Sunday, August 19, 2007

Fatah militants to halt attacks on Israel

By ISABEL KERSHNER

New York Times, via The Seattle Times

NABLUS, West Bank — Scores of West Bank Palestinian militants taken off Israel's wanted list as a gesture to President Mahmoud Abbas are handing in weapons and signing pledges to cease violence against Israel, saying they want to give Abbas a chance to consolidate his rule.

Interviews and encounters with more than a dozen members of the gun-toting, notoriously unruly al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, associated with Abbas' Fatah faction, indicate that at least in the West Bank they are taking an open-ended timeout.

"Everything must come to an end," said Mahdi Maraka, an al-Aqsa Brigades leader from Al Ein refugee camp here in Nablus, a traditional hotbed of Fatah militancy in the northern West Bank. "There are two tracks, the political and the military. Now is the time for the political stage."

In recent years in the West Bank, aside from occasional shootings on the roads, the al-Aqsa gunmen, who are said to number in the hundreds, mostly have confined themselves to engaging Israeli soldiers who have come looking for them on their turf.

Hamas has been adhering to a unilateral cease-fire for its own reasons, its militants underground.

All the recent suicide bombings in Israel have been carried out by the extremist group Islamic Jihad.

For both Israel and the al-Aqsa Brigades in the West Bank, the emerging cease-fire is an experiment. The disarmed gunmen say they know exactly where their weapons are and who is safeguarding them. And Israel could always draw up a new wanted list.

But some of the al-Aqsa militants say that the seven years of this intifada have achieved nothing, and all of those interviewed said they want to give Abbas, the Palestinian president and leader of the embattled Fatah faction, a chance to negotiate an independent Palestinian state.

"We didn't want to be obstacles in the way of the national project," said Ibrahim Sahli, a senior al-Aqsa commander for the northern West Bank better known by his nom de guerre, Abu Jabal, or father of the mountain.

The fatigue of war colors some of the men's conversations.

Inside Preventive Security headquarters in Bethlehem, an al-Aqsa member named Khalil Abayat, 45, said he was five years on the run, "moving from one mountain to another, one cave to another," sheltering in abandoned houses, with only fleeting visits home to his wife and 12 children.

His brother and cousin were killed by Israeli forces and two of his sons are in Israeli jails. Asked if he is retiring from the resistance, he said: "Enough. I'm exhausted. I just want to rest."



Last Sunday, with Israel seeking ways to bolster Abbas as a brake on Hamas, Israeli and Palestinian security officials announced that they had agreed on a list of 178 al-Aqsa Brigades members to be offered immunity for past deeds; Maraka, Abu Jabal and most of their cell members were on it. Security officials would not say what any of the individuals on the list were wanted for, beyond saying that they had all been involved in "security-related activity against Israel."

The gunmen signed a pledge to give up all anti-Israeli activity, handed in their weapons and agreed to remain inside local Palestinian Authority Intelligence or Preventive Security compounds for a week and in their home cities for the next three months. They say they are now relying on Abbas and the authority for protection from Hamas.

If Israel is satisfied that the former fighters are committed to their pledge, they will be able to leave their fugitive lives behind and become salaried employees of the official security services from which most of them originally sprung.

The deal has proved so popular that there is already talk of another list, and al-Aqsa militants seem ready to line up for it. "I don't know anyone who doesn't want to be on it," Maraka said.

Naturally, there is deep skepticism about how long any lull in the violence can last.

"In Palestinian history there are no beginnings and no ends," said Mahdi Abdul Hadi, director of Passia, a Palestinian research institute. "There are unfolding chapters, like waves in the sea." The al-Aqsa men are swimming with the tide, he said, "but they don't know where it will take them."

Like the some other groups in the first intifada — the Black Panthers and the Fatah Hawks — and Fatah's military wing, Al Asifa (The Storm) before them, the al-Aqsa Brigades may yet reappear, or be reincarnated under different name.

Much will now depend on Israel's willingness to adhere to the cease-fire with Fatah and engage in a serious peace effort toward the establishment of a Palestinian state, many Palestinians say.

"Deactivating terrorists is a step," said Miri Eisin, spokeswoman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "Let's see if it works, and if it does, we can move forward."

Whatever happens, said Qadura Fares, a Fatah politician in Ramallah and an associate of the jailed Barghouti, "there will never be a vacuum."

"It will be filled," he said, "with either dialogue and peace, or another round of confrontation."

3 Comments:

At 3:40 AM, Blogger Mad Zionist said...

Much will now depend on Israel's willingness to adhere to the cease-fire with Fatah and engage in a serious peace effort toward the establishment of a Palestinian state, many Palestinians say.

Great comedy. This was one of the most transparently spun propaganda pieces I've read in a long time. Nothing like sourcing your political bent with "many Palestinians say" as your hard news reference.

Fortunately, it takes but the mind of a child to sift through the political bias of the writer and dismiss it as pure bunk. No serious thinker would confuse this promotional writing style with objective journalism anymore than they would believe a beer commercial to be a legitimate report on the best choice for enjoying barley and hops.

It did give me a big laugh, though. What's next, a "hard news" story on how the Palestinian people are going to stop global warming while the Jews favor the destruction of cute, innocent little puppies?

 
At 2:45 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Madze:

A bit like your own blog then, this communiqué?

If (or rather when) peace eventually comes to the region, you'll forever lament it. Unfortunately for you the "all-or-nothing"-types usually end up with... nothing.

 
At 3:02 PM, Blogger Eitan Ha'ahzari said...

Interesting discussion you two have going here. And the Q pozed by Madze gave me a good laugh:

"What's next, a "hard news" story on how the Palestinian people are going to stop global warming while the Jews favor the destruction of cute, innocent little puppies?

I'm not objective so I will restrain from commenting...

 

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