I haven't written in many months, much to the chagrin of my biggest supporters (mom, et al). So if you're reading this, it means you either know me personally and have been warned I would begin writing again, or you have just stumbled upon this blog for the first time. Welcome, I say, to the latter. Welcome back, to the former. And I also must issue a warning: this blog may be hazardous to your political correctness. Side effects of reading this blog include uttering tasteless jokes, racist jokes, and offending friends and acquaintances in general. I am not a humanitarian, I am not a peacemaker, I can only barely be called a journalist. But along with a lack of human compassion comes a lack of emotional involvement in the affairs of the Israeli and Palestinian governments. I mock them both equally, where mocking is called for.
I also sometimes mock fellow bloggers and journalists.
Now, I will begin my update with a summation of the situation as of the last time I wrote, which was in August, and any developments since then.
- Obama had been in office half a year and everyone was eager to see what his big plan was to solve Middle Eastern Conflict. Obama appointed George Mitchell as his special envoy to this end and after conferring with the region's leaders for five minutes or so came up with this totally original and incredibly detailed plan:
President Barack Obama's new Mideast envoy called Wednesday for an end to Hamas weapons smuggling and a reopening of Gaza's borders, seeking to strengthen the shaky cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian militants thrown into turmoil by new violence.This reads like Mitchell thinks he's the magic peace fairy and he can just ask what each side wants and then POOF there it is. [The link to that article has since died, super sorry about that, but the quote is accurate.]
And then yesterday, this gem appeared in Ha'aretz, "Obama: U.S. expectations for Middle East peace too high." Obama is quoted as saying:
I think it is absolutely true that what we did this year didn't produce the kind of breakthrough that we wanted and if we had anticipated some of these political problems on both sides earlier, we might not have raised expectations as high.Reading this article, I was shocked not only by the way Obama is willing to level with journalists, but also with his seemingly clear and realistic grasp on the situation. He summed up the key current issues as such:
Both sides ... have found that the political environment, the nature of their coalitions, or the divisions within their societies were such that it was very hard for them to start engaging in a meaningful conversation.
And I think that we overestimated our ability to persuade them to do so when their politics ran contrary to that. From Abbas' perspective, he's got Hamas looking over his shoulder and I think an environment generally within the Arab world that feels impatient with any process.
And on the Israeli front, although the Israelis I think after a lot of time showed a willingness to make some modifications in their policies, still found it very hard to move with any bold gestures.
- Gilad Shalit is still held in captivity somewhere in Gaza. The Israeli soldier was taken in a cross border raid over three years ago and his imprisonment has played a key role in negotiations since that time. On August 12 of last year, this article revealed that Hamas was confident Israel would finally yield to its demands.
Mohammed al-Ghoul, the Hamas minister for prisoners' affairs, said "the Israeli occupation will soon surrender to the conditions that we have outlined for the release of Gilad Shalit."First of all, al-Ghoul? Is that really someone you want to designate as any kind of representative to the western world? And secondly, that list has passed back and forth between Israel's and Hamas' hands so many times it probably carries swine flu, AIDS, and mad cow. The numbers of prisoners on the list has reportedly fluctuated wildly between 150 and 1,000 names. First Israel wouldn't release prisoners serving terms for murder, and then they would, but only certain ones, but Hamas wasn't happy with those certain ones, and so on. There are so many cooks in the kitchen on both sides that no matter the disposition of The List, it will never pass final muster. Sure enough, just one day later, a different Hamas rep was saying something else.
According to al-Ghoul, Israel will release the Palestinian prisoners whose names appear on a list Hamas has passed to Egyptian officials. The list includes a number of prisoners serving life sentences, as well as women, children, and some elderly inmates.
Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal said there is no real progress in talks for the release of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, despite recent reports to the contrary.And most recently, any mention of progress in the swap has halted except for this item from January 19:
In an interview to Qatari newspaper al-Watan, that will be published in full on Sunday, with parts of it published on the Hamas website Thursday, Mashaal said mediation efforts in the matter were ongoing, but that no real progress has been made. He said this was due to "the manner in which the Zionist enemy's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is handling the matter.'
Mohammed Nazal told the Lebanese daily A-Sapir that the deal has been delayed thus far due to Israel's refusal to heed Hamas' demand to see top militants Marwan Bargouthi and Ahmed Sadat freed.So basically at this point, Hamas is mainly concerned with these final two guys, but they're biggies. This is the first I've heard of this Ahmed Sadat dude, but Bargouthi is a Palestinian "freedom fighter" who is so popular it's basically assumed that if he's released, he'll win the Hamas presidency. He's considered to be the leader of both the first and second intifadas but strongly supported the peace process, including the Oslo accords. He's basically the Nelson Mandela of Palestine. Further research (meaning I can use google) has revealed that this Sadat guy is pretty popular too but he doesn't recognize Israel's right to exist and was in opposition to the Oslo process. He was Secretary-General of the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) beginning in 2001 after the previous secretary was assassinated. The PFLP is basically Fatah's armed wing that they keep all hush-hush like when you have a retarded child that you keep in the basement just to feed annoying salesmen and Jehovah's Witnesses. Anyway, Sadat was accused of planning the assassination of Israel's tourism minister, who was the founder of right wing party Moledet and advocated the forced transfer of Israel's Arabs to neighboring countries.
So...what was my point? Oh yeah, transferring prisoners between Israel and Palestine is complicated.
Good god this update is exhausting. One more item.
- Operation Price Tag is still in full swing. It was way back in October of 2008 that I first wrote about this lovely little grassroots movement wherein Israeli settlers damage Palestinian cemeteries, farms, and livestock, injure Palestinian children on their walks to school, and injure and sometimes kill Palestinians and/or Israeli soldiers who try to stop them in an attempt to curb opposition to the Israeli expansion project. How it works is, every time the Israeli governments clamps down and actually follows its own laws regarding the disposition of West Bank land, settlers in the area do some sort of damage that is designed to remind Palestinians and Israelis alike that there is a price tag to their opposition. I found the latest incarnation of this movement on Ha'aretz yesterday and here is the gist:
Recent violence by Jewish settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since 1967, has been linked by some activists to the Israeli government's decision to impose a temporary, partial freeze on building in the enclaves.These backlashes typically follow the evacuation of an illegal West Bank settlement by Israeli officials. Meanwhile, the freeze continues in name only as concrete foundations continue to be poured throughout areas planned for West Bank settlement.
Through a strategy known as the "price tag", the settlers have targeted Palestinians and their property whenever the Israeli government is seen moving, or thinking of moving against the settlements, which are deemed illegal by world powers.
Israeli police this month arrested four settlers on suspicion of involvement in an arson attack last month on a mosque near Nablus. Carpets and holy books were burnt in that attack.
And that's all kids. My snarky mockery will continue unabated as I'm in-country for a stay now.