December 28, 2003

Palestinian Incompetence is one of the trickier sources to use. They sometimes get things right far ahead of others and notice things that go unnoticed elsewhere. Other times they go into flights of fancy that are breathtaking. So take an appropriate amount of salt and check this article out.

The note that struck me as most reliable and most worrisome for anybody seriously interested in solving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is this:

Moreover, Egypt has put a hard question to Arafat: Two separate security teams stand guard inside the mosque around the clock - one posted by the Wakf Muslim religious authority that administers the mosques on Temple Mount and one deployed by the Palestinian leader’s own Fatah group. “Where were they when our foreign minister needed them?” Egyptian officials asked Arafat. “Why was it left to Israeli security to rescue him?”

Since Israel is Debka's specialty and it would be fairly easy to find out who posts security guards at the 3rd most holy site of Islam, I'll leave aside the usual hefty pinch of salt in this instance and take up this issue of Palestinian competence in security matters. Either the guards are competent and were withdrawn, leaving the foreign minister to be abused as a political point, or the guards were simply incapable of crowd control at one of their most high profile locations during an important visit.

The former case, that this was done on purpose, shows a depth of political miscalculation that is profound. Nobody will trust palestinian security assurances in future and this will provide humiliation after humiliation in future. No matter what the politics of a country, a foreign leader cannot take the risk that they will be ambushed in a similar fashion. For those who can afford it, they will bring in their own security. For those who don't have the funds in their budget, Israeli security will be their only practical option. And if you can't trust Arafat to keep your person inviolate, how far can you trust him on other matters?

The second case, that this was just incompetence, has its own problems associated with it. What is the point of the Palestinian authority if it is incapable of providing security? Why should anybody treat with the current government if they cannot deliver peace which, in the current situation, is essentially the restraint of radicals?

It would be nice to hear that the security personnel responsible for this screwup had been sacked and that a complete reorganization of the relevant Palestinian Authority security section was underway. At least there would be hope for improvement in the future. However, the PA is so opaque in its internal operations that it's almost impossible to tell what's really going on there.

On purpose or accidental, ultimately both scenarios are expressions of incompetence in the PA. And because they have successfully resisted efforts to make the PA transparent, there isn't even a viable way out for them to show believable contrition and reform. It's an incompetent mess.

Posted by TMLutas at December 28, 2003 11:14 PM