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Israel and the Palestinians - over the cliff?

06/29/2006

This morning, following the murder of an abducted 18 year old Israeli settler, Eliyahu Asheri, the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation appeared to be spinning way out of control. Israel arrested about 64 Hamas legislators in the West Bank. The arrested officials include Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Nasser al-Shaer, Finance Minister Omar Abdel Razek, Minister
Samir Abu Aysha, Khaled Abu Arfeh and Jerusalem Affairs Ministers Naef Rajoub, brother of senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub, Hamas government Labor Minister Muhammad Barghouti, Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Khaled Abu Arfa and many other top officials, as well as senior Hamas members Mahmoud Abu Tir and Mahmoud Atuan.

They were formally charged with the crime of belonging to an illegal terrorist movement. The dry announcement of the Israeli government explained that the Hamas politicians were arrested according to regular criminal proceedings and would be provided with counsel if requested. Those who were found to be held without a judicial basis would be released. Hamas of course, is outlawed in Israel and the USA. Israel radio has several times repeated the mantra that the "detained persons must not be viewed as bargaining chips in hostage negotiations." However, the implication that the arrested politicians were hostages was not lost. Minister of National Infrastructures Benjamin Ben-Eliezer was quoted as saying that it is apparent that there is no difference between the political and armed wings of the Hamas, a sentiment echoed by tourism Minister Isaac Herzog, who also reiterated that the detainees are not hostages. He notes that Palestinian President Abbas has a wide variety of options under the Palestinian constitution, but that this is not the affair of Israel. Israeli radio commentators are opining that the arrests may be the beginning of a move to topple the Hamas government.

Together with the ongoing invasion of Gaza, and the overflights of Syrian President Hafez Assad's home in Latakia (a symbolic move quietly cheered by Lebanese Christians), these actions created panic in Arab capitals as well as in the PNA and more than a buzz of war. However, until now, the reaction has been in fact rather circumspect. IDF occupied unpopulated areas and shelling empty fields. The Palestinians are complaining about "collective punishment," but so far it seems that Eliyahu Asheri is the only casualty. This "war lite" may not last. The next stage might be an invasion of northern Gaza, where Israeli troops and armor have been gathered for two days, awaiting the order to move in.

The Israeli escalation is a questionable response to a complex situation by an untried government. PM Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz do not have a background in the IDF and do not have "security credentials." As the Kassam missiles kept raining down on Israel, pressure mounted on the government to "do something." A plurality of Israelis opined that even pointless vengeance, "an eye for an eye" was a valid response. With the murder of two Israeli soldiers and the kidnapping of a third, the charade of the "peace process" may have finally come to an end.

What is most disturbing is that there doesn't seem to be any plan behind the Israeli actions beyond progressive escalation. Other than generating annoyance in Washington and Paris, and outrage in the Palestinian territories, it is not clear that these actions are accomplishing anything. Military incursions of this type, which are always carried out with hopes of making wide ranging and decisive changes, almost always complicate and exacerbate the situation unless they have definite strategic objectives.

The current mess is the result of the failure of two processes: the occupation on the one hand, and the peace process and its creation, the Palestinian Authority. Israel has the responsibility for dismantling the occupation, but that is both politically impossible and irresponsible from the security point of view until and unless the remains of the Palestinian Authority are either rehabilitated or removed. It is impossible to imagine that the Israeli government will allow the situation in Gaza to be replicated in the West Bank.

The PNA was constructed to negotiate peace and make a normal life for Palestinians. Instead it has degenerated into chaos and war mongering, creating a nightmare hell-hole of random murders of Palestinians and random terror against Israelis that is presided over by a movement still openly committed to wiping out the state of Israel. This situation will probably not be corrected either by arrests of Hamas officials or incursions into Gaza. A real solution requires international agreement and backing, and this seems to be lacking. The US has consistently reneged on its responsibilities to oversee the peace process, and the quartet have done nothing to further their roadmap.

According to one commentator, the US is not in a hurry to do anything about the Israeli-Palestinian problem. It is waiting for the Hamas government to fall apart, and thinks it sees signs of weakness in the Hamas government. The US apparently gave a yellow light for the current operation or one like it, hinting broadly that the Qassam rockets which fell near the home of Defense Minister Peretz were sufficient provocation. It is not clear however, that the US expects or will tolerate an unlimited escalation.

The Palestinians are clearly disappointed by the relative silence of the US and Europe. A Fatah source close to Mahmoud Abbas is quoted by Israel radio as saying that the Israeli reaction was brought upon the Palestinian people by the inflexible and extremist stands of the Hamas and in particular of Khaled Mashaal, who have blocked any formula that might end the international embargo of the Hamas, and have brought down the wrath of the world on the Palestinian people. Clearly, Fateh is trying to leverage the situation to its advantage. However, there is no guarantee that the silence of the world will continue. Israeli escalation, especially if it results in civilian casualties.

Don't be surprised if in a week or two, the Israeli incursion is over, the Hamas emerges unscathed and strengthened, and Israeli hawks clamor for more and bigger military actions.

In all this, the fate of Gilad Shalit, the kidnapped soldier, should not be forgotten. What will become of Gilad Shalit? What will become of all the Israelis and Palestinians who are hostages to an impossible situation?

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/00000481.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: 9 comments

We should all hope and pray for the safety of the captive soldier. That said, we should also pray for the million Palestinans who must endure the blistery summer heat without electricity and water. The solution to this conflict is so clear and yet all sides seem so blind. Why? Why not build a regional economic powerhouse in Israel/Palestine? Why not work together to make it a paradise for all? When Palestine is safe and free, so will Israel be safe and free. Until then we will continue down the road of the hardliners who bask at the thought of another bloody conflict. It is time the sane people of this region take over and force peace down the throats of all!!!!

Posted by Moshe @ 06/30/2006 06:50 PM CST

Israel needs to understand 2 things.

1) Using military force in order to 'convince' the Palestinians to unilateraly stop terrorism is never going to work. It is not that bombing etc. does not have an effect on them that causes some to question the wisdom of their ways, but as a matter of principle they are unlikely to stop fighting in order to remove israeli pressure or because fighting is stupid for them. They wil always want to prove they are not capitulating, that fighting does make sense, or in order to pressure their own government.

2) The Palestinians are not going to dismantle the system of multiple organizations until peace is reached if at all, no matter how much harm this system is causing them. too many people are too invested in this system, and no Palestinian leader will risk challenging it with force, especially while the conflict still exists (assuming it can be resolved at all).

Therefore Israel has several ways in order to deal with the kassams etc.:

1) To get into negotiations with Abbas based on the (optimstic) assumption that negotiations will give him enough legitemacy to broker a hudna with some groups and apply limited force against others.

2) Try to directly or indirectly negotiate a hudna with the Hamas et al. that will enable them to stop fighting without loosing face or recognizing Israel or giving up on the 'sacred' principle of armed struggle. This might work since the Hamas does not seem very enthusiastic about fighting right now (thanks to the blows they got from Israel and their need to sustain their victory in the election) and this option might help them consolidate their rule.

3) Apply force in order to topple the Hamas government. I don't think this will work. It will increase anarchy and terrorism while reducing the legitimacy of Abbas, which means less chance of him acting.

4) Use an international force of some sort to stop the Palestinians (directly) and the Israelis (indirectly) from fighting. I don't think it will work even if such force could be assembled, which is unlikely. Any international force will lack legitimacy or motivation or ability to stop terrorism against Israel unless the Palestinians themselves decide to stop for their own reasons. They may stop if the presence of such a force is perceived as a diplomatic success. However, it also increases the chance of more extremist groups running them in circles, and fighting them as an occupation.

5) Use the necessary amont of direct military force in order to prevent or reduce significantly the ability of the Palestinians to fire kassams, even if it means seizing part of Gaza, and even if it means putting soldiers at risk. Ultimatly the army has to defend civilians. I don't think this option should be taken unless options 2 or 1 have benn tried and failed. This option should be used as a threat or ultimatum to push the Palestinians to options 2 or 1. But if these fail, Israel should insist it has full legitimacy to take this course of action. It has full legitimacy now, but should try first the first two options.

Posted by Micha @ 07/02/2006 06:21 PM CST

I don't like to admit it. But it seems that as far as the captive soldier is concerned, the army is doing the right thing. This has nothing to do with the opposition to the occupation or the wish for peace based on the 67 borders. If Israel agrees to negotiate over him, kidnapping or seizing of soldiers and civilans will become a common practice, and the mainmethod of the Palestinians to release their prisoners. It will not increase the chance for negotiation but actually strengthen the supporters of violence. Since Israel cannot negotiate on that, the only alternative is to wait, and try to shake Gaza, until intelligence is obtained that wil enable a rescue mission. This is not Lebanon, where the Hizbulla had only few chances to take captives, and where Israel's keeping Lebanese prisoners after the withdrawl served no purpose. allowing this tactic to gain foothold in Gaza is a dangerous threat to Israel and for any chance to deescalate.

Posted by Micha @ 07/03/2006 12:36 AM CST

The Israeli actions and the world's lack of action to stop Israel has once again proved that our world is in need of a major change. How can anyone justify what Israel is doing in the name of returning a captured SOLDIER. Everyone it seems is accepting Israel's actions. How is it that an occupation force is allowed to kill thousands of people and no one says anything. How is it that Israel captures over 10 thousand Palestinians and no says anything. How is it that Israel destroys everything that allows the Palestinians to live if you can call their situation living?
This world is telling the Palestinians to KILL and not capture anyone. Killing the soldier would have prevented the Israeli inhumane destruction of the Palestinian infrastructure. The Palestinians are still dreaming in the believe that Israel has a heart. Time and again Israel proves that it is merciless when it come to the trearment of the arabs. When the Palestinians blow up a civillian they are called terrorists. When they capture a soldier, they called terrorists. So the Palestinians have nothing to loose from killing civillians since they are the easiest targets. They have nothing to loose if they attack Israeli infrastructures. They have nothing to loose since they have lost their dignity and have lost any rights to defend themselves no matter how small it maybe. So congradulation world and especially the arab countries, you have once again showed how useless you are in stopping the Israeli war machine.
Oh yes, lets not forget to congradulate the Palestinian leaders for their own war which only helps the Israeli war machine. And lets not forget uncle sam who always manages to make Israel the victim and wave it's VETO to the rest of the sleeping world.

Posted by Mike Jebara @ 07/03/2006 09:50 PM CST

This hostage or detaining is purely nonsensical as peace process is underway.
What the terrorists should know is that all men are the same and that all conflicts are solvable unless one or both parties choose to take entrenched positions. I think Israel is doing the right thing with the shake-ups, but they should ensure that no unneccesary soul is lost in the operation.

Here in Africa people learn to live together even in more serious conflicts and that is the first step towards achieving territorial peace.

I can foresee a future where Israelis and Palestinians will live harmony as one people and serve the Almighty God in truth and spirit but not people's ideologies and overage conflicts.

God bless all

Posted by David Effenberg @ 07/04/2006 06:43 PM CST

Mike, you disappoint me. Seriously, this is a very complex situation that deservesa serious realistic and fair analysis.

"the world's lack of action to stop Israel"
Has the 'world' taken action to stop anything anywhere of all the many much more serious things around the world that should be stopped? If it makes you feel better the 'world' stopped the Palestiians from bombing Israeli towns.
The Palestinians (and the Israelis) have to realize that nobody is going to save them but themselves.

"How can anyone justify what Israel is doing in the name of returning a captured SOLDIER."
Is there a better justification for military action than saving the lives of someone, as well as protecting the Israeli towns who have been bombarded by the Palestinians since the Israeli withdrawl from Gaza?

"Everyone it seems is accepting Israel's actions."
They should accept it since it is a clear case of defensive action. But they don't. They just don't care. They had enough of the Palestinians and the Israelis and their small problems.

"How is it that an occupation force"
There is no occupation in Gaza. The Israelis withdrew last August.

"to kill thousands of people and no one says anything."
Since the beginning of the Palestinian war against Israel in October 2000, about 1000 Israels and 4000 Palestinians have been killed. Some of the Palestinians killed were civilians, although civilians were not targeted deliberatly most of the time, and Israelis demonstrated and spoke against it when civilans were harmed unnecessarily. There are times when civilian deaths are simply unavoidable, especially when the other side does not wear uniforms or has bases. But it was important to speak out against treating civilians too carelessly. However most Palestinians killed in this war were combatants. Most Israelis killed in this war were civilians who were deliberatly targeted by the Palestinians. Of course few Palestinians said anything against those killings. In any case, Israel did not kill thousands since the soldier wre kidnapped, or even since the attacks agaist Israeli towns started. It hadn't even killed 50. It had tried not to kill civilans, it had killed a few Palestinian fighters, who were trying to kill Israelis. Because of the Palestinian hypocracy and exageration of the numbers killed, because of the Palestinians' disgusting propaganda that distorted the truth to make the Israelis look worse than they really arewhile ignoring their own actions, Many Israelis who at first wanted to speak out against some of Israel's policies, stopped. It is a shame that you encourage such hypocracy and exageration.

"How is it that Israel captures over 10 thousand Palestinians."
During this war Israel arrested many Palestinian combatants who were put are trial and are now in jail, where they can be seen by the red cross, lawyers etc. They are not hidden, nor is a gun held to their head in order to force the Palestinians to do anything.

"How is it that Israel destroys everything that allows the Palestinians to live"
Please. Israel destroyed a few bridges and an electricity station. The last thing was wrong (note, I can criticize my own side too). But it is hardly everything that allows the Palestinian to live. Apparently the Palestinians have enough life to attack Israel and fight among themselves.

"This world is telling the Palestinians to KILL and not capture anyone. Killing the soldier would have prevented the Israeli inhumane destruction of the Palestinian infrastructure."
Really! If the Palestinians kill the soldier the Israeli army will become more aggressive, not less. Nobody tells the Palestinians to do anything. Theychoose to shoot, the bomb, the kill, they kidnapp, and they must face the consequences of their choice.

"The Palestinians are still dreaming in the believe that Israel has a heart."
Please Mike! This is ebarrassing. The Palestinians think that Israel is weak because it cares about the life of a soldier and of its civilians. They are trying to exploit the heart of Israelis. They exploit the heart of Israelis who care about the lives of Palestinians for propaganda.

"Time and again Israel proves that it is merciless when it come to the trearment of the arabs."
If Isrraelis were merciless things would have been much worse for the Palestinians. considering what the Palestinian attacks on Israel.

"When the Palestinians blow up a civillian they are called terrorists. When they capture a soldier, they called terrorists."
Targeting civilians and holding hostages, especially by a paramilitary group are terrorism.

"So the Palestinians have nothing to loose from killing civillians since they are the easiest targets."
This sentence doesn't make sense. It is both a non sequitur and not true, since the Palestinians obviously lost much by their attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers. The fact that they are willing to attack Israel at all shows they are stupid. That they are attacking civilians because they are an easy target shows they have no heart andare cowards.

"have nothing to loose if they attack Israeli infrastructures. "
The Palestinians don't attack infrastructure. It's not enough of an easy target for them.

"they have lost their dignity"
True

"rights to defend themselves"
The Palestinians are not defending themselves. Shooting kassams and sending suicide bombers and everything else the Palestinians are doing doesn't defend them, it puts them in danger. Not one Palestinian was ever defended by what he Palestinians are doing.

The arab countries found a very good way to stop the Israeli 'war machine' (please). They don't attack Israel. Israel doesn't attack them.
There is no Israeli war machine. There is a Palestinian-Israeli-American, European-left-right-occupation-terrorism machine that keeps going on and on, creating hatred, propaganda, settlements, terrorism, excuses, lies. Are you part of that machine or are you going to help stop it?

Neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis are victims. They have choices. They influence their reality.

It is a shame that instead of clear criticism of the Israelis and the Palestinian action, instead of understanding the situation and trying to solve it, the focus is turned to propaganda.

Posted by Micha @ 07/05/2006 11:30 PM CST

Hi,
The Gaza crisis is so frustrating because it is so senseless. The Hamas are destroying the possibility of a Palestinian state. This has been pointed out by Laurie King Irani, no friend of Israel, as well as Zohair Androus, an Arab Israeli.

The "Israeli Infrastructure" that Palestinians attack included 3 year old and five year old children. By its nature, Qassam rocket fire is indiscriminate and is not aimed at "infrastructure."

Posted by Ami Isseroff @ 07/06/2006 01:11 PM CST

Micha, read your own reply to my last comment. You make it sound like we are dealing with two states Isarel and Palestine. Two states that have seperate borders and both are free. Well, that is not the case. You compare tanks, warplanes, missles and a huge military to the Palestinian side. Lets see what the Palestinians have? ROCKS, some light weapons, and a police force that can only defend itself. And lets not forget the rockets, that now have a range of almost 15 KM. Missles that like Ami said do not find a specific target. You are comparing apples to oranges. Killing 4 or 20 or whatever the actual number of Palestinians is justification for the soldier????? I don't think so.
You know micha it is hard for you to understand this maybe, I am disgusted with Israel and Palestine as well as the arab leaders. So am I turning from a someone seeking peace to some one more radical, I truly don't know anymore. Putting over 1 million Palestinians in the dark and preventing them from many things in the hot summer is inhumane by my standards and I think it should be so by all who have any a shred of humanity.

Posted by Mike Jebara @ 07/06/2006 10:52 PM CST

"You know micha it is hard for you to understand this maybe, I am disgusted with Israel and Palestine as well as the arab leaders. So am I turning from a someone seeking peace to some one more radical, I truly don't know anymore. Putting over 1 million Palestinians in the dark and preventing them from many things in the hot summer is inhumane by my standards and I think it should be so by all who have any a shred of humanity."

I feel exactly the same way and agree completely. Shutting off the electricity was wrong. I am digusted with everybody. Also the Israeli left, the Americans and the Europeans. I have not become a radical but passive. However, being disgusted is right, but you have to be disgusted about the right things and to the right proportion. The day I can attend a demonstration of disgust for both what Israel does and what the Palestinians do, fairly distributing the blame between the two, withouyt any exageration or hypocracy, I would be satisfied. But I am sick of having to choose between Palestinian hypocracy (+ Israeli left) and Israeli hypocracy.

"you make it sound like we are dealing with two states Isarel and Palestine. Two states that have seperate borders and both are free. Well, that is not the case. You compare tanks, warplanes, missles and a huge military to the Palestinian side. Lets see what the Palestinians have? ROCKS, some light weapons, and a police force that can only defend itself. And lets not forget the rockets, that now have a range of almost 15 KM. Missles that like Ami said do not find a specific target."

Whatever the Palestinians have, it seems to be enough for them to do harm. And if they choose to use whatever they have, and whatever they obtained after the Israeli withdrawl, in order to attack Israel (not for self defence but to increase their prestige), than they should not complain when Israel fights back with its stronger army. Although I believe using the army without trying deplomacy is unwise. It is unacceptable that the Palestinian attack Israel and brag about how strong they are, and wave their guns and bombs around, and then complain when Israel strikes back. Also, the Palestinians are not so weak. They are armed to their teeth with guns and bombs. It is less than Israel has. But then Israel is expected to not use its force while the Palestinians use their force for no purpose whatsoever.

"Killing 4 or 20 or whatever the actual number of Palestinians is justification for the soldier?????"
Israel is not killing 20 for an Israeli soldier. This is not a blood feud, nor a game of tennis. Israel is attacking the Palestinian armed forces that have been attacking it, and 20 Palestinians and 1 Israeli (not including the 2 who died in the attack in which the soldier was taken), have died in the attack. If Israel succeeds in mounting an operation to rescue the soldier, it does not matter how many Palestinian fighters will die in order to rescue him. It is very important that as few Palestinian civilians as possible die in such a rescue attempt. I expect the Israeli army to be very careful about civilian lives, but its job is to protect Israeli life, not the lives of armed Palestinians waging war against Israel.
You live by the sword you die by the sword. (This is also true of Israeli soldiers. the attack on the soldiers was not terrorism but guerrilla. But it was an attack, and if you attack an army expect to be attacked back.)

Posted by Micha @ 07/07/2006 01:50 AM CST


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