Monday, February 14, 2005

 

DEALING IN PEACE, BACKGROUND NOISE, & READINGS

14 February 2005

DEALING IN PEACE

Well, the peace process is back on again!

After an immediate rocky start immediately following the Palestinian election, in which the Israeli government indicated that Abbas was not controlling the actions and rhetoric of Hamas and other similar groups, the Israeli’s appeared to have ‘re-warmed’ to Abbas; well at least for now.

A good synopsis of developments can be found at http://www.economist.com/agenda/displayStory.cfm?story_id=3643056

The success and I guess the failure of the peace process rests with not so much with whether the Israelis will give ‘diplomatic’ ground. The tipping point is whether Abbas can hold the Palestinian side together. There are a number of issues Abbas faces.

1. He is following in Arafat’s political and, too a degree ideological, wake. A tough ask for anyone, particularly as Arafat was such an all consuming political and larger than life figure in the Palestinian mindset, who consumed as much political oxygen as possible, leaving very little breathable air for a future successor, or rival. Abbas will find the rush of oxygen very challenging.
2. Abbas is a committed secularist. Hamas and Al Qaeda are committed not just to confronting Western secularist ideals and governance, but are equally odious of Arabic secular regimes.
3. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah have effectively been let off the leash for so long by the Palestinian Authority, that it will be near impossible to reign them in, and at least to comply with any prospective peace deal. A peace deal with an accommodating cease-fire will mean a reduction in political power for Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. Ultimately, despite whatever concessions Israel affords, the militant groups ultimately will view them cynically, after all the destruction of Israel is non-negotiable.

But at least, the agreement struck between the Israeli’s with Palestine, supported by Jordan and Egypt offer a key structure to work with, rather than empty rhetoric. But time will of course be the judge, as history shows peace deals in the Middle East are not very elastic or durable – unfortunately. The details of the recent agreement include:

“1. Ceasefire: Abbas said Palestinians will halt all violence against Israelis. Sharon said Israel will stop military activity against all Palestinians. Israel would also stop its controversial targeted killing operations against wanted Palestinians, as long as the Palestinians kept militants under control.
After Sharon's declaration of an end to military operations, the two sides would go back to operating as they did before the 2000 outbreak of fighting: In Palestinian-controlled areas, including most of Gaza and eventually most West Bank towns, the Israelis would coordinate with Palestinian security forces if they wanted to arrest someone.
2. Prisoners: Israel will immediately release 500 Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture, with another 400 to be freed later.
3. Cooperation: They agreed to establish joint committees - one to determine criteria for the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, and the other to oversee the gradual withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian cities in the West Bank.
4. Ambassadors: Egypt and Jordan say they will return their ambassadors to Israel. The diplomats were recalled following the outbreak of violence in late 2000.”
(source: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2005/02/09/1107890234982.html)

BACKGROUND NOISE

A number of reports have been circulating, at its worth spending some time reviewing them, and letting the reader determine how unpredictable extremists are.

http://www.smh.com.au/news/After-Saddam/Extremists-make-barbers-new-hunted/2005/02/08/1107625213521.html
- A report appeared that the insurgents in Iraq continue to target innocent civilians in their bombing and assassination campaign. This link records the details of a young barber that was murdered, for theological reasons!

- More reports have continued on Amar Ahmed Mohammed, a young man with down syndrome who was unwittingly sent to his death by the insurgents who strapped explosives to his body. http://www.smh.com.au/news/After-Saddam/Seduction-of-an-unwitting-suicide-bomber/2005/02/08/1107625213466.html

READINGS

We have received requests for book recommendations we suggest readers obtain in order to get an understanding of the Middle East.

There are many books we could recommend. And over the next few weeks we will provide an inclusive list. To start off with, the following are useful

1. Inside Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror, by Rohan Gunaratna. Probably, the most current, digestible, and detailed account of the entire operations and mindset of Al Qaeda.
2. The Coming Anarchy: Shattering the Dreams of the Post Cold by Robert D. Kaplan. Kaplan is an authority on the Middle East, and this book provides a serious, and at times confronting sense of violence that groups such as Al Qaeda invest in.
3. Why Terrorism Works by Alan M. Dershowitz. The book details the history of terrorist movements, particularly that of the PLO, and clearly suggests that violence and politically driven terrorist acts has worked in achieving the aims and ambitions of terrorists. However sobering, Dershowitz does progress a number of enlightened and clever strategies to overcome the threats.

More to come in the next few weeks.


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