Sunday, August 21, 2005

Too many eyes in Gaza

As the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza nears its completion, one or two organizations find themselves in difficulty. Not, as it happens, the Israeli government, which can congratulate itself on the relative ease with which the project was accomplished (there had been fears of greater resistance and more violence of Israeli army against Jewish settlers).

Furthermore, as Allister Heath points out in the Business today, the Israeli economy is picking up, growth is accelerating and there are great hopes that the withdrawal will be the beginning of a probably long and painful move towards peace.

“The reforms of Benjamin Netanyahu, who resigned earlier this month as finance minister because of disagreements over Gaza, are paying off. The changes included a shake-up of the welfare state and tax cuts. The budget deficit fell from 5.5% of GDP in 2003 to 3.9% last year. Buoyant tax revenues caused by faster economic growth and limits on spending rises meant that the central government budget collapsed in the first seven months of this year.

Even with the cost of disengagement plan, Morgan Stanley expects the overall budget deficit not to exceed 3.4% of GDP in 2005 and then to decline towards 3% in 2006. The reduction in the budget deficit has allowed the central bank to keep rates on hold.”

Should they wish, they could start applying for membership of the European Union, but probably they have more sense than that.

Unfortunately, the picture is not so rosy on the other side and, given the EU’s consistent support for the PA, no matter what happened, it may well find itself torn between different organizations.

There is every evidence that hostilities between Fatah and Hamas will increase unless, by some miracle,Mahmoud Abbas manages to gain control over the latter. There are also signs of developing internal war between different groupings within Fatah.

As expected and feared, Hamas, whose aim is the complete destruction of Israel, has proclaimed that the withdrawal from Gaza is a military victory for them and a justification of the suicide/homicide attacks. Despite Javier Solana’s pompous pronouncements and congratulations of leaders, this does not bode well for the peace process or for the future of the Palestinians in Gaza.

MI6 appears to be in a spot of trouble. Mr Blair who believes, despite a good deal of evidence to the contrary, that a Palestinian state will eliminate the root causes of Islamic terrorism, has sent a supposedly secret MI6 mission of counter-terrorism experts to persuade Hamas to observe a ceasefire. Did they actually sign a ceasefire? Who knows?

The mission is led by “Alistair Crooke, a former MI6 officer who received an MBE for his work negotiating a Hamas ceasefire during the early stages of the intifada”. Another ceasefire that nobody noticed.

The Israeli government is unhappy because Mr Crooke has said that Hamas, which is vowing to carry on the fight until Israel ceases to exist, should be treated as a serious negotiating partner, not a popular view in Israel.

Meanwhile the security situation in Gaza has gone from bad to worse with kidnappings of UN staff (all of whom have now been withdrawn) and various western journalists. Presumably, at some point there will be demands for ransom. The French government will, no doubt, oblige though whom it will blame is hard to know.

MI6 to the rescue again:

“Such is the overall chaos within the Palestinian Authority that another team of MI6 officials is advising its security forces on setting up a command and control infrastructure to instil a measure of discipline. Unlike the Hamas operation, it has Israeli approval.”

All the EU has done so far is made measured noises of approval, without going into too many details as to what is expected in return from the Palestinian Authority.

Still, that is merely a sin of omission and can be explained by sheer inability to think straight. The UN, on the other hand, the ideological root of the whole tranzi movement, is once again in trouble.

Banners, mugs and T-shirts with the slogan: “Today Gaza, tomorrow the West Bank and Jerusalem” have appeared in the Palestine, with the UN Development Programme logo on them. Apart from the unfortunate but probably deliberate echo of the old “Today Germany, tomorrow the world” slogan, this is not precisely promoting the idea of the a “roadmap to peace”, unless it is the peace of the graveyard we are talking about.

UN officials cannot agree on the party line:

“Kemal Dervis, a UNDP official, responded to a complaint from the American Jewish Congress by saying that the UNDP "cannot be involved in political messaging" and it was "not at all acceptable" that its logo was used.

Yet Timothy Rothermel, head of the organisation's Palestinian programme, was quoted on Fox News, the American cable channel, as saying that the slogan was "consistent with the relevant UN resolutions and Security Council resolutions about the status of Palestine".

UNDP officials argue that the Palestinian Authority has the freedom to use the UN money without each element being reviewed by the world body.”

The US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, has protested at the “inappropriate and unacceptable” use of the logo. Given the trouble the UN is in already, it seems foolhardy, to put it mildly, for its Development Programme officials to behave in this way. So far there have been no protests from any of the European ambassadors and no comment from the EU itself (surely the common foreign and security policy has something to say on the matter). Presumably, they are still on holiday.

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