Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Good for Greer and a fire sale on Israel

Eli Greer, who became the sheriff of Edgewood earlier this year, has hung up his shootin' iron, and good for him.

Greer, whose bicycle-riding, gun-toting patrol led to the Guardian Angels starting a chapter in New Haven and ultimately, led to Police Chief Cisco Cruz (wasn't the Cisco Kid one of the good guys?) announcing his intention to quit his job.

Greer has said he had two goals in mind when he organized the armed patrol last June: to make his neighborhood safer and to hound Cruz from office. He blamed Cruz for a lack of community policing and for a spike of violence in his neighborhood, some of which hit close to home. Cruz has said he was leaving and Greer announced that as of the first of December, the patrol would be disarmed, and it would continue the patrols unarmed.

There were no gun incidents during the nightly patrols. Greer said that the level of crime in his neighborhood was down, but had no figures to back up the assertion.

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The fire sale on Israel began again yesterday (Nov. 27, 2007) around a table in an imposing room at the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland.

The collection of dictatorships, absolute monarchies, fiefdoms, sheikdoms, and oil-dependent Europeans gathered in the room took turns saying that this or that might happen if Israel gives enough. Even the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, who said in advance he would not shake the hand of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (or any other Jew for that matter), said he might change his mind some time in the future if Israel gave away enough. Boy, that's certainly something worth dying for.

Yes, yes, I know. One is supposed to be for peace. Peace at any price? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Hmm, I think somebody already said that. Patrick Henry was right more than 230 years ago and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was so wrong more than 70 years ago.

Have we such short memories? Thomas L. Friedman of The New York Times showed the shortness of his memory this morning when he called for the Israelis to open the gates at its borders and at its jails to give the Palestinians more incentives. In the past, those incentives have been repaid with blood and bombs, but Friedman seems to forget that.

Two things really scare me. The first is the weakness of the participants. At the Potsdam Conference in July and August of 1945, Franklin D. Roosevelt was dead and Winston Churchill had lost his election and was replaced by Cement Atlee as prime minister. The only one of the Big Three left, Josef Stalin, imposed his will on the conference and the Cold War and the Iron Curtain were the results.

At Annapolis, the same situation holds true. The Israelis are represented by Olmert, a weak, unpopular man who has been under a cloud of suspicion of various frauds and schemes for decades. The strong men of Israel are dead, in the case of Yitzhak Rabin; in a coma, in the case of Arik Sharon or too old, in the case of Shimon Perez.

The Palestinians in the past have never had a leader who wanted peace. The protests of Jimmy Carter notwithstanding, Yasser Arafat was never ready to make to transition from revolutionary to peaceful leader and, as Abba Eban so wonderfully put it, never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. At least, however, the Palestinians spoke with one voice, albeit a blood-soaked one.

Under President Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian government is fractionated, with Abbas' Fatah party sort of running the West Bank areas not controlled by Israel and the Gaza Strip controlled by the Iranian-backed Hamas party. And that brings us to my second fear.

The second problem I have with Annapolis is that the U.S. was designated as the sole arbiter of who is carrying out its responsibilities under the agreements and who is not. George W. Bush, who still will be president during the time frame of this agreement to seek an agreement, marches to the beat of democracy for everyone, ready or not.

That's how the Palestinians (and the Iraqis, too, by the way) got into the trouble they are in. They held elections before they were ready for them. Some people have not matured enough to govern themselves absolutely. The Palestinians are such a people. Instead of thinking about the consequences of their actions, they cast protest votes against Fatah and voted in Hamas. Hamas is a gang of terrorists and the average Palestinian knew it. They forgot it for the moment and now are paying the price.

A mature society like the United States can survive a bad election. We will survive George W. Bush. The Palestinians are not a mature society. I don't mean that individual Palestinians aren't mature people, although some certainly are not, but that the society has not had time to mature. Bush's part was to force elections on them before they were ready.

Israelis and people who care about Israelis are living with the consequences of Bush's actions. It scares me that such a single-minded person and his immature minions, such as Condoleezza Rice, will be the referees of the Annapolis round of peace talks.

It doesn't help that Bush is a bully on the world stage. He will push around those who are weak, like Olmert, and those who cannot fight back against him, like the Iraqis and Palestinians. He doesn't demand things like democracy of his business partners in the oil communities and the Europeans have long since stopped listening when he speaks. Vladimir Putin, another dictator player in this drama, has Bush wrapped around his finger.

So that's why, my friends, I am fearful that Annapolis will become another fire sale of Israel, as Oslo was. Israel will be prodded to give up real land and real security for promises that may be sincerely meant when they are made but will be quickly abandoned when the situation changes.

Until next time...

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