Things just became a whole lot more complicated for the Israeli government as the Popular Resistance Committee, involved in the attack which captured IDF officer Gilad Shalit, also kidnapped a young settler near Ramallah possibly on Sunday. There are unconfirmed reports that the boy may already be dead; though if this is so, it hasn’t stopped the PRC from trying to use the victim as leverage to stop the IDF incursion into Gaza.
Though Ehud Olmert issued an especially harsh, ‘dogs of war’ statement yesterday promising vengeance on anyone involved in the IDF kidnapping (and also on the Hamas political echelon which appears to have had nothing to do with the guerrilla operation), his latest statements appear to have softened ever so slightly. Perhaps this may have something to do with Condi Rice’s direct appeal to Olmert to give diplomacy a chance (which, in the form of the IDF invasion he has clearly rejected):
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday called on Israel to give diplomacy more time. “There really needs to be an effort now to try and calm the situation, not to let the situation escalate, and to give diplomacy a chance to work to try to get this release,” Ms. Rice told reporters during a refueling stop in Scotland en route to Pakistan.
Israel and the IDF finds itself in an awkward situation. It has massed troops, tanks and equipment for a massive incursion. It knows Shalit is in the Khan Yunis refugee camp. But it also knows that if it enters that camp it runs a very high risk of causing Shalit’s death. This is indeed what happened to the last IDF soldier kidnapped by Palestinian militants, Nachshon Waxman. Then PM Rabin refused to negotiate with the kidnappers and sent in a rescue force. In the course of the operation both the kidnapped soldier and the mission leader were both killed. One hopes that Olmert will bear this in mind as he proceeds with his plans for this operation.
The IDF supposedly has a plan to ratchet up the pressure on the kidnappers if they refuse to release Shalit. The IDF has a history of talking as if it is capable of fine gradations of tactical response to various situations and then goes in guns blazing with often disastrous results. Let us hope that someone’s listening to the three government ministers including Shimon Peres who urged Olmert not to invade precisely because it might ensure Shalit’s death.
I wonder who chose the name “Operation Summer Rain” for the Gaza incursion, since there isn’t any in Israel or Gaza. They wouldn’t by chance be saying the chance that this operation will bring peace, stability or the release of Gilad Shalit are about as high as the chance of summer rain??
Hamas-Fatah National Unity Government Agreed
Another important development that looms large in the background (or at least SHOULD loom large) is the report that Hamas and Fatah have finally agreed to jointly sign the Prisoner’s Document and create a national unity government within two weeks. I have little hope that Olmert realizes that if such a government IS created precisely the type of political moderation which Israel has been demanding from the PA might be in the offing. That is, if Israel doesn’t roil the waters so savagely in its incursion that the entire Prisoner’s Document/national unity government project becomes a casualty of war.
For a typically obtuse Israeli government response to these Palestinian political developments, read this from the NY Times:
“We are at the edge of the cliff, and everyone is asking the Palestinian leadership to help avert this crisis and release our serviceman,” said Mark Regev, the spokesman for the Foreign Ministry. “Yet energy and time is being put into this prisoners document, and it’s in many ways tragic.”
What IS tragic is Regev’s obtuseness rather than the time and energy spent on the Prisoner’s Document.
Haaretz describes the agreement thusly:
Hamas acceded to Fatah during the negotiations on the contentious points of limiting armed resistance to territories occupied by Israel in 1967 and creating a unity government. The agreement also secures the Palestine Liberation Organization as the single legitimate representative body of Palestinians. According to the agreement, changes will be made to the PLO to integrate within it Islamist organizations.
The agreement also authorizes the PA Chairman to negotiate with Israel on a permanent agreement – sidestepping Israel’s embargo on talks with Hamas – and paves the way for a national Palestinian referendum.
There is disagreement among them as to whether Hamas, in signing the document, has tacitly recognized Israel. Some in Hamas say they haven’t. But Haaretz quotes a representative:
Hamas accepted it only after amendments it insisted would allow it to…reject any suggestion the deal could imply it now accepts Israel’s existence.
“The document included a clear clause referring to the non-recognition of the legitimacy of the occupation,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.
The NY Times article helpfully clarifies the ‘occupation’ reference:
By the last phrase, Hamas normally means the occupation of historic Palestine by an Israeli state of any kind; the Hamas charter explicitly says that Palestine is Islamic waqf — land given by God to Muslims, who cannot cede it or sell it.
I suppose the proof of the pudding regarding recognition is in the implementation. If the coming national unity government takes steps indicating that it does accept Israel then we will know where Hamas stands; and if the Hamas members of this government refuse to participate in such steps then we will also know where it stands.