Posts Tagged Fayyad
So there hasn’t been a post here since last Friday. I could point out that this has actually been an extremely quiet week so far as the Middle East is concerned, however it’s not like nothing has happened and to be honest, I’ve just been quite lax in posting anything (unless you follow my Twitter feed, which is available to the right of the screen –>).
So, I have decided to do a round-up of some of the interesting articles/developments that I’ve seen over the past few days.
Firstly, there was this news item on beheadings in Saudi Arabia.
Amnesty International on Friday condemned what it said was a sharp rise in beheadings in Saudi Arabia and urged the authorities there to halt executions.
I believe that Saudi officials later announced that the sharp rise would be followed by a sudden drop…and then possibly a loud “thud”.*
Meanwhile, there was this very disturbing account, by Umar Cheema in the New York Times on Pakistan’s suppression of journalists. He describes the murder of a friend of his, then recounts his own experience of being abducted and tortured by the authorities for merely writing truths that they did not want to hear. He, however, was fortunate enough to survive the ordeal.
WE have buried another journalist. Syed Saleem Shahzad, an investigative reporter for Asia Times Online, has paid the ultimate price for telling truths that the authorities didn’t want people to hear. He disappeared a few days after writing an article alleging that Al Qaeda elements had penetrated Pakistan’s navy and that a military crackdown on them had precipitated the May 22 terrorist attack on a Karachi naval base. His death has left Pakistani journalists shaken and filled with despair.
…When my attackers came, impersonating policemen arresting me on a fabricated charge of murder, I felt helpless. My mouth muzzled and hands cuffed, I couldn’t inform anybody of my whereabouts, not even the friends I’d dropped off just 15 minutes before. My cellphone was taken away and switched off. Despite the many threats I’d received, I never expected this to happen to me.
We all know that these kinds of things go on in too many countries, but reading the stories still shocks me every time. Although, as someone pointed out to me recently, when you really have to be worried is when you are no longer shocked.
There was also this little story by Bangladeshi journalist Mohshin Habib on the absurd fact that his country does not permit its citizens to travel to Israel.
It is my dream, since long time to visit the State of Israel. But is there any way to fulfill my dream? It has different reasons for me to get high concentration to visit this extra ordinary country. One of the reasons is, mankind always look to break the barrier as said ‘Adam’ was provoked by ‘Eve’ to have that very fruit which was forbidden by the Lord or the God or the Allah, whoever it is. Sadly enough, being a Bangladeshi, I am banned to visit this beautiful, historic land of ancient history. According to Bangladesh passport, no citizen is allowed to visit Israel. It is written prominently in each of the Bangladeshi passports, ‘ALL COUNTRIES OF THE WORLD EXCEPT ISRAEL’!
Finally, I thought that I would cover the Palestinian unity agreement a little. I had previously written about how Fatah’s capitulation to Hamas in preventing Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad from staying in the new unity government would pretty much destroy all of the recent progress that has been made in the West Bank. That’s why I was very happy to see that this may not, in fact, be the case:
The Fatah movement nominated Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to head a transitional Palestinian government Saturday as part of a unity deal with their rivals in the Islamic militant group Hamas.
The nomination of the economist could ease Western concerns over the reconciliation deal, which offers Hamas an equal say in the administration that will govern until elections next year.
However, Hamas then came out strongly against the idea.
We do not comment on such media leaks, but it is a sure thing that we will not accept Fayyad as premier or minister. Four years of siege, arrest and torture of Hamas cadres, were linked to Fayyad, who is also responsible for the debts that accumulated on the Palestinian people.
Would the fragile unity deal split over Fayyad? To be honest, I’m quite hopeful that this will happen. Not because I think a united Palestine is a bad thing (I don’t), but because I do not want to see anything containing Hamas be given any power ever.
*I’m sorry if I offended any victims of beheading, this is a serious issue really.
It was even looking like they were going to get support and declare their own state. The infrastructure was almost there, support was growing, the international aid was pouring in.
The announcement last night that a unity government had been agreed to again all but sealed it – the Palestinians are finally united. It would be far harder (but still possible) for Israel to claim that there was no one to negotiate with anymore.
The deal brings with it the risk of alienating the Western support that the Palestinian Authority has enjoyed. Azzam al-Ahmad, the Fatah negotiator, said that Salam Fayyad, the prime minister in the West Bank who is despised by Hamas, would not be part of the interim government. It is partly because of Mr. Fayyad, and the trust he inspires in Washington, that hundreds of millions of dollars are provided annually to the Palestinian Authority by Congress. Without that aid, the Palestinian Authority would face great difficulties.
Fayyad is the reason the PA are in the position where they can be talking about statehood. All of the positive developments – from the economy to the roads to the law enforcement to the security – all of them, are because of his competent management of the PA.
Doing any kind of deal with Hamas is a risk to say the least – Hamas have been amping-up aggression recently and are still rejected by most Western countries. They could maybe have pulled it off, but if they allow Hamas to pressure them into firing Fayyad, there is no way that this will get anywhere. The last “unity government” ended in a civil conflict that killed more people than were killed in Gaza during Cast-Lead. I see little reason why this would be any different.
I woke up this morning to the following news:
JERUSALEM suffered its first bombing in seven years today when an explosive device hidden in a shopping bag blew up at a bus station during the rush hour, killing one woman and wounding 30.
…Shattered glass from the windows of the bus were strewn across the pavement, which was scorched and smeared with blood.
The attack comes after a fortnight of rising tensions in the Palestinian territories that culminated in a series of military strikes on Gaza.
The group believed to be behind the attack is the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an Al-Qaeda affiliated group that takes a more militant stance than Hamas, which has been moderated recently by responsibility. The attack coincided with renewed rocket strikes and was probably in retaliation to a recent Israeli strike that took-out some PIJ leaders:
The attack which rocked the entrance to the capital on Wednesday morning came just hours after two Grad-model Katyusha rockets fired from the Gaza Strip landed in Beersheba and another hit south of Ashkelon.
…Islamic Jihad had vowed to retaliate against an air strike on Tuesday which killed four of its senior operatives.
This is an absolutely disgusting and inexcusable act, but there has been a whole build-up to this. I know that I’ve been MIA for a few days, but if I had more time to write, I would have been writing about the escalating tensions in this conflict.
Of course, Israel’s strike that killed four militants did not just kill four militants, unfortunately:
Eyewitnesses said that seven tank shells slammed a playground where children were playing soccer, adding two other shells crashed through the ceiling of a nearby house, injuring six women.
Relatives of those killed said they prevented a group of Palestinian militants from firing mortars into Israel from an area that is adjacent to their houses just half an hour before Israeli tanks fired the shells.
But militants waited until people went for prayers at the neighborhood’s mosque and sent a round of mortar shells beyond the Israel-Gaza borderline, which is a little less than half a mile away from the bombed area.
Although that story does not exactly exonerate PIJ from the killings either.
And then there’s the Itamar massacre on the weekend, which was a complete act of brutality that saw a family literally butchered in their own home:
On March 11, five members of the Fogel family were hideously knifed in their own home at Itamar – the parents Udi and Ruth, 11-year-old Yoav, three-year-old Elad and three-month-old Hadas. The throats of Udi, Yoav and tiny Hadas were slit in their beds. Elad suffered two stab wounds to his heart.
This was anything but a chance mishap.
This was premeditated, beyond cold-hearted.
The homicides were the handiwork of terrorists who encountered their blameless victims face-to-face and, with malice aforethought, did not shrink from piercing an infant’s neck.
The other piece of the puzzle from Israel’s perspective is a sudden and massive increase in rocket fire from Gaza.
Tuesday’s violence came amid a sharp increase in tensions along the Israel-Gaza border in recent days. Hamas has fired more than 60 rockets at Israel since Saturday, and Israeli warplanes and artillery units have carried out repeated attacks. Both sides claim they are retaliating and not seeking an escalation in the conflict, but fears of a repeat of the Israeli war here two years ago were palpable.
And there’s truth to that “tit-for-tat” statement, both sides have been escalating this situation whilst simultaneously calling for the other to stop. It’s like a retarded game of chicken where everyone loses.
Hamas has committed to keeping the truce, but admitted that it voluntarily increased rocket fire:
He confirmed that Hamas was behind last Saturday’s barrage of mortar attacks on Israel. He claimed that the attacks were a “natural response to the ongoing crimes of the Zionist enemy.”
Abu Obaida said that the attacks came in response to the recent killing by the IDF of Ghassan Abu Amer and Adnan Ishtawi, two Hamas activists.
“The enemy will pay a heavy price if it continues its aggression on the Gaza Strip,” the spokesman cautioned.
And then Israel has re-iterated that it will hold Hamas responsible for every attack:
The IDF will not tolerate any attempt to harm Israeli civilians or IDF soldiers, and will continue to respond harshly to combat terror. The IDF holds the Hamas terrorist organization solely responsible for maintaining the calm in the Gaza Strip and for any terrorist activity emanating from it.
This may not be entirely fair, as it is not clear how much control Hamas has over PIJ. In fact, there have been reports that Hamas is trying to reduce their activity:
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh’s office said yesterday that Haniyeh had phoned the secretary general of Islamic Jihad, Abdallah Ramadan Salah, in Damascus. Pundits in Gaza said Haniyeh asked Salah to stop the escalation, for which Islamic Jihad is mainly responsible.
Although Hamas didn’t exactly seem bothered by the attack in Jerusalem, which luckily the PA at least condemned:
Referring to the possibility that Palestinians were behind the attack, Fayyad said it would it be despicable if any Palestinian party was involved, especially in light of the huge damage that such attacks have inflicted on the Palestinians in the past.
Hamas representatives in the Gaza Strip hailed the attack as a “natural response to Israeli crimes against Palestinians.”
The big worry here is that the situation will return to 2007/08 levels, which Israel managed to repair only through a huge military operation. Hopefulyl the sides will see sense, but this has been coming for a while.
There is a whole other side to the past week, which is the games being played between the PA and Hamas, as well as a few settlement issues that were overshadowed by all this violence. This post is getting too long, so you can look forward to that tomorrow.
chicken, clusterfuck, Fayyad, Gaza, Hamas, Haniyeh, Israel, Itamar massacre, Jerusalem, massacre, PA, Palestine, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, PNA, rising tensions, Salaam Fayyad, terrorism
Because of an angry comment on my last post, I felt that I needed to clarify this point. As the below article observes, Fatah is not necessarily trying to destroy Israel.
They do broadcast a lot of rhetoric about destroying Israel to all levels of society, including their children, and they teach that all of Israel is actually “Occupied Palestine” in their textbooks. And they tend to name things like town squares, sports centres and schools after terrorists. And there is concern with this unilateral declaration of statehood thing. But at the moment, Fatah is working with Israel and, at least in theory, committed to a two state solution. They have recognised Israel as a state, if not a Jewish state.
It is easy to overlook the progress that has been made as a result of this relative calm. Having grown weary of violence and seeing a greater existential threat from Hamas than from Israel, the Palestinian Authority has been cooperating with Israeli security forces on an unprecedented level, helping to penetrate terror networks and bringing violence in the West Bank down to virtually nil.
In return, Israel has removed most internal checkpoints in the West Bank and every-day life has become increasingly normal for the residents there. Arguably the most important Palestinian figure has been PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who is the first Palestinian leader in history to push for his people to break out of the mentality of victimhood and “resistance” and rather focus on actually improving their lives.
Fayyad, who previously worked at the IMF and the World Bank, has been steadily building-up the West Bank’s economy – with a great deal of support from Israel and the US.
This has lead to some impressive feats – the economy of the West Bank grew by 8.5% in 2009, when most of the world was in recession; improved tax collection has increased tax revenue by 15% and unemployment has been reduced by over 30%. Also, where Arafat was often criticised for corruption and embezzlement of PA funds, Fayyad has focussed on transparency and used the money to dramatically improve the West Bank’s infrastructure.
In just two years, he has built over 120 schools, 1800km of new roads, and 1500km of new water networks, as well as building 11 new health clinics and expanding an additional 30 in the last year. This represents a very positive shift in Palestinian mentality – where the vast majority of Palestinians and their supporters blame Israel for poor water services and roads, he has decided to stop pointing fingers and actually improve the situation.
With cooperation and training from the US and Israel, the Palestinian security forces, traditionally little more than militias for corrupt leaders, have been transformed into a competent organisation that is able to maintain law and order in Palestinian areas. This has made for a far more liveable West Bank.
On a personal note, during a recent visit to Bethlehem, I witnessed my taxi driver being pulled-over for making an illegal turn; I have never before seen anyone so overjoyed to receive a traffic fine. He explained that until a year or two ago, there were never any traffic laws in the area.
Even in Gaza the situation has been improving, albeit at a very slow rate. 2010 saw the opening of Gaza’s first Olympic-size swimming pool and its first shopping mall, as well as the easing of Israel’s blockade, allowing most goods into the enclave and all but putting the tunnel smuggling trade out of business.
Doubtless there are still major issues, including widespread homelessness, unemployment and aid dependency; as well as the oppressive Hamas regime, which refuses to renounce violence and recognise Israel, tortures and kill political enemies and clamps down on “un-Islamic” practises such as surfing for adult females. Still, since the previous war ended in early 2009, there has been a relative calm.
Rather than its myopic focus on the issue of settlement construction and its bafflingly inconsistent policy of pressuring one party or another, the US may have made significant headway in peace negotiations by building on the positive trends that have been happening in spite of, rather than because of, the lacklustre “peace process”. Unfortunately, in the case of both Palestinian territories, the situation is likely to deteriorate in the near future.
As time heals the wounds of the 2008/2009 war and increasingly sophisticated weaponry is smuggled into Gaza, the militant groups there – some aligned to Hamas and some independent of it – are growing more and more bold, with a series of attacks on Israel in the last few weeks which induced reprisals and escalated tensions to the highest levels in two years.
Unless Hamas can be convinced to again clamp down on such activities, it is very likely that they will sooner or later spiral out of control and lead to another vicious conflict.
Meanwhile, a worrying trend from the Palestinian Diaspora has infiltrated the PA leadership – the idea of cutting ties and cooperation with Israel.
This has manifested itself both as an attempt to boycott Israel and thus cut economic and social ties, as well as by Fayyad and PA President Mahmoud Abbas eschewing negotiations in favour of a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood.
Having already recruited several countries in Latin American, the PA is pushing for a UN resolution in favour of this. The policy, which was attempted before in 1988, risks driving a wedge between the two sides, ending the mutually beneficial cooperation and re-igniting emotions around key issues such as borders and Jerusalem – which could only ever lead to conflict.
The progress from the end of the last decade is hanging by a thread. Only strong and intelligent leadership from the US – focussing on improving the existing practical West Bank cooperation, strengthening deterrence of Hamas, and signalling strongly to the Palestinian Authority that there is no viable alternative to serious negotiations with Israel - will be able to prevent the conflict from spiralling out of control and preserve the practical progress toward a two-state peace which has emerged in recent years.
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Major Karnage is a young professional based in Sydney, Australia. He may or may not be a part of some conspiracy controlling your media, depending entirely on how inclined you are to believe those kinds of things.
This is a guide to politics, culture, fashion, music, technology, mixed martial arts, TV and whatever the hell else he finds interesting.
But mostly Middle East politics, let's be honest. Maybe a little religion/Jewish identity mixed in there.
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