Daily Israel Report

Arabs Escalate Diplomatic War To Shrink Israel´s Borders

A growing pro-Arab world alliance is trying to shrink Israel's borders following government failures in the war, which left the U.S. weaker and gave the U.N. a stronger voice in the Middle East.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 9/13/2006, 10:30 PM / Last Update: 9/13/2006, 11:31 PM

The Arab diplomatic offensive includes a new Fatah-Hamas unity government announced a week after a move by Arab nations to win international support to force Israel to return to the 1949 Armistice borders.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni landed in the United States Wednesday night and will meet with American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to try to reach an agreement on strategy in the face of the developments.

The Foreign Minister will be followed on Thursday by PA president Mahmoud Abbas, who also will visit Washington. Both Livni and Abbas will travel to New York for the opening of the U.N. General Assembly.

The proposed Fatah-Hamas unity government is viewed by Israel and the United States as an attempt to circumvent the American-led ban on funds from being transferred to the Hamas-led government. The Bush administration already has stated its agreement with Israel that the unity government must renounce terrorism and recognize Israel, two conditions which Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders have refused to fulfill.

The pan-Arab alliance has received strong support from United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has expressed optimism that the new Fatah-Hamas government will allow funds to be transferred to Hamas, which the U.S. has labeled a terrorist organization.

Annan said PA president Mahmoud Abbas told him the unity plan would require Hamas to accept previous agreements with Israel.

"It should really allow...the international community, the donor community, to move ahead very quickly and provide the assistance that the Palestinian people need, because it is a very desperate and serious situation," Annan told a news conference." He did not address Israel's demands for a renunciation of terrorism and recognition of the Jewish state.

The Hamas cabinet resigned Wednesday en masse with the intention that the Hamas prime minister will be re-chosen under the Fatah-Hamas banner.

Israel's failure to fulfill expectations, shared by the Bush administration, to return two kidnapped IDF hostages and to devastate the Hizbullah terrorist organization has left Israel and its principal allies weaker. The Arab world, the U.N. and the European Union (EU) have been filling most of the vacuum.

Buoyed by a strong representation in the UNIFIL force, which has rejected the U.N. ceasefire clause calling for disarming Hizbullah terrorists, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana emphasized this week that Israel should return to its 1949 borders except for agreed exceptions.

The Arab world has enjoyed new confidence after Annan visited Syria and Iran, rejecting American demands for immediate sanctions against Tehran for not meeting a U.N. mandate to allow inspection of its nuclear program.

Annan soon will finish his term of office, but the five candidates vying to replace him include leaders from the non-Western countries of Jordan, South Korea, Thailand, India and Sri Lanka.

The Arab diplomatic offensive also has taken advantage of the inability of Israel to formulate a strong policy concerning its borders.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recently shelved his campaign platform to turn over most of Judea and Samaria to the PA. The Israel public has overwhelmingly rejected the idea following continued terrorism after Israeli withdrawals. Hizbullah's war on northern Israel came after the IDF withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, and Kassam rocket attacks have plagued the northern Negev despite last year's expulsion of Jews from the Gaza and northern Samaria regions.

Israel reclaimed Judea, Samaria and Gaza (Yesha) following the Six-Day War in 1967 but has refrained from declaring Yesha part of the country except for the Old City and Jerusalem suburbs.

After 39 years of indecision, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt have tried to take the initiative away from the U.S. and last week proposed determining Israel's borders according to PA demands.

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah recently told Time magazine, "We want to jump ahead to something tangible. We need to get to the point where people want to sign on the dotted line. We want to move to a two-state solution, but we are not going to go back and forth with lawyers until we get there."

PA president Abbas has insisted that a new Arab state will occupy the post-1967 land in Israel, but he told western media Wednesday that he backs the American Roadmap plan, which calls for Israel to retain only the major Jewish population centers of Ma'aleh Adumim, Ariel and Gush Etzion.

The Arab League also is organizing a joint diplomatic effort to convene the U.N. Security Council to try to force new borders, according to the official Kuwait news agency. The Council's 22 foreign ministers have decided to meet in New York next week. It also plans to ask the U.N. to pressure Israel to stop its efforts to weaken the terrorist infrastructure in the PA.

The extent of the shift in power in the Middle East was underscored by a United Press International (UPI) analysis of Israel's retaliation against the Hizbullah terrorist war on the north.

"The magnitude of [Israel's] defeat is considerable," the report stated. "Israel appears to have lost at every level--strategic, operational and tactical. Nothing she tried worked.

"These failures only begin to measure the magnitude of Israel's defeat.... The ceasefire in Lebanon will allow camera crews to broadcast the extent of the destruction to the world, with further damage to Israel's image. Israel's 'wall' strategy for dealing with the Palestinians has been undone; Hamas rockets can fly over a wall as easily as Hezbollah rockets have flown over Israel's northern border."