Thursday, February 09, 2006

Common sense in Congress, if not in the White House or the State Department

Today, fledgeling Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was warmly received in Washington but was savaged by Condi Rice at their joint news conference after their meeting.

The Israeli and US positions on the Palestinians and Hamas are poles apart, and Rice made that apparent. Rice had rejected in advance Israel's refusal to negotiate with Hamas and the labeling of the new Hamas government as a terror state. She also briskly dismissed caretaker PM Ehud Olmert’s statement Tuesday, in which he stated his intention to unilaterally establish permanent borders and the separation of the Jewish state from the Palestinians and to hand over large West Bank areas while retaining the main Jewsih areas like Gush Etzion and Ariel, keeping a united Jerusalem and controling Israel’s eastern border.

These are matters for final-status negotiations, Rice said dismissively. "Under no circumstances should anyone try and do that in a preemptive or predetermined way, because these are issues for negotiation at final status.”

Before she left, Rice said the new Palestinian leadership “must recognize Israel’s right to exist,” and added: "We certainly hope that over the next period of time there will be a partner for Israel to deal with. That is everyone's hope for the roadmap. That depends on what happens in the Palestinian territories."

Rice had her say first, and then abruptly walked out of the room, leaving leaving Livni alone in front of the assembled media to brand a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority a terrorist entity leading to “a terror state.”

Livni then proceeded to say that international custom requires sanctions against a state ruled by a designated terrorist organizationlike Hamas.

Obviously, the Bush Administration is much more interested in propping up Palestinian Chairman Abbas and keeping the aid flowing as usual than in providing support for Israel and the Olmert government.

Bush has yet to follow through on his speech of June 24th, 2004 conditoning aid and support for the Palestinians on their renouncing terrorism and violence and recognizing Israel's right to exist as a Jewish State.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

The mood in Congress, however, is very different.

American lawmakers and pro-Israel advocates in Washington on working on legislation isolating the P.A. in response to the Hamas victory. Efforts to prop up Abbas, especially with American aid, are meeting stiff and broad bipartisan opposition on Capitol Hill, some of which is from Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Florida Republican who chairs the House of Representatives' subcommittee on the Middle East.

Ros-Lehtinen introduced a bill this week that would make it illegal for the Bush administration to give direct financial support to any wing of the P.A., and would impose conditions on granting indirect aid through nongovernmental organizations.

Ros-Lehtinen said that despite past displays of support from the United States, "the response from Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] and the P.A. leadership was to do nothing and allow the terrorists to continue unfettered, killing innocent human beings." She added, "There should be no distinction between those who carry out terrorist attacks and those who train them, finance them, give them safe haven, or allow them to continue their terrorist activities untouched."

Gee, wasn't that the Bush Doctrine, Dubbya?

A staffer for a Democrat on Ros-Lehtinen's committee concurred: "The idea of preserving Abu Mazen as a mask on the monster in order to deal with the monster is absurd. It's putting lipstick on a pig. It's delusional. The administration has to realize that it is over for Abu Mazen."

Ros-Lehtinen introduced her bill — along with Rep. Tom Lantos, the ranking Democratic member of the House Committee on International Relationslast week, and the bill makes no distinction between the P.A. president and the P.A. Cabinet and enjoys broad bi-partisan support in the House.

The bill goes much further than the demands made by the Bush administration and even by Israel — including a requirement that the P.A. "publicly acknowledge Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state." If the demands are not met, the bill calls for the P.A. to be slapped with sanctions, including restrictions on American exports, a ban on American visas for anyone affiliated with the P.A., and restrictions on the movement of officials representing the P.A. or the PLO in America.

Washington insiders predict that the administration will try to water down Ros-Lehtinen and Lantos's bill but would not oppose it.

Hamas leaders said that they intend to form a government within weeks. They indicated that the Cabinet would comprise Hamas activists and exclude politically unaffiliated `independents', most of whom ranwith Hamas backing.

Hamas officials are not worried at all about threats of reduced aid from the West.

"Western nations can take their aid and get lost," the leader of Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank, Mahmoud Zahar, said in an interview with The Washington Times. Hamas officials said that Arab and Muslim regimes have indicated that they would fill the financial void. In view of the record of Arab donors fulfilling their pledges, it remains to be seen whether Islamic aid would reach the level of western aid...about $1 billion a year over the past four years, most of which has disappeared.


Dan Zaremba said...

Why does Condi do it, why?
Can the White house really be so blind?

Freedom Fighter said...

Not so much blind as walking a thin line
and doing a balancing act between various factions.