21 March 2007

Competing to recognize terrorists

In his latest book “Betrayal”, David Pryce-Jones, the eminent and much disliked by the FCO expert on the Middle East shows in some detail how the self-deluded French policy in that area and the Gulf has led to a completely intractable situation, not least because succeeding French politicians pressurized the EC (later EU) and other transnational organizations to recognize and give succour to the PLO (later PA) and, in particular, is monstrous leader, the late unlamented Chairman Yasser Arafat. This has led to a situation where peace in the area and freedom and prosperity for the Palestinian people have become well-nigh unattainable goals.

Describing President Chirac’s “idiosyncratic odyssey” through the Middle East, during which he snubbed his Israeli hosts, proclaimed the glories of “Palestinian democracy” and attacked Western sanctions on Saddam Hussein, Pryce-Jones adds:
Thanks to French pressure the European Union took it upon itself to become Arafat’s paymaster, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, much of which either sponsored anti-Israel terror or was siphoned off into secret accounts abroad in Arafat’s name.
It was, let us recall, French pressure that prevented a conclusion at the tense Middle Eastern summit of 2000 in Paris. No conclusion meant that the second intifada went on for another four years, hurting Israel but destroying what little economic activity the Palestinians had.

And it was French activity that led to an impasse at the UN just before the war in Iraq, allowed Saddam to assume that he would get away with everything and made that war inevitable.

A huge success, all round.

It seems the European countries have learnt their French lesson well. At present there seems to be some competition as to who is going to discard the pretence that money is not being handed over in large amounts to the Hamas-led Palestinian “unity” government. (There have only been two or three spots of trouble between Hamas and Fatah since the formation of the “unity” government but things are hardly quiet.)

As we have already pointed out, the notion that somehow the rest of the world was withholding money because Hamas refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist or to give up its terrorist activity is one of those smoke and mirror ones. The EU alone has sent the equivalent of £59.5 million to the government (whether it is in existence or not) and a good deal more has gone through NGOs in supposedly direct help to the people of Palestine. Though, as we have also pointed out, no auditing or accounting has been in evidence this time round either.

Yesterday, Open Europe referred to an article in El Mundo [general link in Spanish supplied by OE], which seems to say that Italy intends to “break ranks” with the rest of the European Union and resume political ties with the Hamas-led Palestinian government.

Political ties usually means financial ties, since the Palestinian government seems to be unable to envisage an economic structure that does not depend entirely on outside donations. However, given Italy’s own economic problems, it will be interesting to see whether any money will be spared to help Hamas (and Fatah, of course).

Meanwhile, Le Monde has reported that the European Union will prolong for another three months the temporary financial arrangement that is intended to bring help to the Palestinian people. Theoretically, the Europeans, (as EU Foreign Policy Supremo Solana puts it) and the Americans are intending to wait in order to see what the new “unity” government will do (and how long it will last, I shouldn’t wonder).

Nevertheless, the Palestinians cannot be left without aid, it is assumed, whether that aid ever reaches those who might need it or not and whether it does anything useful or not. Even if we assume that the aid reaches the Palestinians, the inevitable result will be that the Palestinian government will be relieved of its welfare responsibilities, leaving it with more money to spend on extensive military equipment and the payroll of militias. Is any of that helpful to the Palestinian people in this “delicate period”, as Foreign Affairs Commissar, Benita Ferrero-Waldner puts it?

Italy had better hurry up because it might have the glory of being the first European country to recognize Hamas snatched from it by Norway. According to the International Press Center, which is the Palestinian National Authority State Information Service,
Prime Minister Ismail Haniya in Gaza met Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Raymond Johansen, who told reporters after the talks that 'Norway decided to resume aid to the Palestinian people.'

Dr. Ghazi Hamad, cabinet's spokesperson told Al Ayyam local newspaper " the Norwegian delegation expressed his support and backing of Palestinian government and stand by it."
Of course, the Norwegian delegation may not have put it quite like that but simply by negotiating it is expressing some support and by handing over money to the “Palestinian people” i.e. the Hamas-led government, it is aiding and abetting its activity and its fecklessness.

Allowing for some linguistic problems, however, this seems clear enough, unless the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs will deny any of it:
Following the meeting, Johansen told the reporters that Norway decided to normalize its political and fund aids to the Palestinian people that would be presented through independent Finance Minister Salam Fayyad.

He also called on Israel to release frozen tax revenues to the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), while Haniya thanked Oslo for its support.

Mr. Hohanson said that his country sees the political platform of unity government live up with the triple conditions of the international community and called it to deal with the unity gov't.
Well, that should make Salam Fayyad’s job slightly easier. As he himself has pointed out the Palestinian budget, in so far as it exists, is a considerable mess with no money left in the kitty and no evidence as to where it has all gone.

Mr Johansen (here described as Hohanson) might also like to explain to those of us less enlightened than himself and his government how are those triple conditions being met. After all, Hamas has not changed its article of faith that Israel must be destroyed. When Hamas (and, to a great extent, Fatah) refer to occupied territory they mean the whole of Israel.

It might be useful if both the Italian and the Norwegian foreign ministries read an article that was published in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. It author, Khaled Abu Toameh, himself as his name implies, a Palestinian, is the Palestinian Affairs Editor of the Jerusalem Post and a very knowledgeable commentator on matters Middle Eastern.

He seems to think that five European countries are prepared to do business (rather a one-way business that would be) with the new “unity” government. He, further, points out that the statements made by both Hamas and Fatah are far too equivocal to amount to show any intention of living up to the “triple conditions of the international community”.
Neither the president nor the prime minister openly called for an end to terrorism or for recognizing Israel's right to exist. And to add to the confusion, the two men came up with a political program that contains many contradictions and ambiguities.
Mr Toameh analyzes the responses to the three conditions:
On the issue of terrorism, the program states that the new government "stresses that resistance is a legitimate right of the Palestinian people . . . and our people have the right to defend themselves against any Israeli aggression." But the program also says that the new government will "work toward consolidating the tahdiya [period of calm] and extending it [to the West Bank] so that it becomes a comprehensive and mutual truce."

The program sets a number of conditions for halting the "resistance"--ending the "occupation" and achieving independence and the right of return for Palestinian refugees, as well as an end to Israeli security measures in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (including the construction of the security fence). In other words, Fatah and Hamas are saying that the violence will continue as long as Israel does not meet these demands.

Regarding Israel's right to exist, the program does not even mention the name Israel. Instead, it refers to Israel as "The Occupation." It also makes no mention of the two-state solution. Rather, it reiterates the Palestinians' opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian state with temporary borders.
That leaves condition number three:
Referring to the third demand of the Quartet--abiding by agreements between the PLO and Israel--the political program states that the new government will only "respect" agreements signed by the PLO.
It is on the basis of this that European countries are prepared to do shoddy deals, spend a great deal of tax money and, undoubtedly, start pressurizing the United States and Israel to recognize the new government (assuming it lasts long enough). Should Israel decline to do so, arguing the points Mr Toameh raises, it will be branded once again as the evil one, the one that refuses to abide by the peace road map (whatever that might be).