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It is past time to end the Gaza mess

11/09/2006

The tragic deaths of 19 people in Gaza were due, apparently to an operational error of the IDF. That doesn't change the fact that 19 people are dead, and that enormous harm has been done to the already moribund "peace process," to Israel and to the Palestinians. The tragedy, inevitable in the circumstances, underlines what we already knew: it is urgent to end the nightmare in Gaza, restore order and reconstitute a new peace process. The Palestinians and Israelis are apparently incapable of doing it, and the rest of the world has washed their hands.

Everyone is quick to cast blame on others, but everyone is guilty in reality. International observers and Egyptian troops looked on while Palestinians constructed hundreds of weapons - smuggling tunnels. They paid for arms at exhorbitant prices, and imported them, while at the same time bewailing the sorry state of the Palestinian economy and the all too real plight of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian government cooperates with terrorists who daily launch rockets into Israel, and with the kidnappers of Gilad Shalit. Nobody censures the "peace loving" Mr. Abbas or the "democratically elected" Mr. Haniyeh for trying to make political capital in ransoming Gilad Shalit, rather than hastening his return as would be proper for a responsible government. The US is busy with its Iraq debacle.

Each party is a victim of its internal weaknesses and errors, and these are projected on the Gaza nightmare. Israel, for its part, continues to use force and then when that doesn't work, it uses more force, exacerbating the situation to maintain the time-honored "cycle of violence" cliche. A government that has lost its way if it ever had one, that is now intensely unpopular, has no mandate for the creative solutions required to get out of the mess, and is probably incompetent to devise such solutions. David Grossman's bitter and poetic address at the Rabin memorial is not just great literature - it relates to problems that are all too mundane and practical - as practical as the deaths of 19 people, as practical as the hungry kids in Gaza and the rain of rockets on Sderot and Ashkelon. It can be translated into foreign policy gaffes, absurd and embarrassing strategic threats made by the Minister of Strategic Threats, Avigdor Lieberman, in an interview with a foreign newspaper and the repeated failures of an army that was once one of the best in the world. An army that experienced two kidnappings, perpetrated a huge series of blunders in the recent Hezbollah-Lebanon war, and now has demonstrated that it can't even shoot straight. An army in the charge of a loud-mouthed labor organizer who hasn't the knowledge, the experience or the authority to reform it, and of incompetent generals who are unwilling to assume responsibility for their errors, and of an incompetent Prime Minister who is unwilling to accept the consequences of his failures. A joke making the rounds in Israel portrays the chagrin and outrage of former PM Ariel Sharon who awakens from his coma to contemplate the shambles made by the current Israeli government.

Mahmoud Abbas, each month issues two week deadlines for formation of a unity government. The deadlines pass and nothing happens, because nothing can happen. Abbas is apparently powerless. Predictably, he hastened to label the Israeli attack a deliberate act of murder, and tried to put the blame for failure of unity talks on Israel. But Fatah and Hamas have had months to compose their differences. It wasn't Israel that kidnapped Gilad Shalit, and it is not Israel that is firing rockets on Sderot and Ashkelon.

Worse is yet to come. The US is about to drastically revise its stance in the Middle East. The appointment of a committee headed by James Baker and Lee Hamilton to provide a way out of Iraq was a clear harbinger. Neither man is particularly sympathetic to Israel or to the peace process as it was conceived by the administration of Bill Clinton. Baker's opinion of the Jewish people is known. Baker's outlook is matter of fact and conceives of the world in terms of power and power brokers, not dialogue and empowerment of people. Whatever solution is recommended for Iraq, it will be a debacle for the US, as the situation is not retrievable. Loss of US status in the Middle East will be bad for peace, bad for moderates and bad for stability. Together with the Iraq solution, Baker and Hamilton are likely to recommend a solution for Israel and the Palestinians that is imposed from the outside and based on the interests of governments, a "great game" solution in the tradition of imperialist Middle East diplomacy. This will be done to cover some of the prestige and influence lost by the US in Iraq. Mr Abbas and Mr Olmert should take note: If Mr Baker decides that Iran and Syria hold all the cards in the Middle East, as well he might, they will "engage" Syria and Iran and try to force a solution on the Palestinians and Israelis that is made in Damascus and Tehran.

The US election results and the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld have now put the seal on U.S. policy in Iraq. Alia iacta est. The die is cast. The US may be engaging in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, but that engagement may not be constructive and it will not be directed at furthering the best interests of the parties, but rather the best interests of the United States.

It would also be extremely naive to expect a constructive solution either from the EU or Russia. In a rather candid remark, Mr Putin made it clear that the most useful experience he can apply to problem solving as the leader of Russia is his experience as a senior KGB operative. The genocide in Chechnya is an egregious exemplification of his approach. EU foreign policy is led by Britain and France, and everyone in the Middle East knows what that means.

While responsible outside intervention is desperately needed, it becomes increasingly evident that there is nobody to provide it. It is always darkest before it gets darker.

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/00000532.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

The statement above, "Baker's outlook is matter of fact and conceives of the world in terms of power and power brokers ...." is absolutely correct and is the most fundamental analysis of how the world works. And, "The U.S. may be engaging... (for) the best interests of the United States." The interests of the United Staes ARE the interests of the power brokers. Very little else influences the way the world is governed by power elites along with their interests in maintaining or aggrandizing their power/wealth. And, when rogues gain power, they join the club of the elites or are bombed into oblivion. Let's watch what happens with Iran and North Korea. Will they join the club or....?

Posted by Nachum Meyers @ 11/11/2006 01:01 AM CST

What can be done?

What can Israeli citizens do?

Posted by Micha @ 11/16/2006 03:39 AM CST


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