A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
Aug 6, 2009 Moderates Lose Out at Fatah Assembly, Evictions in East Jerusalem and Netanyahu Visits Homosexual/Lesbian Center
The Fatah Assembly has not gone well for Abu Mazen and those considered the moderates. The Assembly was supposed to end yesterday, but the in-fighting has forced its extension. The strongest opposition to Abu Mazen has come from those who are opposed to giving up the armed struggle. The opponents are mostly those who come from outside the West Bank; many are old stalworths of Arafat. Of course, the fact the Palestinians were supposed to have given up the armed struggle as part of the Oslo Accords does not seem to faze them. There is no doubt Hamas’ shadow is present at the conference. Hamas has been constantly attacking Abu Mazen on TV claiming he is an Israeli collaborator. Al Jazeera TV has been an active participant in the Assembly, primarily showing off the opponents and trying to present them as the majority. On one hand, much of what has been going on is an attempt of the old guard to hold on to their control of the organization; its funds and its plush jobs... while a new generation, mostly from the West Bank, tries to rest control from them. On the other hand, we have an idealogical struggle, in which (once again), the Palestinians may show themselves to be their own worse enemies. By refusing to accept the more moderate positions of Abu Mazen, it will make it very difficult for anyone to believe any negotiations with the Assembly can end well.
The story of the eviction of a group of Palestinians from their apartment in Sheik Jarah in East Jerusalem has received a great deal of attention, including a statement by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton: "The situation is complicated." The actions are the end of series a court actions on the property. It turns out the property was purchased in the 1870’s by the Jerusalem Sephardic Rabbinate. The area was a Jewish neighborhood that was abandoned in February 1948; after the British told the Jewish residents that they could no longer defend them. After the 1948 war arab refugees from other areas settled the buildings. After the 1967 war the Israeli courts granted the new residents the status of protected renters. Since that time the residents it seems have taken actions to lose that status (moving, failing to pay rent, etc.) and thus actions were taken to evict them. From a simple legal perspective, its pretty simple. The only problem is the "simple view" opens up a can of worms relating to the property of Arabs who left West Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Netanyahu took a politically courageous move today by visiting the center for support for Homosexuals and Lesbians that was the scene of the armed attack last week. He met with representatives of the community and listened sympathetically to their concerns. It was the first visit of a Prime Minister to any similar location or event. Saturday night there is a planned public memorial to those who were killed. President Peres is expected to speak. Coincidentally, I was listening to a Podcast of "Real Time" with Bill Maher today from a few weeks ago and two of the guests were Congressman Barney Frank (the first openly gay congressman) and Fareed Zakaria the foreign affairs commentator of CNN and Time. After discussing a range of foreign policy questions they discussed issues of the Middle East. After mildy criticizing Israel on the question of settlements, Barney Frank then went on to say that while he disagrees with Israel's settlement policies when it comes to civil rights, (including gay rights) it could teach the US a lesson, and certainly stands out as a singular entity in the Middle East. Zakaria heartily agreed.
Today, Israel announced that its new active defense system for tanks against missile is now ready to become operational. Until now, the only defense against the missiles has been a passive system that explodes on the skin of the tank on impact. The new system has successively shot down 90 incoming missile, without allowing any to reach the tank. Israel has begun deploying the systems into the Merchava tanks. The goal is to, eventually, have them in all the operational tanks and possibly other armoured vehicles. The cost $100,000 per tank.
A final note. Israel seems much more caught up in fears of Swine Flu than the US is at the moment. Three people have died in the last two weeks. The news is full of stories of whether Israel will get enough of the vaccine, as it has ordered. Israel ordered enough for the entire population.