What are they up to?
The Fatah operatives suspected of plotting to assassinate Prime Minister Ehud Olmert were rearrested last week and are currently being held in custody, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad told Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik during a meeting Sunday afternoon…
According to [Shabak head Yuval] Diskin’s report, Israel obtained intelligence on the planned assassination attempt and transferred the details of the plot to the PA, whose security forces promptly arrested three of the suspects. However, security officials said that the suspects were released two months later despite having confessed to their involvement in the plot. — Jerusalem Post
Israeli politicians responded predictably:
“Even assuming goodwill on the part of Abbas… we’ve just seen a red warning light. Don’t delude yourselves – [Abbas] doesn’t control his own forces. This is neither the time nor the place for agreements [with the Palestinians],” [Likud MP Yuval] Steinitz said shortly after Diskin made his report to the cabinet.
However, Meretz chairman Yossi Beilin told Army Radio, despite the report of the planned assassination, Israel could not “be the prisoner of those elements who don’t want the parley to take place.”
One interpretation, apparently shared by both Steinitz and Beilin, is that the ‘assassins’ were part of an extremist group opposed to Abbas, who appears to favor a deal with Israel (at least, a deal that meets his specifications).
Another is that the whole thing was a bit of drama designed to show Israel what she will be dealing with if she does not come to agreement with Abbas.
As I wrote yesterday, Abbas is pulling out all the stops in trying to push for a settlement that basically replicates the Palestinian interpretation of the Taba proposals: borders close to the 1967 lines, with some land swaps; re-division of Jerusalem with Palestinian sovereignty over the Temple Mount area (they accepted an Israeli ‘relationship’ to the Western Wall); and Israeli assumption of moral responsibility for the Palestinian refugee problem, including the right of return or compensation.
Nobody knows how far both sides will go towards a compromise, but it looks today as though Israel is being asked to choose between a very bad agreement or war.
Some people argue that a bad agreement is better than war. But the worst case is a bad agreement followed by war anyway.