[[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


August 27, 2006


This week in Palestine….. Behind the news with Hanna Siniora



Fateh Central Committee


All last week Mahmoud Abbas and his associates in the Fateh central committee met in Amman, Jordan to review the situation within Fateh, arrangements for holding the Sixth Fateh Congress to elect a new leadership for the movement, no firm date was set, and the old guard seems unwilling to relinquish their dominance of the movement.


A thorough discussion of the internal Palestinian political impasse took place, and Mahmoud Abbas was authorized to negotiate with Hamas the formation of a national unity government and accepting Hamas heading the cabinet. The basis of cooperation in such a coalition that includes all the Palestinian factions should be the National Reconciliation Document that was initialed by Hamas and Fateh, with no other conditions attached, such as the release of Hamas ministers and legislators that might delay the formation of such cabinet, as the Palestinian side has no leverage on the Israeli government, and would not jeopardize such formation on the whims of the Israeli authorities.


President Abbas is in favor of holding a sequel to the Madrid conference, based on the Clinton parameters and the Arab league peace initiative to cover on a parallel basis the Israeli-Palestinian, Israeli-Syrian and Lebanese-Israeli tracks (Madrid II).


A Second Round of War


The affronted dignity of Israeli politicians and generals might lead to a second round of confrontation in Southern Lebanon to retrieve the reputations of those involved, among them Olmert, Peretz and Halutz.


The decision of the EU to send seven thousand troops from the EU mainly French and Italian will help distance such threats for the short term; but too many ifs, remains to be resolved, the disarmament and the re-supply of Hizbullah’s military stockpile are of utmost relevance.


Lack of compromise, on the Iranian nuclear enrichment program, might find its release on the Lebanese-Syrian front with Israel being encouraged to open and expand the military front to include Syria.


Olmert learning from the recent experience will not be in a hurry to jump into such a course unless his political future is being seriously threatened, which many analysts   believe to be the case.


A Happy Ending


The two week saga of the two Fox news journalists, correspondent Steve Centanni and cameraman Ulaf Wiig kidnapped in Gaza city on August 14, 2006 ended this Sunday by they being released at the Beach Hotel near the offices of President Mahmoud Abbas.


Former New Zealand Ambassador Mrs. Henderson was sent by her government from her diplomatic post in Ankara Turkey to help release the kidnapped journalist. The effort was continued by other diplomats and Wiig’s media celebrity wife Anita McNaught. President Abbas and PM Haniyya were personally involved that eventually led to their safe release. The Palestinian Journalists Association condemned the kidnapping and urged their immediate release as well as many other religious and civil society groups in Palestine.


This Monday, August 25, captive soldier Gilad Shalit will celebrate his twentieth birthday in captivity. His Hamas abductors have indicated to the Olmert government their readiness to release him unharmed. The lack of trust that this is deep rooted between the two parties prevents such a process from taking shape. The office of the President, the Egyptian government and others are working feverishly to facilitate the release of Shalit. The abductors have been asked to show physical evidence that Shalit is well and alive, in order for reciprocal steps to be taken by the Israeli side. Hopefully soon such a happy ending will take place, even before a similar step is taken on the Israeli-Lebanese front.


King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia


The Saudi monarch recently declared Saudi Arabia’s deep discomfort of regional political and military developments in the region, on both the Palestinian and Lebanese fronts. King Abdullah urged the Arab Foreign ministers to adopt and promote the Arab League peace plan, which was initially put forward by the King in 2003 when he was the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, and was unanimously adopted by all 22 Arab countries at the Beirut Arab Summit. 

King Abdullah firmly believes that his plan can be the only viable rational option for the region that will not prevent more wars, but place the region at the forefront of a new era of stability, peace and prosperity that will allow investing in the economies of all the countries of the region and will bring permanent peace between all the Arab countries and Israel.


Salvador and Costa Rica


The only two South American countries in the world that established their embassies in Jerusalem, took advantage of the turmoil of the war in Gaza and Lebanon to announce that they are moving their embassies from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. This is a firm sign that the international community disapprove of using force and unilateral steps to assert positions. 

No country accepts Israel’s claim that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel, even the USA despite Congress announcing that the American Embassy should move from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem, yet every six months the US administration keeps postponing such recourse.


Bold Steps


President Mahmoud Abbas has not wavered from his declared position of seeking a negotiated settlement with Israel to reach the desired two state solution, and have Jerusalem as the capital of both states. PM Olmert is being questioned about the recent war and decisions taken by his team, civilian and military. Usually in order to fight for his political future and his government, bold steps have to be taken. Both sides have to rise up to the challenge, can the region look forward to serious efforts to promote negotiations and peace on a comprehensive regional basis. The region yearns for it, the safety of the public on all sides needs it, can the politicians will it, and rise up to the challenge? 




Mr. Hanna Siniora is the Co-CEO of IPCRI – the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information  www.ipcri.org