1) Remember when they used to talk about Israel like this?
I’m not used to Arabs talking this way about Arabs:
Brigadier General Salim Idris, the current chief of Staff of the Supreme Military Council of the FSA, said: “If the attacks of Hezbollah [on] Syrian territory do not stop within 24 hours, we will take all measures to hunt Hezbollah, even in hell.”
“I will no longer be bound by any commitments I made if a decision to stop the attacks… is not taken and implemented,” he added.
He said “everyone” should “excuse FSA” for retaliating as “we are being subjected to genocide conducted by Hezbollah.”
Usually, they reserve charges of “genocide” for Israel.
But Idris’s statement may reflect a wider disaffection with Hezbollah. A recent (though highly unscientific) Al-Jazeera poll shows significant opposition to Hezbollah in the Arab world.
Over two-thirds of participants in a four-day online survey that ended Tuesday believe that the Iranian backed Hezbollah militant group is the new enemy of Arabs and Muslims.
The one-question survey by Aljazeera.net asked: “Do you think Hezbollah has turned out to be an enemy of Arabs and Muslims?”
A total of 453,943 respondents (or 72.8%) said yes, compared to 169,605 (or 27.2%) who said no.
The article notes that nearly one half of the respondents came from Saudi Arabia, the Sunni patron of many of Syrian opposition groups. Also as Phillip Smyth recently noted:
An undeniable trend, which has also become much more widespread, is the insistence that every dead Hizballah member was a “Defender” of Damascus’s Sayda Zaynab Shrine. During earlier announcements and funerals, the Zaynab Shrine and it’s protection were invoked quite regularly, but this shift demonstrates a more full acceptance of the narrative that all Hizballah members who are dying in Syria are “Protecting the Lady Zaynab”. On Facebook, albums holding the pictures of Hizballah’s dead from Syria have been entitled, “The Campaign to Defend Saydah Zaynab’s Shrine” to “Zaynab’s Defenders”. The narrative disregards whether these fighters were serving in the countryside near Qusayr, Damascus, or elsewhere within Syria. Instead, the main theme is that all actions executed in Syria are done to protect the Zaynab Shrine. Of course, this promotes more sectarian aspects of the war in Syria and with Hizballah’s involvement.
At the same time, Nasrallah insists that Assad is “the linchpin of resistance” against American, Israeli and “takfiri” interests to broaden his appeal. The poll suggests that he may not be convincing as many in the Arab world as he would like to believe.
Will this apparent disenchantment with Hezbollah in the Arab world as well as recent instances of Hezbollah activity in the United States and Nigeria, finally convince the European Union to declare it a terrorist organization?
2) Kerry’s Shuttle Crock
Last week’s New York Times editorial, Shuttle Diplomacy, Kerry Style, is notable for two things. The first is that it considers PM Netanyahu of Israel the biggest obstacle to peace in the Middle East, which is not surprising. The second, is that it considers Palestinian President Abbas the second biggest obstacle to peace which is surprising. Apparently, even the editors of the New York Times can’t ignore the increasing evidence that Abbas has little or no interest in peace as he showed by failing to respond to an offer from then Israeli PM Ehud Olmert.
Still, despite that minor concession to the truth, overall the editorial is silly and divorced from reality.
At a conference of the World Economic Forum in Jordan on Sunday, Mr. Kerry announced that a consortium of nations — coordinated by Tony Blair, the former British prime minister — would seek as much as $4 billion in new investment for the West Bank and Gaza as part of a broader effort to revive talks on a two-state solution that have languished for four years. He gave no details, except to say the investment would come from the private sector and focus on jobs and tourism.
Palestinian leaders were cool to the initiative, warning that they “will not offer political concessions in exchange for economic benefits.” They are right to be wary. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, whose commitment to a two-state solution is in question, has long advocated the idea of “economic peace,” apparently believing that improved living conditions would make Palestinians more disposed to compromise.
Yet encouraging economic growth and reducing Palestinian unemployment is hardly enough. Any durable peace lies in resolving core issues: the borders of a Palestinian state, the fate of Palestinian refugees, security for Israel and the future of Jerusalem. Mr. Kerry knows that and said as much in his speech: the $4 billion investment package is itself partly intended to give Palestinians an incentive to negotiate and a vision of a future viable state.
Barry Rubin explained why Kerry’s tourism idea is useless. But if the editors of the New York Times were informed by the latest report of Abbas’s intransigence, it only had a superficial effect on their Middle East fantasies.
For one thing the offer made by Ehud Olmert, addressed the elements the New York Times claims are necessary and Abbas didn’t negotiate. The wariness they observe is not towards Netanyah, but towards making peace.
“I know all of their arguments,” said Olmert. “They say that Abu Mazen agreed with Bush that Erekat would meet with Turjeman in early January in Washington, but that was a few days before Bush left the White House and we received no such invitation. They claim that it was because I was finished politically, so he hesitated. But that is an excuse after the fact. They [the Palestinians] were very worried. Abu Mazen is not a big hero. They were afraid. Erekat was worried. In the end they thought that maybe after the American elections they would get more from President Obama.”
This comports with the reporting of Jackson Diehl since 2009, who observed that Abbas refused to negotiate, preferring to wait for American pressure on Israel. But why let actual observable behavior contradict deeply held but mistaken beliefs?
Obama did apply pressure and got Netanyahu to freeze settlements for ten months in 2010. Even then Abbas didn’t come to the table in good faith. (He waited until the freeze had nearly expired and then refused to negotiate when Netanyahu wouldn’t extend it.)
Then Abbas declared in a New York Times op-ed:
Palestine’s admission to the United Nations would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one. It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice.
In this way, on the friendly pages of the New York Times, Abbas mapped out his subsequent policy. He didn’t get the pressure he wanted from President Obama, so he was going to the anti-Israel international bodies to get them to pressure Israel instead. The New York Times never disavowed this op-ed or criticize its author for undermining the premises of a peace process it claims to embrace. The New York Times, by legitimizing Abbas’s efforts to bypass negotiations, did more to derail the peace process than any Israeli Prime Minister ever did. Yet no one in their editorial offices has the courage to acknowledge this.
Last week’s editorial concludes:
Along with Mr. Netanyahu, the biggest drag on serious progress seems to be the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, who has shown no sign of dropping his demand that Israel halt settlements before negotiations resume.
Mr. Abbas squandered a chance at a peace deal in 2008. It would be foolish to do so again.
Why would it be foolish for Abbas to pass up another peace deal? “Peace advocates” like the New York Times will simply instruct Israel to make Abbas (or his successor) happy or be responsible for the failure of peace. Abbas (and before him, Yasser Arafat) never had any incentive to make peace. He knows that peace processors only assign a moral imperative for Israel to make peace. If there’s no peace it’s because Israel didn’t do enough and there’s never any penalty for a Palestinian leader to say “no.” So why make peace? Just insist that the offer’s not good enough and others will tell Israel to sweeten the pot. (Besides being perceived as essential to peace is a lucrative position.)
Organizers of the “anti-normalization” campaign, most of whom belong to Abbas’s Fatah faction, have been boasting that, in recent years, they have succeeded in thwarting dozens of planned meetings between Israelis and Palestinians.
But Fatah has not condemned its own leader, Abbas, for meeting with Yacimovich and other Israelis.
The real problem here is that Abbas himself has not come out against Fatah’s campaign of intimidation and threats. By remaining silent, Abbas in fact appears to have endorsed the “anti-normalization” campaign — at least so long as its does not affect him personally.
By meeting with Israelis, Abbas can pretend for gullible folks like the editors of the New York Times that he’s interested in peace. Meanwhile he sits back and allows others to do the dirty work he probably wishes he could do himself. Peace can only come when the Palestinians want it. Pretending that they want it and would have it if not for the intransigent Netanyahu is an exercise in self-deception.