for their callow stupidity in getting the ball rolling on this. There’s no doubt that the two powers were correct in their criticism of conditions at the prison. No doubt they did try to rectify it and met with disappointing results from the Palestinians. But is the result they’ve achieved here better or worse than the preceding situation? I would argue far worse.
And the idea that Condi Rice has asked for both sides to observe restraint in this matter is laughable considering that the actions of her own personnel (who as Secretary of State presumably she controlled) in leaving the prison precipitated the incident:
“We have, in the face of the recent actions and difficulties in Jericho, been in touch with all the parties to urge calm and restraint,” Rice told reporters during a trip to Australia.
It’s even more laughable that she’s urging restraint AFTER the Israelis brought in helicopters, tanks, bulldozers and general massive firepower to subdue and essentially kidnap six Palestinian prisoners. Talk about the cat being out of the bag!
The Times also rightfully points out the utter indignity of Israeli troops forcing Palestinian prison guards to strip naked before they could exit their prison calling it “an embarrassing and completely unnecessary provocation that trampled the dignity of any Palestinian watching that spectacle.” And as the writer says, this is typical of the everyday indignities and worse that Palestinians must endure thanks to the Occupation.