A little birdie in a Jewish communal organization sent me the following AIPAC press release. As I read it, I started to feel like Alice falling down the rabbi hole in Alice in Wonderland. AIPAC praising Mahmoud Abbas? Even more fulsomely that Ehud Olmert? How can this be? Has Moshiach come? AIPAC’s usual political line is somewhere to the right of Likud in its stridency and hostility to Arab interests. So how can they be making nice now?
July 9, 2007
New Palestinian Government Taking Important Steps Needed for Peace
The new Palestinian government under President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has labeled the terrorist group Hamas “murderous” and banned its militias. The two leaders also have reiterated their recognition of the Jewish state and rejected the use of violence as a political tool. If followed with consistent action, these promising steps can serve as the foundation for negotiations with Israel. Arab states, for their part, must contribute to these efforts by isolating Hamas, condemning its tactics and promoting moderation.
Abbas has taken important first steps toward isolating Hamas and forming a government committed to peace with Israel.
Abbas dissolved the Hamas-led Palestinian government, firing Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas by presidential decree and appointing Salam Fayyad as the new prime minister, finance minister and foreign minister.
Abbas ordered his elite presidential guard to take action against Hamas members in the West Bank in the aftermath of the terrorist group’s violent takeover in Gaza.
Abbas issued decrees officially outlawing the armed militias of Hamas and banned Palestinians from carrying weapons and explosives without a license.
Abbas and Fayyad have made important statements condemning Hamas and reiterating their commitment to peace.
Abbas denounced Hamas in the harshest terms, describing the terrorist group’s violent takeover of Gaza as a “coup” that seeks to institute a “project of darkness,” and said he would have no dialogue with “those murderous terrorists.”
Abbas said Hamas seeks to undermine the Palestinian movement toward statehood, describing the struggle between the terrorist group and his Fatah Party as a battle “between those who are using assassination and killing to achieve their goals, and those who are using the rules of law.”
Abbas explicitly rejected the use of violence as a means of achieving political objectives, declaring his commitment to “the peace process and the signed agreements with the Israeli side,” to “renouncing violence and terror” and to recognizing Israel.
Fayyad told 800 Muslim clergy in the West Bank that the new government would not tolerate incitement coming from mosques and would collect weapons from armed groups.
The new Palestinian government must continue to take additional steps to combat terrorism, fight corruption and establish the rule of law.
Measures taken by Israel and the United States to support the new Palestinian government will depend on consistent Palestinian implementation of these critical steps:
Maintaining its commitment to the internationally approved principles of recognizing Israel’s right to exist, fighting terrorism and accepting previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
Continuing with its policy of rejecting an accommodation with an unreconstructed Hamas that opposes peace with Israel.
Upholding strict accountability and full transparency in the use of foreign assistance.
The Arab states must help Abbas by isolating Hamas diplomatically and economically.
Arab states must cut all financial support to Hamas, both public and private. In particular, Egypt has as a special responsibility to ensure funds are not smuggled from its territory into Gaza.
Arab states should provide funding to Abbas exclusively and should strongly discourage any rapprochement between Hamas and Fatah.
In order to provide Abbas and Fayyad the political cover they need to combat Hamas, the Arab states must publicly support their actions, reject terrorism and object to Hamas’ violent tactics.
Arab leaders must do more to combat incitement in local media and help condition their own people for peace with Israel. Ending anti-Israel rhetoric in the region will help moderate Palestinians combat the extremists and reduce their influence.
A few observations are in order. First, the fact that AIPAC is praising Fatah is an indication of how hopeless the current emergency government is from a Palestinian point of view. If you were a Palestinian leader you’d want AIPAC’s endorsement as much as you’d want a bullet in your brain (well, perhaps I exaggerate a bit, but only a bit). Such an endorsement is the kiss of death for a serious Palestinian politician and gives Hamas a huge opening to discredit Abbas as a lackey of Israel.
Second, up till now AIPAC has detested Abbas as a weak, vacillating leader who cannot deliver on his promises to bring order to Palestinian society. Why the sudden, strange turnabout? Either Olmert’s government (and possibly the Bush Administration too) has given AIPAC pretty strong marching orders to sing the praises of the Abbas-Fayad emergency government or else AIPAC has come to realize just how desperate the situation is among the Palestinians (though I find the latter proposition hard to believe). Perhaps AIPAC realizes that if Abbas/Fatah fails at this juncture that the alternative is a wholesale Hamas takeover of Palestinian politics. Is it possible there is actually someone in AIPAC who understands the potentially disastrous nature of such an eventuality??
Third, the AIPAC demand that all Arab states support the international boycott of Hamas in the final section of the press release is laughably unrealistic. They already reject such a position. Why would they do an about face and suddenly endorse AIPAC’s views? What could they possibly gain by participating in the isolation of Hamas and the continuing criminalization of innocent Gazans who are being made to suffer because they have the wrong government?? Besides, the Arab states have to be thinking: What if Fatah falls flat on its face? What if the emergency government is seen as a usurper of Palestinian democracy? What if Hamas steps in and becomes the prevailing political force in both the West Bank and Gaza? Do we want to bet all our money on the wrong horse and be left holding a useless betting slip when it loses?
Of course, it goes without saying that there is not a word in this statement about any expectations of the Israelis. Everything points to what the Palestinians have done and what the Arabs must do. But Israel must do nothing. Which is typical of AIPAC and the rightist politics it represents.
The American people have come to understand the disastrous nature of unilateralism represented by the Bush Administration approach to Iraq. AIPAC is unilateralism personified when it comes to the Israeli-Arab conflict. The obligations are entirely on the Arabs; the benefits run entirely to the Israelis. What kind of world do they think they’re living in?? If it didn’t work in Iraq it won’t work for Israel either. How long will it be before they get this through their thick skulls? A very long time I’m afraid.