Short Takes on the Middle East
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Too Good To Be True
As predictable as the sun rising in the East, the Palestinians felt that the IDF killing of three Palestinians in the Qalandia refugee camp was sufficient reason to postpone, cut short or cancel—at least—today’s meeting in Jericho of the bi-lateral talks begun a few weeks ago in Washington. The talks had just begun and were moving along quietly and boringly. While the attack may well have been preventable and can be seen as provocative, both sides need to commit themselves to the talks for the long haul without fits and starts. This is precisely the modality which had sabotaged all previous efforts at negotiations. Regardless of how the incident happened and who was responsible for precipitating it, this break-off of the talks follows the precise pattern of previous efforts which Secretary Kerry was trying to break.
There is one possibility which may explain why the Palestinians chose this moment to break off the negotiations. With the declining support for Hamas and the distress that appears to be developing in Gaza as Egypt continues to move back to military control, Abbas well might have felt a need to build a wall of support at this moment with his right flank. Jumping back from the table and revisiting all the old canards against Israel might be good for the Arab street. The Qalandia incident gave him the opportunity to move. He also will now have a chance to make fresh demands on Israel in exchange of re-starting the talks, including accelerated prisoner repatriation. For Kerry it is a setback.
Attacking the U.N.
The pervasive irrationality in the Middle East continues to defy imagination. After negotiating endlessly about letting U.N. inspectors enter Syria, the Assad Government acquiesced. After rebuffing their demand to check the area under question from whence the recent chemical gas came, the Syrians agreed to permit access; after they no doubt had totally sanitized the area. Then when the U.N. goes out to the sites they are attacked. Why let them in at all if you cannot provide them adequate protection and control your own forces.
Dead U.N. workers prove nothing and say nothing, except that: “It’s the Middle East.” Almost as crazy as Ban Ki Moon reportedly saying there is no Israel bias at the U.N.
No Decision Yet On Syria
The U.S. and its allies appear truly appear to be planning some type of response to the apparently now confirmed use of chemical gas by the Syrian Government. At this point it is seems the President will commit to a fight from the air. Israel certainly has as much at stake in the nature of the conflict and it especially its outcome. What has not been discussed is probably the human intelligence that the Israelis are providing the western allies and the critical nature of this information for all the planning efforts.
The Saudi and the Gulf States may be providing the monies for the rebels and also much of the weapons, but in all likelihood it is Israeli intel on the ground which is critical to supplement the American electronic surveillance and intelligence. In the Middle East it has always been human intelligence which has been starkly lacking from the Western intelligence, and which Israel usually possesses.