Sunday, September 26, 2010

What about Hamas?

Even if the direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians (which resumed in Washington on September 2nd) succeed in achieving an acceptable peace settlement that includes setting up an independent Palestinian state, serious questions will remain about the durability of any American sponsored, Arab-supported agreement as long as Hamas remains outside it, writes Jordanian political commentator and former minister Saleh Qallab in the Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.

I am re-publishing here an important viewpoint that has been overlooked by the puppeteers in Washington. While I support the idea of peace talks with all my heart, I believe, like Mr. Qallab, that the talks are absolutely futile without a comprehensive Fatah-Hamas agreement first.

Unlike the author, I don't believe their differences are irreconcilable. I just think that we are still, unfortunately, many years and a few great leaders away.

The Hamas Factor

UNBRIDGEABLE DIFFERENCES: The first factor that could affect the outcome of the current talks is whether the anticipated settlement would include the Syrian and Lebanese tracks or not. Damascus might well decide to encourage Hamas to adopt whichever position would help it (Syria) avoid being isolated if it discovered that the proposed settlement is limited to the Palestinian track. The Iranians meanwhile are expected to continue opposing the talks on principle.

It is no longer possible – after the long experience of hostility between them – for Fateh and Hamas to reconcile their differences. Neither the Egyptian [reconciliation] document nor any other initiative can succeed in bridging the differences between the two sides, unless a major region-wide political earthquake succeeds in reconciling the Egyptians with the Iranians.

The respective positions of Fateh and Hamas are not only at odds with each other, but irreconcilable. The confrontation between them – which kicked off in earnest when Hamas mounted its armed coup in Gaza in 2007 – has become an existential struggle that cannot be settled by compromises, or even by holding new elections.

Even when hopes for the success of the Egyptian reconciliation initiative were at their height, Hamas never concealed its intention to mimic its Gaza putsch in the West Bank. The killing of four Israeli settlers near al-Khalil [Hebron] just hours before direct talks were due to kick off in Washington earlier this month was a message from Hamas to the Israelis and Americans saying that the movement was able – if it succeeds in replacing the Palestinian Authority (PA) by force – to implement all security arrangements that the peace talks could come up with.

Those who believe that Hamas could be persuaded to join the peace process and become Fateh's (and the PLO's) partner in the results of the negotiations are completely wrong. Hamas was set up by the international Muslim Brotherhood movement after the PLO and its various factions were evicted from Beirut by the Israelis in 1982 to replace rather than augment the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

There is no doubt that the Israelis played a role in (or at least turned a blind eye to) Hamas's establishment in order to rid themselves of the headache of the entire 'sole legitimate representative' [of the Palestinians] question, and to evade mounting international pressures to negotiate with that representative (the PLO) in order to bring the festering Middle East conflict to an end.

It was thanks to this confluence of interests (no suggestion here of any collusion) between the Muslim Brotherhood and Israel in the 1980s after the PLO was evicted from Lebanon that Hamas was conceived. While the Israelis wanted an excuse for avoiding peace by claiming that they had no Palestinian negotiating partner, the Muslim Brotherhood's objective was ultimately to control all the Arab countries in the Middle East after taking the first step of imposing their will on the Palestinian people.

The late Yasser Arafat was well aware of the Muslim Brotherhood's intentions ever since the international Muslim Brotherhood movement decided to set up Hamas. In order to contain this emerging threat, and knowing that he could not possibly prevent its creation with his forces out of Lebanon, Arafat sought to open up to Hamas. Negotiations between the two Palestinian sides took place throughout the late eighties, but no agreement was reached. Then, in 2004, Arafat died.

Arafat's demise signaled the beginning of a dramatic series of developments, which culminated in Hamas' armed takeover of the Gaza Strip and the eviction of Fateh from the enclave. The Israelis thus got what they wished for all along: Another Palestinian player pretending to be a 'sole legitimate representative.'

In his negotiations with Hamas, Arafat, who was determined to co-opt the new movement before it spread and developed regional extensions, was excessively generous to its representatives. He offered Hamas 40 percent of the seats in the Palestinian parliament.

But Hamas, which was as determined then as it is today to replace the PLO, procrastinated. The stalemate continued throughout the second intifada until Hamas was able to seize control of Gaza in 2006 and build its own Islamist administration on the ruins of the PLO.

That said, it would be unwise to ignore the Iranian factor. Iranian interference in Palestinian affairs, which began immediately after the Oslo agreements were signed, encouraged Hamas to carry out the task it was created to achieve: Destroy the PLO and bury the issue of the 'sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people' once and for all.

What must be clearly understood from now is that unless the desired settlement includes the Syrian and Lebanese tracks – and satisfies Iran – Hamas will continue to exclude itself from it, maintain its grip on Gaza – and pursue its efforts to mount a coup in the West Bank similar to the bloody one it led in the Gaza Strip.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Piss Broke Recommendation Series #2

Watch the movie Food, Inc.

It's a stunningly well made documentary about an important topic.

If you eat food, then this film is a must-see.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Seven Natural Wonders

Check out this website, where you can vote for the Seven New Wonders of Nature.

I have been fortunate enough to have seen 6 out of the 28, and have put the remaining 22 on my bucket list.

My personal favortie, The Dead Sea, is in the running, and may benefit from the awareness this distinction might generate.

Go Vote!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Piss Broke Recommendation Series #1

Since my working hours have been increasingly spent on my new media startup, my budget for entertainment has been slashed from $100 a month to about $0 a month.

So I've been borrowing lots of books and movies from friends for entertainment.

Here's the latest book I read, which I highly recommend.

"The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success" by Deepak Chopra might just change your life.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Dwindling Dead Sea

This is the second chapter of the water stories I produced for

Due to time constraints, my interview with Eli Raz, a leading sinkhole expert, had to be cut out.

And due to taste constraints, a time lapse of me and my cameramen, (AKA Elad Gefen), covering ourselves in Dead Sea mud, also had to be cut out.

If there is demand for me to post these on the blog, I may consider it.

Enjoy the video, and please do share it, to raise awareness for this ecological tragedy in the making.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

The Latest "Argument"

I was just forwarded this op-ed by Daniel Gordis which was published by the Jerusalem Post.

Here is my response:

This "argument" to me is not entirely clear, and seems to jump all over the place.

The author seems to use cliched, paranoid, right wing catch phrases without ever delivering a logical argument as to why the mosque should or should not be built.

I assume he's against it, but he relies on an anecdote about the Israeli army needing to work on the Jewish sabbath to support his claim. I'm sorry, but it's a bit ridiculous.

It's like he's trying to say that the people building the "Ground Zero Mosque" are the enemy, but he doesn't have the proof to make that claim (since its totally erroneous) so he uses confusing, heart tugging stories that make a certain audience feel a certain way, much like the FOX news pundits who invented this story in the first place.

Yes there is something to fear. Yes some of that which we should fear emanates from some form of Islam. What exactly do we have to fear from this particular "mosque" being built? Probably, nothing.

But Fox News ratings, and I imagine the Jerusalem Post's as well, go up when non-stories like these get distorted and propagated in the media.

In summary, the op-ed pretends like it is going to connect all these disparate dots, but it never does.

Also, there are 3 factual errors:

1. They are building a community center, not a mosque (although there will be a prayer hall)
2. It is not at Ground Zero, but several city blocks away
3. To my knowledge, President Obama never said he was pulling out all the troops from Afghanistan in July

I feel that this op-ed by Nicholas Kristof rings with much more truth.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Ground Zero (Not Ground Zero) Mosque (Not a Mosque) Debate (Not a Debate)

After being bombarded with emails/op-ed's from friends about this "Ground Zero Mosque," I have decided not to take the bait.

Let's end this ridiculous conversation right now.

This is a non-issue.

The US should make Ground Zero a public memorial.

Private property near Ground Zero should be sold, rented, leased to anyone on God's (Allah's) Green Earth who has legally acquired the rights to said property.

Stop watching Fox News (Punditry). Good night.