News From the Israeli and Palestinian Front: May 3rd
A biweekly feature of news and opinion pieces from the Israeli and Palestinian press.
1.) In an encouraging sign, the Palestinian Authority deployed several hundred policemen to Jenin this weekend as part of an effort to “restore law and order,” reports The Jerusalem Post. This action follows similar moves in Nablus and Tulkarm that have occurred over the past few months. The police force has promised to crack down not just on criminals, but on armed groups like the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Fatah’s military wing. According to the terms of the agreement, Israel will give the Palestinian police full reign during the daytime; at night, the IDF would be allowed to carry out operations. As the article reports, the invigorated Palestinian security presence is widely viewed in Jenin as a positive step towards self-governance and the rule of law.
2.) Jordan’s King Abdullah has suggested that even minimal progress on Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations would be enough to begin implementing the 2002 Arab peace initiative. Under the original offer, Arab states would agree to a normalization of relations in exchange for a comprehensive Israeli agreement with the Palestinians that involved a withdrawal to pre-1967 borders. Speaking to visiting Israeli MK Yossi Beilin today, Abdullah mentioned that “a significant number of Arab and Muslim states would move to establish diplomatic relations with Israel as a result of positive movement on the Palestinian front.” (Haaretz)
3.) An article in Haaretz paints a sobering assessment of the state of the peace process.
Martin Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel now at the Brookings Institution think tank, was skeptical that the Bush administration was on the verge of offering its own ideas on how to craft a peace agreement to end the six-decade conflict. “I see no indication of that. I think that their very clear attitude to this – at least the president’s view of it – is that it’s up to the parties to make the deal,” Indyk said.
He said bilateral talks about borders, settlements, the status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees could be making headway but that Abbas’ dissatisfied air after meeting Bush in Washington last week suggested otherwise. “Abu Mazen [Abbas] left here in a very sour mood – and I think that is an indicator that things aren’t going great,” he said.
Indyk also said he found it “much more disturbing” that there has been little movement on the ground, saying Israel has repeatedly moved to expand settlements since the Annapolis, Maryland, peace talks and done little to remove significant roadblocks on the West Bank. On the Palestinian side, it is unclear how much security forces under Abbas have been built up to take on militants.
4.) Former Defense Minister Amir Peretz suggested today that he would strongly back direct discussions with Hamas; he also argued for freeing the jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti.
5.) In an interesting op-ed in Ynet News, columnist Haim Misgav makes the case against “land-for-peace” deals. He writes that the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000 and the evacuation of settlers from Gaza in 2005 have done little to increase the country’s security. As Misgav argues, additional land-for-peace agreements would be a grave mistake. “Any kind of withdrawal, in Samaria, or Judea, or the Golan Heights would only reinforce the Arab sense that the Jews don’t really believe in their right for the country and boost the Arab appetite,” he writes. “The knowledge that each additional territorial concession weakens Israel and makes it more vulnerable will certainly also make the Arabs more demanding.”