Haggai's Place

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Your humble narrator is...
...a research analyst at a think tank in the Washington DC area. Born in Israel, raised in Kentucky, movie fanatic and sports nut.
My first-hand account of the Palestinian divestment conference at the U. of Michigan

:: Friday, February 28, 2003 ::

I wonder who he might be talking about
From a Washington Post profile of Richard Myers, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
"Dick Myers is very comfortable in his skin," said a retired general who has known Myers for more than a decade. "He's never felt he had to prove something. He doesn't want to be an icon; he doesn't want to be colorful; he doesn't want to be secretary of state some day."
Hmm, let's see...Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, icon, secretary of state...oh, sounds familiar. Someone doesn't like Colin Powell.
10:48 PM
It looks like there's going to be a special edition DVD of Throne of Blood, Akira Kurosawa's adaptation of Macbeth. I saw it at a free screening a couple of years ago. Two of the reels got switched around, so the movie was out of order (I noticed it early because I was familiar with Macbeth), but there wasn't much complaining to be done since it was free anyway! The ending of that movie is really spectacular, quite different from the play. I don't know anything about Kurosawa's political leanings, but it seemed like a warning to the Japanese people about the perils of letting tyrants murder their way to the top--more specifically, that the people would have to take matters into their own hands if it happened again. My roommate, a graduate student in English, said he would have given me an "A" for that interpretation! I'm certainly eager to see what the various DVD features might have to say about that.
1:58 PM
:: Thursday, February 27, 2003 ::
It's mainly about politics
Events of the past two and a half years have certainly laid to rest the hopes that Arafat's acceptance of the Oslo accords marked the beginning of a decisive rapproachement between Israel and the Palestinians. So what was the whole thing all about from the Palestinians' point of view? It certainly seems like an implementation of the old PLO "phased plan" to accept the acquisition of some land from Israel as part of a long-term plan to destroy it. It's now obvious that Arafat never intended to accept a final-status deal with Israel as the final step of the Oslo process. But did Oslo reflect a conscious decision on the Palestinians' part that the "phased plan" approach was better than what they had been trying before?

Nope. If it did, then their decision to reject the autonomy plan that was part of the Israeli-Egyptian Camp David agreement becomes completely inexplicable from the Palestinian point of view. The "phased plan" was announced in 1974, and the Camp David talks were in 1978. Oslo turned out to be a pretty significantly worse deal for the Palestinians than the autonomy plan would have been, since Israel had built a lot more settlements in the 15 years between Camp David and Oslo. This was readily apparent to the Palestinians in the late '70s--the longer they waited, the more settlements they would have to deal with. So if the plan since '74 was to feign acceptance of Israel while surreptitiously gearing up for an implementation of the "phased plan," Camp David I already presented the Palestinians with an opportunity to do that.

Another thing that made Oslo a tougher thing for the Palestinians to accept than Camp David I was the fact that they had to do it themselves. Oslo was a completely bi-lateral deal between Israel and the PLO, with only minor encouragement from Egypt. But there was an excuse available to the Palestinians when Sadat accepted Israel--the end of the PLO's "entanglement" strategy. Sadat's acceptance of peace marked the end of the hope that the Arab countries could someday unite and destroy Israel in battle. The PLO's use of terror had always reflected that hope:
Fatah, Arafat’s staging ground before he became chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), opened its terrorist campaign against Israel at the beginning of 1965 with the aim of implementing what Arafat himself, in his first public interview, called as “the entanglement strategy.” This involved using sabotage across the borders in order to force Israel to adopt a retaliatory policy against the Arab countries from which the Palestinian attacks were launched. This would in turn force the Arabs to step up their military preparedness. This cycle of action-retaliation-reaction was meant to lead to a gradual escalation of tension on the borders, and eventually all out war against Israel. The Syrian military activity against Israel in the contention over the sources of the Jordan River, and Egypt’s unhappy decision to deploy its troops in the Sinai did indeed trigger the Six Day War in 1967, but with disastrous consequences for the Arab armies and governments.
With that plank of their strategy neutralized by the Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement, Arafat could have used that as an excuse to join forces with Sadat, saying that there was no choice but to go along with it (while keeping the phased strategy intact). None of this is idle speculation--the one thing that Arafat has always been good at is keeping the Palestinian struggle going with himself as its leader. This was clearly something he had to consider in '78, with the full knowledge that a similar decision could be a lot harder for him to make in the future. So why didn't the Palestinians do it then? If the "phased plan" was really the strategy all along, why pass up such a good opportunity to start implementing it, knowing that it would almost certainly be tougher to do so in the future?

The answer is that the international and regional situations were very different in '78 and '93. The most obvious difference is the end of the Cold War. Without a superpower patron, and without the reliable political support of the entire Soviet bloc behind them, the Palestinans' international position had taken a major hit. Then there was the Gulf War, where Arafat's support for Saddam led to the cutting off of most of his funding from the Arab states. The PLO rejected the Camp David I plan because they could afford to do so without losing the financial and political support that they had from much of the rest of the world. But in '93, they were out of options. The only way to stay relevant was to drop their stance of total rejectionism.

The point I'm making is that the Palestinians didn't accept Oslo as a devilishly clever strategic move in their struggle to destroy Israel, although that struggle continues today--they accepted it because the international situation at the time left them with no choice. Arafat himself is clearly beyond hope as a potential peacemaker and has to be replaced for there to be any chance of progress. But if Israel ignores the importance of much of the international community's view of the conflict, there won't be peace either. Military force, which is completely necessary and justified in fighting terrorism, isn't enough to bring peace--not by itself.
2:41 PM
:: Tuesday, February 25, 2003 ::
In other words, never
Apparently the far-right National Union bloc might be joining the new coalition in Israel:
The Likud came closer to icing a coalition deal with the National Union party Tuesday afternoon after a telephone conversation between National Union leader Avigdor Lieberman in snowbound Jerusalem and Likud negotiators in Tel Aviv yielded a "creative solution" on the issue of Palestinian statehood.

Lieberman had refused to accept any mention of a Palestinian state in the new government's policy guidelines. But the two sides agreed on Tuesday that the issue of Palestinian statehood would only be brought before the cabinet "if and when it becomes relevant."
Yet another instance of the peace-destroying objective alliance between the Palestinians and the Israeli extreme right.
1:01 PM
:: Monday, February 24, 2003 ::
What's next, Tic-Tac-Toe?
Apparently Saddam wants to have a debate with Bush before the US brings him down:
In an interview with CBS News anchor Dan Rather, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has challenged President Bush to a live international television and radio debate, CBS reported Monday.
What other challenges does Saddam have in mind? I'm reminded of the Nazi playwright in the movie "The Producers" who claims that "Hitler could have danced the pants off of Churchill!"
5:29 PM
:: Sunday, February 23, 2003 ::
"The Dividends of Delay"
According to William Arkin, the past few months of diplomacy have been beneficial to American military planning for Iraq, contrary to the moaning of the superhawks who have wanted to invade every day for the past year while deriding inspections as appeasement:
Months of delay have brought tangible benefits for U.S. military units as they prepared for war.

First, the support base and the command and control setups are much stronger today than planners anticipated a few months ago.

Second, constant bombing in the southern no-fly zone has significantly degraded Iraqi air defenses and communications networks; the bombing has also created pockets inside the country that are isolated from Baghdad. Iraqi forces themselves are weakened and immobilized, psychologically battered by the tensions of the yearlong stand-off.

Finally, American intelligence has benefited enormously from the work of the United Nations inspectors. They have visited hundreds of factories and military bases, including the Iraqi missile force, indirectly updating U.S. target folders and verifying where weapons of mass destruction are not being hidden.

12:18 PM

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