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Monday, November 19, 2007

Even the PalArab "goodwill gestures" are meaningless

Israel, stumbling down the stairs leading to Annapolis, has made a number of "goodwill gestures" ahead of the meeting in order to appease the PA and the State Department. It is releasing hundreds of prisoners, freezing building in the settlements, dismantling others, Olmert met Abbas in PA territory for the first time, Israel granted amnesty to known Fatah terrorists, and Israeli officials have publicly floated possible concessions that go beyond Barak's ridiculous offer at Camp David.

On the other side, there has been one major PA initiative ahead of Annapolis: an increased deployment of a few hundred (out of the tens of thousands) "security forces" in Nablus, in an effort to re-impose law and order.

Last week, all the headlines from Nablus seemed to indicate that the crackdown was working. It seemed so successful that the US decided to throw another $1.3 million to the PA as a reward for finally doing a small percentage of its basic job for which it already gets hundreds of millions of dollars.

Today, we see that like most of the things the PA does, this crackdown was mostly a myth:

The PA minister said his forces were currently carrying out a massive security operation against armed gangs in the Nablus area. "These gangs have harmed the residents and caused them a lot of damage," he said. "We are determined to end the state of lawlessness and anarchy and dissolve all militias and armed groups." Yahya confirmed that the PA leadership had promised Israel to dismantle all militias and armed groups in the West Bank ahead of the Annapolis peace conference. He added that the first to be targeted were members of Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, so as not to give anyone an excuse to say that the PA leadership is favoring one group over the other.

Despite the PA's ongoing security operation in the Nablus area, local residents said that many armed groups were still operating there and that those taken into custody were not top gunmen.

"They are making many arrests, but it's mostly of suspects involved in petty crime," said a prominent businessman living in Nablus. "The latest security operation, which has nevertheless been welcomed by many here, is apparently aimed at appeasing the Americans and Israelis on the eve of the peace conference and showing that the Palestinian Authority is making a serious effort to impose law and order."

Apparently, the PA and Al-Aqsa have agreed to cool things off until Annapolis, and the PA will make a show of force like surrounding a (UNRWA-run) PFLP-stronghold "refugee" camp without any intent to enter it and disarm real terrorists. Everything the PA is doing is cosmetic, reversible and meaningless.

But it is enough to convince people who desperately want to continue to believe that the Palestinian Arab people desire to build a peaceful state.

The entire "peace process" is the grown-up equivalent of closing your eyes tightly and wishing really, really hard that this time, the Palestinian Arabs are serious.