Israel Must Focus on Fatah's Deeds, Not Its Words

Officials have criticized Fatah?s latest congress as reflecting too much of the old organization, but they fail to notice steps forward the group has taken.

As was reported in this column last week, the phrase "the state of the Jewish people" was omitted from the prime minister's remarks at the opening of the cabinet meeting when he presented to the ministers and the media his position on negotiations with the Palestinians.

Instead of that, he said that he was expecting "genuine recognition" from them of the state of Israel, and that was it. The Prime Minister's Bureau went to the trouble of pointing out this important update to the foreign diplomats.

Eagle-eyed diplomats made a note of the fact that Netanyahu had exercised self-restraint over the remarks made by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, at the sixth congress of the Fatah, and of the organization's announcement, both of which vehemently rejected the Israeli demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

In a break with his usual conduct, the prime minister did not look for weak spots in the Bethlehem texts and forwent the opportunity to gain points in the eyes of the public.

Netanyahu's silence is particularly salient against the background of the choir of senior ministers who have been competing with one another to raise their voices about the Fatah congress' decisions. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman drew the conclusion that "even in another 16 years there won't be peace with the Palestinians." Benny Begin told Yedioth Aharonoth "there are components in the revised plan of Fatah that we thought would no longer be part of the discourse of Fatah." It is as if Begin was waiting for the Fatah congress in order to establish that there is no Palestinian partner. In his words, their aim is the liberation of Palestine "and that will continue until the Zionist entity is annihilated."

Begin's anger was directed at the media, "which are not dealing with the congress at all." In radio interviews, he proposed to the media that they look at the Web site of the Middle East Media Research Institute which stated explicitly, so he said, that the congress had adopted the old Fatah document that called for the destruction of Israel.

And indeed, that is what is written there. However, the quote relies on two sites that define themselves as "unofficial" and "independent." After I pointed this out to Yigal Carmon, the institute's president, the reference refers people to the official Fatah site.

The organization's old document does indeed appear on the Fatah site but it does not make the slightest mention of the latest congress, which may indicate that the site has not been updated. On the other hand, it contains numerous documents, including the Arab countries' peace initiative that proposes peace and normalization to Israel if it withdraws to the 1967 lines.

In the institute's analysis, there is no hint of the fact that the peace initiative was mentioned six times in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' speech, which was approved by the congress as an official document.

A spokesman for the institute said in response that even Jibril Rajoub, who is considered one of the more moderate Fatah members, had stated on al-Jazeera television that the congress' decisions were reminiscent of those in the old document.

Let us assume that the organization has left the old document intact alongside the new platform. Is the son of former prime minister Menachem Begin not proud of the leader of the Lehi underground? And which track would Benny Begin propose to the Palestinian leaders if their deputy prime minister were to declare that a group from Nablus would settle forever in the heart of Tel Aviv?

Legal fencing over 'security'

In the beginning, more than four years ago, the separation fence east of Ma'aleh Adumim "was meant to protect hundreds of thousands of citizens of the country and residents living in Jerusalem from terrorists leaving Judea and Samaria..."

This is what the state said in its response to the High Court of Justice which was discussing the petitions from the local councils of Abu Dis and Sawahara al-Sharqia and a number of residents of those villages.

Attorney Shlomo Lecker, who represented the petitioners, claimed that the route of the fence that jutted into their lands had nothing to do with the security of the residents of Israel but rather with the plan to expand settlements in the area.

Later the state declared that "it attaches importance to the personal intervention of the defense minister in the matter."

A bench headed by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch therefore ordered the minister to present his position within 45 days. That was on August 7, 2007. Two years passed, governments changed, and the fence that was supposed to protect hundreds of thousands of residents of this country from terrorists remained breached.

Two weeks ago, something happened in the supreme court. The sides agreed to drop the petitions and with that, the Ma'aleh Adumim fence fell. This occurred after the Defense Ministry announced that "for the time being, because of budgetary restraints and because of the other needs facing the defense establishment, building the fence along the route that had been discussed is no longer a top priority with regard to the completion of building a security fence throughout Judea and Samaria."

The court ruled that the state must pay the petitioners' expenses of only NIS 10,000. This was seen as a fair fee for a case that had been under discussion since 2005. The breach in the section of the fence at Ma'aleh Adumim will join the route in the region of Gush Etzion that is still to be heard by the High Court of Justice, and the "fingers" around Ariel that are dependent on the Americans' approval (which there is no chance of getting).

The Palestinian lands which were to have been contained by the fence in these three areas constitute more than half of the area of the West Bank Israeli governments have had their eyes on - 4.7 percent out of eight percent.

There were people who hoped that the security route would one day become a political border. They did not take into account the human rights organizations, the diligent Israeli attorneys, the retired army officers who care about public funding, and a few courageous high court justices who do not stand at attention when they hear the word "security." Thus it is that half of the fence along the seam-line which Shaul Mofaz, who was then defense minister, had promised in 2002 to complete by 2005, has still not been completed in the second half of 2009.