Who is The Neutral Party?

It is not obvious how security and political problems are to be practically parted when we come to talk of the Mideast dossier, neither it is more obvious to say why policy and security become distinguished topics precisely when the situation explodes and grows unbearable, whereas the common-sense assumes we just acknowledge that security loses strength only when policy collapses in absurd, ineffectual nonsense. And since this is the case- if ever acknowledged-, it would have been much more useful that the American government helps to understanding and handling the reasons which caused the present deadlock. For it is not that difficult to announce a one- sided cease-fire, particularly when it concerns State apparatus – : army, police forces, etc…-, but the real difficulty is about how to transform it into a status-quo and to build upon that. Some commentators have actually talked about a ” one-sided cease-fire” – the Israeli of course- since a few days, as if in the front of Israel on the other side there is an army whose commandment is refusing any advise to cease fire too! Now, people world-wide knows that no such an army exists on the Palestinian side, and what Arafat has announced concerns only his “special forces” and “Fatah”… who – as a matter of fact – have never penetrated Israel or led an offensive over there. So, these organizations are not those who are really concerned with the cease-fire, but rather “Hamas” and the “Islamic Jihad” and alike organizations who are actually opposing Yasser Arafat, and Israel, and the whole Oslo process. The point is however that these people do not recognize Arafat authority or at least are not obedient to the PA. We know, for example, that during the marches commemorating the 1967 war, they raised slogans asking Arafat not to join the security negotiations with Israel and America, and appealing to continuing the Intifada and the suicide operations  inside Israel, until its army withdrawal from the occupied territories and the freeze on settlement. These are in fact what the Israelis call “the political conditions” which blocked the former security negotiations.

On June 6, – the day of the CIA chief George Tenet’s arrival to the region- Mr. Abdelaziz Alrentissi – Hamas spokesman – declared to an Israeli radio that at the last meeting with Yasser Arafat, the latter did not order them to stop the military operations.

Would he have done so, he added, Hamas was under no obligation to carry on his orders, for it is an independent movement , with its own strategy and goals. On the same day, the “Washington Post” reported about ” divisions among Palestinians ” that ” may undermine peace efforts.” If a group of supporters were still loyal to the chief of the PA, the islamists were shouting in the streets against the cease-fire. Another Hamas spokesman – Mahmud Zahhar – told reporters in Gaza: ” We are not changing our policy. Resistance means to attack the Israelis everywhere by all means.”

That is why it is convenient to remind ourselves of this framework in order to insure some relativity in our analyses and appreciations. It is noticeable that some commentators did not hesitate to compare Tenet’s mission to the dove from Noah’s ark : ” he is being sent to see if there is any dry land , any place to start”! But this kind of talk is, at the present time, more resembling to a delirium than to anything else. And this is not only because it is hard – if not merely impossible – to figure out that at the head of the CIA there is a “dove”, but also because the” Agency” is not innocent as regards the tragedy that unfolded since months. For it has been actually associated to the three cornered game that led Israel and the PA – under Washington supervision first, then after its apparent withdrawal – to the current deadlock. Mr. Tenet has accomplished at least ten alike missions in the Middle East during Clinton’s administration, and when President Bush decided to distance the policy of his predecessor, he froze the role of the CIA, as it was rumored . Yet, under the pressure of the events, it seems that he decided not only to maintain Tenet in his post – against the wishes of his own party hard-liners- but also to send him out again in what sounds to be ” an impossible mission” in the Middle East.

Now – if we exclude the fools – nobody doubts that Mr. Tenet holds in his hands enough assets enabling him to give an important boost to the former process. For he has data and connections, and he is thus as influent in Washington as in the Mideast, albeit the kind of influence he is able to exert cannot be precise or even compared to the influence of the State Department , or the Pentagon, or even the White House, at the same time that all these institutions and others cooperate with his “Agency” and need some of its varied services. Yet, once again the question is still unanswered : What is the point of trying to separate policy from security?

Everybody knows though that the real problem between Israelis and Palestinians does not consist in violence or counter-violence. These are only the results. The true problem is the political deadlock that issued from The Israeli refusal of withdrawing from the occupied territories and freezing the settlements. And the conflict is , despite its complication, quite simple if we want to sum it up : For the Arabs, changing the current Israeli policy is the way that insures security, stability, and peace. But for the Israelis, granting security, stability, and peace is the way that insures changing the Israeli policy towards the Arabs.

Obviously, there is no exit from this maze. But here is the need to extern, neutral parties that can mediate and exert a moral influence in order to soften the extremist positions and wipe out the sclerotic paranoia. But let’s ask now: who are these neutral parties? Is it the CIA ? Or the White House ? Is it the European Union ? Or the United Nations?…

Hichem Karoui is a writer and journalist living in Paris, France.

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