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The Hudna Bust & Why it Happened


Palestinian factions met in Cairo over the weekend to discuss a truce with Israel. All of the omens for this truce were right, according to those who read the entrails in this part of the world, as Zvi Bar'el explained in Ha'aretz newspaper. Pressure produced by the Geneva accords, American pressure on Israel, success of Ahmed Qurei and whatever else once could hope for. There were even no Israeli assassinations of late. Bar'el explained precisely why there would be a truce. He was so sure there would be a true that he titled his article "Upgraded Hudna lets both sides claim victory."

Bar'el is an expert. Far be it from the likes of ordinary mortals like yours truly to disagree with him.

For three days they labored. Each hour, the headlines changed. There would be a truce for certain. officials were optimistic there would be a truce, Islamic Jihad was blocking a true, there was a truce but Israel had already rejected it, it would be a limited truce, it would only involve civilians, it would only involve Israeli civilians who live on this side of the Green Line, and so on. As a side show, Ahmed Yassin, the "spiritual leader" of the Hamas, announced that his group would never agree to an Israeli state. The Jews, he told Der Spiegel, could have a state in Europe, but not in Israel.

Mirabile dictu - at the end of the day, despite the most favorable auguries, there is not truce. Instead, there is an important lesson to be learned by all the would be pundits.

In the real world of Palestinian politics, there are several groups competing for power. The Fatah/PLO are in power. They have something to gain from peace and they have to be responsive to US-EU and Egyptian pressure. The Hamas and Islamic Jihad are opposition parties. They don't feel US-EU pressure because the US and EU don't negotiate with them. They are protected internally by the declared policy of the PNA - that it will not forcibly restrain the extremists. The only stock in trade of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad is blowing people up. That is what they know how to do best, and their popularity rises whenever there is a terrorist hit. If there is peace, the Hamas and Islamic Jihad will face a fate worse than armed suppression - they will simply be irrelevant. So they will try every which way to avoid a truce. They have stood up to the Fatah/PLO. Now they can come before the Palestinian people, and say "See, we never wavered in our support for Palestine" and at the same time, Palestinian society has given them a license to kill, to bring on more Israeli repression and to continue "the armed struggle to liberate Palestine."

The last time, they could agree to a "truce" with Abu Mazen since the militant wing of Fatah was opposed to the truce anyway, so they didn't have to worry. This time, because of the favorable circumstances that Bar'el notes, not only was it unlikely that any Fatah factions would break the truce, but there was a very real "danger" that Israel would keep the truce passively, as Israeli officials hinted broadly, even if Israel would never admit it was agreeing to such a truce. The extremist factions were wouldn't even agree to say they would make a truce if Israel kept it. The proposed truce, in which they could target Israeli soldiers and settlers, but Israel could not fight back, would never have been kept. The first time Israeli soldiers were attacked and fought back, the Hamas and Islamic Jihad could say the truce was broken. However, the extremists would not even agree to a fake truce, because it would have been a victory for the PLO/Fatah.

Bar'el and the other experts forgot that the Intifadah all along is mostly about internal Palestinian politics and internal Israeli politics. Sharon didn't walk on the Temple Mount to anger the Palestinians, but to defeat Ehud Barak. Barak doesn't oppose the Geneva Accord because it is bad, but because Yossi Beilin and Amram Mitzna are associated with it and Barak isn't. Ehud Olmert didn't propose Israeli withdrawals to please the Palestinians, but as part of his struggle within the Likud party.

The Palestinian extremists will never agree to peace because peace is the program of the PNA and will empower the PLO/Fatah and leave them out of the picture. They will have no reason for existence if the Palestinian people turn to peace. They won't agree to a truce as long as they are not forced to agree to it. The "experts" including the Egyptians, and perhaps the Americans themselves, forgot the major premise of the road map - there can be no peace without reform of the Palestinian Authority and dismantline of the terrorist groups. As long as groups compete for support on the basis of how strongly they can oppose the peace process and advance the "resistance," it is impossible to obtain peace. This fact has been with us since the suicide bombings of 1996.

Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000127.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

by Moderator @ 11:09 PM CST [Link]


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Replies: 2 comments

If I agree globally with the analysis, I think the conclusion would have been more objective if you had included all anti-peace parties and not only the Palestinian ones.

You did a good start by writing that "the Intifadah all along is mostly about internal Palestinian politics and internal Israeli politics."

A pity the conclusion hits one "internal politic".


Posted by Paul Fays @ 12/09/2003 12:20 AM CST

Since it was an article about the Hudna talks of the Palestinians and why they failed, it would be really strange to include anyone else. These were internal Palestinian discussions.

Posted by Moderator @ 12/14/2003 01:33 AM CST

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