People and Politics Don't Worry About This Temporary Cease-fire Becoming a Permanent Arrangement

Those who think, or hope, the hudna - like everything else around here that is temporary - will turn into a permanent arrangement, are wrong.

Those who think, or hope, the hudna - like everything else around here that is temporary - will turn into a permanent arrangement, are wrong. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon won a promise from U.S. President George W. Bush that no Palestinian state - provisional, temporary or permanent - will be established until Hamas is dismantled. More importantly, people in the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem are saying that Bush made the same promise to leaders of the American Jewish community. As far as he's concerned, Hamas is a terror organization, and terrorism must be eradicated. Period.

True, on the same occasion, the American Jews were told that Bush takes seriously the road map's demands that Israel cease putting up the separation fence on land that doesn't belong to it and dismantle outposts on hilltops owned by others, but the Jews were under the impression that if Hamas isn't dismantled, the road map will be folded up.

Abu Mazen and his minister for security, Mohammed Dahlan, aren't even considering dismantling Hamas. First, because in any case, both are already suspected by those in the Palestinian street of being Israel's proxies, and dismantling Hamas is identified as doing Sharon's bidding. Second, because there is no law in the Palestinian Authority prohibiting political activity and charities. The way out of the thicket was found, in of all places, at Israel's Foreign Ministry - or more precisely - in the statements it made. According to the ministry, dismantling the outposts has nothing to do with negotiations with the Palestinians, but is an internal Israeli matter regarding the rule of law and order. The Palestinian Authority's current official position is that dismantling Hamas and other armed organizations is not about negotiations with Israel, but an internal Palestinian matter regarding the rule of law and order. Abu Mazen has already told Bush that the PA rejects any attempt by any foreign element to dictate which means should be used to impose law and order in the territories given over to the PA.

To prove this is no gimmick, Abu Mazen's advisers are working on legislation that would severely punish anyone caught carrying a weapon without a permit as well as have the weapon confiscated. The law will say that only members of the Palestinian security forces and police, and citizens with special permits, will be allowed to bear arms. The name of Hamas or any other organization won't be named in the law. That means it's a direct challenge to all the rejectionist groups, including Fatah's own Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the other militias affiliated with the PLO or PA.

To win the street's support, Abu Mazen and Dahlan have to get as many prisoners back on to as many streets as possible. Freeing a dozen prisoners from five neighborhoods and five refugee camps is much more preferable than returning 20 prisoners to the same neighborhood. Hamas has already announced it has no intention of giving up its weapons as long as the reason for holding them - the occupation - remains in force. That means that if Israel continues building the separation fence and avoids dismantling outposts and the peace process doesn't make any progress, the cease-fire will go down in history as one of those rare occasions when something temporary indeed remains temporary.

Suspending disbelief

According to the latest poll among Palestinians by Khalil Shkaki, the director of the Ramallah-based Center for Palestine Research and Studies, a large majority - 73 percent - of the Palestinian public supported a year-long hudna in the middle of June. The support for a cessation of violence for an undetermined period of time was even higher - 80 percent; in April support for an unlimited cease-fire was at 71 percent.

The poll also showed that half of the Palestinians support the PA's efforts to stop attacks against Israel in the event of a cease-fire, while 43 percent oppose such efforts. However, 76 percent believe that in the event of a cease-fire, attacks would harm the peace process. On the other hand, 58 percent supported Hamas' initial refusal of a cease-fire (the poll was taken before the cease-fire was announced last week), while 67 percent feared that the refusal could lead to internal clashes between Palestinians.

The poll found that only 34 percent of the 1,318 people interviewed in the territories and East Jerusalem were ready to gamble that Abu Mazen will be able to overcome Hamas. On the Israeli side, only 21 percent believe that Abu Mazen will be able to overcome Hamas, but 63 percent believe Sharon can overcome the settlers. And there are those who miss PA Chairman Yasser Arafat: 36 percent of the Palestinians believe Arafat has a better chance than Abu Mazen to strike a deal with the Israelis, while 21 percent believe Abu Mazen has the better chance.

Parallel and in coordination with Shkaki's poll, Dr. Yaacov Shamir of the Hebrew University's Truman Institute conducted a poll among 1,002 Israelis - half of them West Bank and Gaza settlers. The two researchers wanted to know the extent of "mutual recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people and Palestine as the state of the Palestinian people after the establishment of a Palestinian state and resolution of all the outstanding issues."

Among the Palestinians, 52 percent accepted the statement, while 46 percent opposed it. Among the Israelis, 65 percent accepted the statement, and 35 percent opposed it. Yet the two sides are very skeptical about the other side's readiness to recognize the national identity of its neighbor. Barely a third of the Israelis believe the idea of mutual recognition is acceptable to a majority of Palestinians, compared to 56 percent who believe there is no such majority on the Palestinian side. Only 37 percent of the Palestinians believe the Israeli side is ready to recognize their nationality.

Another equally surprising poll conducted by Shkaki among 4,500 refugees from the territories, Jordan and Lebanon shows just how complicated the issue of the recognition of the Jewish state is, considering it is tied to the right of return issue. The poll found that on the one hand, more than 90 percent of those questioned refuse to give up the right of return. But when the refugees were asked to choose one of the five alternatives detailed in the Clinton framework, "on the assumption that Israel recognizes the right of return or UN General Assembly Resolution 194," most chose to be resettled in the Palestinian state or in the territories that the new state gets from Israel in exchange for those parts of the West Bank annexed to Israel. Only a tiny minority - less than 10 percent among the refugees in the territories - said they wanted to become Israeli citizens. Shkaki said the poll shows that if Israel decides finally to deal with the right of return - the symbol that became a nightmare - reality will overcome the symbol, and the nightmare will disappear.

Secret prisons

Since Sunday it's official. There are secret detention centers in Israel. In response to a question by Meretz MK Zahava Gal-On, the party's faction whip, the director of the department for special operations in the State Attorney's office, Talia Hasson, told the Knesset Constitution, Justice and Law Committee that indeed, such a secret facility exists. Hasson said she even visited the facility, which is known as "Facility 1391," adding that "today" there are no Shin Bet detainees being held there. The implication is that Palestinian detainees were indeed held in a place that nobody could visit, that elected public representatives do not supervise and that international law does not recognize. In other words, the Israeli security services do make people disappear.

In response to a High Court petition by the Center for the Defense of the Individual, the State Attorney's office claims the facility, "if at all," is for special cases, like people who are not residents of the territories. Two Palestinians caught while trying to infiltrate from Jordan and charged with belonging to Hamas were held in the detention center for 38 days. One of them, Bashar Julda, 50, told AP reporter Gavin Rabinowitz, that they were taken blindfolded to the detention center. The soldiers gave them a variety of answers to the question where they were: twice he was told he was on the moon, and once he was told he was in space.

Rumors say (and after all, usually, its existence is officially denied) that the facility hosted the two kidnapped hostages from Lebanon, Mustafa Dirani and Sheikh Abdul Karim Obed. A description of the detention center that appears in an affidavit Dirani provided the High Court of Justice, matches the description Julda gave to the AP reporter.