December 29, 2006

Supplying The Means Of Their Destruction

Ehud Olmert has decided to go all out for his new bestest buddy, Mahmoud Abbas, with the blessing of the United States. Olmert has arranged for Abbas and his Fatah faction to receive new guns and equipment from Egypt in an attempt to tilt the balance of Palestinian power away from Hamas:

After coordination with Israel and the United States, Egypt has sent a shipment of weapons and ammunition into the Gaza Strip to forces loyal to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, Israeli officials said today.

Senior Palestinian officials denied the report, including the spokesman for Mr. Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, calling the story “Israeli propaganda aimed at aggravating the situation between Fatah and Hamas.”

But Israeli officials confirmed a report in the Haaretz newspaper that the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, approved the shipment in his meeting Saturday evening with Mr. Abbas. Four trucks with some 2,000 automatic rifles, 20,000 ammo clips and some 2 million bullets passed from Egypt through the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing, where Gaza, Israel and Egypt meet. The shipment was turned over to Mr. Abbas’s Presidential Guard at the Karni crossing between Gaza and Israel.

Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, an Israeli cabinet minister and former defense minister, appeared to confirm the transfer to Israeli Army Radio, saying that the weapons are intended to give Mr. Abbas “the capability to hold his own against those organizations that are trying to spoil everything.” That was an apparent reference to Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist and rejects previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements that call for a permanent two-state solution.

Two million bullets. I wonder how many of those will find Israelis as their point of impact. If they fall into the hands of Fatah's Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the number will not be insubstantial. And yet Olmert and the US have decided to place these weapons and ammunition into the care of Fatah, which has never -- never -- taken any concrete steps towards recognizing Israel or towards a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

It's difficult to see the larger strategy here, unless it's just to ensure that the radical-Islamist terrorists do not overwhelm the somewhat less religious terrorists. It could be more cynical than that; the weapons shipment could be meant to create an open war between the two groups in order to expedite the rise of leadership dedicated to peace. A source within the Bush administration tells the New York Times that this isn't the intent of the mission, but to restore a balance between the two factions in Gaza.

I can understand a desire to see Abbas prevail over Ismail Haniyeh, but it seems to me that rooting for that outcome is literally choosing the lesser of two evils. Abbas and his predecessor Yasser Arafat never have unequivocally committed to a two-state solution in front of their Arabics-speaking constituences. Both have toyed with the Israelis to keep the Oslo cash flowing, but neither have supported any of the other Oslo terms. It certainly won't happen now, when such a change in policy would hand the Palestinian territories to Hamas.

And that's the real problem here. So far, the Palestinian people do not want a two-state solution -- they want the elimination of Israel altogether, and it's people like Abbas and Arafat who insisted for decades that they could get it. The Palestinians have yet to hear any differently from Abbas, and Arafat went to his grave insisting on that solution. Hamas now offers it if Abbas changes his mind. It's hard to see what "balance" between the factions buys except more of the same noise we have experienced for the last five decades. Instead of supplying anyone of any money or materiel, the world should just cut off the Palestinians altogether until they develop leadership interested in peace.


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