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Palestine: Birth of a Nation, Take II


When Palestinian police took up their positions to guard Gaza and keep order, it was perhaps the most hopeful sign in a long time, both for peace and for the Palestinian people.

When the Oslo accords were concluded twelve years ago, the Palestinian nation should have begun to take shape. The Palestine National Authority should have been the government of a state in the making, assuming responsibility for order and providing vital services to its citizens. It didn't happen then, but perhaps it is happening now.

When the Oslo accords were concluded, the Palestinian nation should have begun to take shape. The Palestine National Authority should have been the government of a state in the making, assuming responsibility for order and providing vital services to its citizens. Yasser Arafat and his PLO Tunis cronies preferred to preside over a malignant sort of chaos, appropriating public funds for private enjoyment, and, having officially renounced violence, allowing various armed groups the "right" to fight the occupation. The result was a Palestinian society that could not take care of itself or its citizens, could not assume the responsibilities of a nation, and therefore could not claim the rights of a nation.

The Israeli right could claim, with justice, that there was no partner for peace, who could deliver peace in return for Israeli territorial concessions and an end to the occupation. Now however, the Palestinians are apparently making a new start on the road to national responsibility and a sane national society. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is out to prove that right-wing Israeli skeptics are wrong. He appears to have worked out a cease-fire agreement with major Palestinian factions. A shaky, fragile and conditional agreement, it is true, but one that is much better than nothing. To reinforce the quiet, Abbas surprised skeptics by deploying Palestinian police in Gaza for the first time in three years, to stop the mortar fire and rockets directed at Israel towns and at settlements in Gaza. The Palestinian police have not been entirely successful in stopping the fire, but neither was the IDF. Officially, the Israeli government welcomed the deployment of troops in Gaza. Very soon after, the Israeli government reversed the ban on diplomatic talks announced earlier. All indications are that Sharon and Abbas will finally really meet in two weeks and if all goes well, Israel will offer some generous concessions to bolster the truce and Abbas's popularity, including Israeli withdrawals from Palestinian cities and release of prisoners.

Not everyone was happy about the new new reality. Israel's Minister of Finance and former PM, Benjamin Nethanyahu, announced that Israel needn't give the Palestinians anything in return for the truce. Foreign Minister Shalom declared that the truce would simply give the Palestinian armed factions a chance to rearm and start another round. As if to torpedo the truce, Israel announced that it was resuming construction on a section of the security fence ("wall") that will enclose the settlement of Ariel, confiscating land from the Palestinian village of Salfit and inconveniencing Palestinians. Then the IDF shot and killed a wanted Hamas man in the West Bank, wounding two of his companions. A little girl was killed in the shoot-out. Israelis are still skeptical that Abbas will be able to turn the truce into real peace and an orderly government A poll shows that they agree with FM Shalom that terrorists will use the Hudna to rearm, but the government is apparently willing to give him a chance.

Abbas's move was also greeted with skepticism by Palestinians. Extremists hastened to call him an Israeli collaborator. Nazir Majali, writing in Haaretz, presented an official Palestinian views, explaining that in ending the violence, Abbas is implementing his own vision of how Palestinians must advance their cause, rather than just responding to Israeli pressure. Conciliatory prose of this kind has not been seen from Palestinian sources in quite a while. Majali wrote:

Abu Mazen's acquaintances in Israel, on the right and left, can testify that in the last 20 years, he has led a new and brave political line that has directly influenced Palestinian thought and behavior. He discovered another Israel, which wants peace...As a pragmatic leader, he made the conscious decision to choose the path of peace with the goal being to liberate his people from the yoke of occupation and to achieve a political agreement that will guarantee his people's legitimate rights in an independent state. And when he encountered obstacles placed by Israel, he did not give up and not for a moment changed his positions. Even when he was forced to resign as prime minister, when he was suffering the bitterest criticism, when his house was fired upon in Ramallah, he continued to stick to positions that have become principles.

At present, the Palestinians are talking only about a truce. The Hamas and other groups will still remained armed, and could still resume the violence at any time. If Israel wants to make real long term progress, it will undoubtedly need to make concessions beyond releasing prisoners and withdrawing from towns occupied during the Intifada. Even then, it is not certain that Abbas's government would disarm the Hamas or other groups. Diplomatic negotiations that follow the security talks will be far more difficult, since there is unlikely to be any quick agreement about borders or refugee issues. Still there is good reason for at least guarded optimism. For Palestinians and Israelis, even in mid-winter, the Sun is shining for a change. Let's enjoy it.

Ami Isseroff

New at MidEastWeb Labor Zionism
Population of Palestine before 1948

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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/00000327.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.

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Replies: 2 comments

I do not agree with your version because in fact was Israel the one that involved "Arafat and his Tunis cronies" because they were milder negociators than the territories' representatives; and was Netaniahu who destroyed Oslo by answering suicidal bombing done by "against-Oslo organizations" with building. However is no time for this kind of discussions and if the price for peace is to accept that Arafat (and his cronies) were the only one to blame I am more than willing to do so. Once peace is on-site and people stop dying, there can be a harmless tree-generations-dicussion in academic circles before a full nuanced truth is stablished and both sides scholars accept it.

Posted by Aleph @ 01/31/2005 12:52 PM CST


Posted by samantha @ 02/25/2005 10:11 AM CST

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