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May 10, 2006
Israel Draws A Line While West Draws Back

Israel has set a deadline for the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel's right to exist and agree to negotiate for a permanent settlement and the two-state solution. Otherwise, Israel's new prime minister warns, Israel will set the final borders unilaterally:

Israel will give the Palestinians until the end of the year to prove they are willing to negotiate a final peace deal, and will unilaterally set its final borders by 2008 if they don't, Israel's justice minister said Wednesday.

The statement by Justice Minister Haim Ramon, a close associate of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's, was the first by an Israeli official to set a deadline for the Hamas-led Palestinian government to disarm and recognize the Jewish state. ...

"Through the end of this year, 2006, there will be honest attempts to talk to the other side," Ramon told Israel's Army Radio.

"If it becomes clear by the end of the year that we really have no partner, and the international community is also convinced of this, then we will take our fate into our own hands and not leave our fate in the hands of our enemies," he added.

The Israelis have tired of the occupation game, waiting for the Palestinians to produce viable negotiators for peace. Hamas will only commit to a "long-term truce' if Israel returns to the borders that Arab nations found so attractive for attacks twice in twenty years. The Palestinians won't even negotiate for a formal end to hostilities or recognition of Israel. They want to keep their primary goal alive, which is the destruction of the "Zionist entity" and the acquisition of all the land to the Mediterranean.

The Israelis will not establish the long and nearly indefensible border positions that almost saw them pushed into the Mediterranean, nor should they. Israel occupies the West Bank because of the offensive war that Arab nations staged through that territory; they risked that territory and lost it. The Israelis have every right to reset its borders accordingly to ensure that they have a more defensible frontier, and if the Palestinians refuse to negotiate the terms, then Israel should set them, pull back behind them, and end the occupation and the debate.

While Israel remains firm in its defense, the Quartet has backpedaled on its own resolve. Faced with global cries over the plight in which the Palestinians placed themselves by electing Hamas, the US and EU have agreed to start sending money again, although they claim the funds will bypass the Palestinian government:

THE United States, facing a possible humanitarian crisis, last night agreed with its Quartet partners to set up a “temporary international mechanism” to channel aid directly to the Palestinians, despite its boycott of Hamas.

In an agreed statement, the Quartet of the US, Russia, the EU and the UN said that the mechanism should begin operating “as soon as possible”, and ensure “direct delivery of any assistance to the Palestinian people”.

The statement was issued after Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia predicted a civil war if the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority was left to collapse.

Diplomats said that it was not yet decided how many of the 160,000-plus Palestinian Authority employees, including 70,000 security personnel, would receive their salaries through the arrangement. The government salaries, which support about one third of Palestinian families, have not been paid for two months.

I have no objection to sending food and medicine to the Palestinian people for humanitarian purposes. However, sending money and paying the salaries of those with Fatah and Hamas government sinecures undermines the entire purpose of isolating the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinians voted these people into power, primarily because they believed that they would not have to suffer the consequences of electing unreconstructed terrorists as their representatives. Just when that decision started to make a personal impact on the people who made that decision, the Quartet has performed their normal Deus ex Machina role, rescuing the Palestinians once again from their own folly.

And what will be the result of handing cash over to these government employees? The Hamas government will collect taxes from the salaries, and probably in large amounts. The commerce it restores will also generate tax revenues for the Hamas-led government. Freed from the responsibility of paying salaries, just where will all those tax dollars go? It won't get earmarked for Bridges and Trains to Nowhere. And that assumes that Hamas (and Fatah as well) won't simply confiscate a large part of that money up front.

If anyone wonders why this situation still has no resolution, this fecklessness on the part of the West is a prime example. The Palestinians have no stake in negotiating a final settlement in a two-state framework they don't support. They want one state -- theirs. They know that they can defy the West and still get their funding and sympathy. The Palestinians never have to face consequences for their decisions, and so continue to make bad decisions. When that pattern stops, they may finally have an opportunity to learn from their mistakes. Until then, we can expect a continuation of the post-Oslo dynamic in the West Bank.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 10, 2006 6:37 AM

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