Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Saudis trying to form a Palestinian unity government - with no recognition of Israel

The Saudis took a look at the gangland fiefdom known as `Palestine' and decided that all this random killing was bad for business, especially the business of destroying Israel. So they called the two rival capos in for a sit down in Mecca, the home turf of the Original Gangsta, real friendly like.

Hamas kingpin Khaled Mashaal came in from Damascus and Fatah boss Mahmoud `Mr. Moderate' Abbas met with the Saudis to do a little business.

Here's what the Saudis say they worked out:

The Saudis have reportedly let the Bush administration know that the Palestinian coalition government they're pushing for the two sides to accept will not - surprise! - meet one of the major Middle East Quartet conditions for recognition, and of course, all that aid money. The new government s not going to accept any prior accords with Israel including recognizing Israel's right to exist. This includes the peace agreements Arafat and the PLO signed with Israel in the past, the whole basis of Oslo.

Instead, the new Palestinian government is going to only "respect" and consider past agreements – not accept them or necessarily be bound by them.

In exchange for getting Hamas and Fatah to shake hands and limit their murderous ways to Jews, the Saudis are lobbying for the US and Europe to overlook this little lapse and start the aid flowing again to the Palestinian government.

The Saudis also reportedly told President Bush and vice president Dick Cheney, that if the embargo isn't lifted, the Saudis will fund the new government, to the tune of about $1 billion per year.

The Saudis are presenting it to the US this way: they've effectively removed Hamas from high office, the new Palestinian government will be headed by some neutral figure (Dahlan?) instead of Hamas boss Ismail Haniyeh and since key ministries will go to Fatah or independents, Hamas won't be an issue, even though the Palestinians are effectively abrogating all their past agreements and not recognizing Israel, and Hamas will still hold a majority in the new cabinet.

If we had a different President, I'm sure he would tell the Saudis to spend their money as they see fit and knock themselves out. And if Israel had a different Prime Minister, this would be ample grounds for torpedoing the Road Map and Oslo and treating the Palestinian Authority as a hostile government.

As it is, neither of these things will likely happen if this goes down. The Bush Administration will probably keep giving the Palestinians money and Israel, unless they turn things around, will increasingly be isolated and set up as the 21st century Munich.

The Saudis are also apparently prepared to not wait for the Bush Administration and are going right to the EU to persuade them to lift their embargo against the Hamas government. That probably won't be very hard.

The chief Saudi motivation in all this was to bid against Iran for Hamas' loyalty.The Saudis aren't officially mentioning of any break of Hamas ties with Iran, and they can't compete with the Mullahs when it comes to arms and military aid, but it's obvious they want a seat at the table.

It remains to be seen whether any agreements made between Meshaal and Mahmoud Abbas in Mecca play out on the ground in the Gaza Strip and West Bank...stay tuned!

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