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The Rice Capades By: P. David Hornik
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, October 06, 2006

With Condoleezza Rice visiting the Middle East this week for talks with Arab and Israeli leaders, on Tuesday Israel’s left-wing daily Haaretz printed an editorial that in some ways was remarkably reality-attuned.

“The situation in Gaza is worse now than it was a year ago, before Israel evacuated the settlements and left the Philadelphi route,” Haaretz—which fervently supported Israel’s withdrawal at the time—admits. “This is true also of Sderot and other southern [Israeli] communities. The Haniyeh government has caused troubles for both sides, and the worst of this is its failure to prevent terror attacks, the digging of tunnels and abduction attempts.”


The editorial goes on to say:


The West Bank, which seemingly has disappeared from the map of Israeli-Palestinian conflict zones, is teeming with potential suicide bombers who have been thwarted by the Shin Bet security service, the Israel Defense Forces and the separation fence. The lesson is that security is a necessary pre-condition for peace. Israelis, for the most part, are prepared to make concessions over territory in return for peace, but they are not prepared to sacrifice their security and leave it in the hands of Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria or Iran. The immediate challenge facing Rice is to bring about [kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad] Shalit’s release, to stop the terror from Gaza and seal off the Philadelphi route, lest her visit turn into a prologue for war rather than peace.


Mon dieu—these are words a member of the hated Israeli “Right” could have written.

Haaretz, though, does not go so far as to indecorously mention Rice’s special contribution to this dismal situation. It was a little less than a year ago, in mid-November 2005, that Rice forcefully pushed through an agreement to effectively remove all Israeli control over the Philadelphi route (the Gaza-Sinai border) and leave it in the hands of Palestinian, Egyptian, and European “monitors.” She thereby ensured that an already-bad situation would not only stay bad but get worse.

As Yuval Diskin, head of Israel’s General Security Service, reported to the Israeli cabinet last week, 15 tons of explosives crossed Philadelphi to Gaza from August 2005 to August 2006—and just since last August, “four tons of standard explosives, hundreds of rifles, thousand of bullets and other kinds of weaponry and munitions that I don't want to detail have been smuggled from Egypt.”

He added that “The Egyptians know who the smugglers are and aren’t taking care of them. They even received intelligence from us on the matter.” He apparently didn’t even regard the Palestinian and European “monitors” as worth mentioning.

The situation is so dire that even Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who was one of the prime movers of the disengagement, said in response that he is “not satisfied” with the situation on the Philadelphi Route and would raise the matter with Rice when she came.


But in Rice’s talks in Israel this week, the hellish life of Israelis in Sderot and other near-Gaza communities—a hell for which she bears a significant part of the responsibility—does not seem to have figured at all. Despite Israel’s intensified military activity in Gaza since Shalit’s abduction in June, in September Gaza Palestinians fired 45 Qassams into Israel, a slight increase over August. On September 26, a female soldier living in Sderot was wounded and several civilians went into shock when a rocket fell. On September 30 another rocket hit a residential building in the town and wounded three.


But Rice’s talks with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah and with Olmert in Jerusalem studiously followed the script of “strengthening” good-cop Palestinians—including the entire Fatah-PLO establishment with its overtly terrorist Tanzim and Martyr Brigades militias—while quarantining Hamas as the source of all evil. Indeed, before meeting Abbas, Rice met in East Jerusalem with other PA leaders including, reportedly, Hussein al-Sheikh, a close associate of the Martyrs Brigades.


The fact that Hamas did not take power in a coup but was elected last January by a majority of Palestinians was wiped from the slate. So was the fact that the Martyrs Brigades—maintained and funded by Abbas’s Fatah—is responsible along with Islamic Jihad for all suicide bombings in Israel over the past two years.   


Instead Rice “promised Chairman Abbas to double our efforts to improve the living conditions of Palestinians,” as she said in a joint press conference with Abbas after the meeting. Rice also urged Olmert to transfer funds to the Palestinian Authority frozen by Israel since Hamas’s victory in January, and Haaretz reports the U.S. is “mildly” pressuring Israel to loosen its blockade of West Bank and Gaza crossings that are known conduits for terrorists and weapons.


One of these is the Rafiah crossing on the Philadelphi Route itself, which Israel has largely closed as part of its operations in Gaza since Shalit’s abduction. Again, mollifying Arabs and creating images of “movement” and “progress” trumps ominous realities on the ground.


Rice’s swing of the Middle East has the realpolitik aim of getting unsavory Arab Sunni regimes and actors to unite against the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Hamas axis. With such a grand objective, details like a kidnapped Israeli soldier, besieged Israeli civilians, and the terrorist, anti-American, and anti-Israeli record of the PA faction Rice seeks to strengthen may seem like negligible details to her.


How much better if she and the U.S. administration could learn that further empowering the terrorist stranglehold that the Arab and Muslim world is building around Israel contributes nothing to any pacification or stabilization—the opposite.


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P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva. He blogs at http://pdavidhornik.typepad.com/. He can be reached at pdavidh2001@yahoo.com.

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