MideastWeb Middle East Web Log

log  archives  middle east  maps  history   documents   countries   books   encyclopedia   culture   dialogue   links    timeline   donations 

Search:

Gaza: how peace is lulled to eternal sleep

07/04/2008

The good news is that there is quiet in Gaza and Sderot and the Western Negev. Everyone is glad that the Qassam rockets have more or less stopped falling in Israel, and Israeli incursions into Gaza have stopped as well.

The bad news is that Shimon Peres, who for over a decade symbolized the hope of peace for moderate Israelis, doesn't believe a peace agreement is possible, as he was reported to have said in a private conversation. When Peres of the peace prize and the peace foundation, Peres the eternal optimist, the proponent of the New Middle East, stops believing in peace, those who hope for peace must be truly worried. Just when things seem to be looking up, Peres turns gloomy. How can this be?

All decent people surely believe that talking is better than shooting, and therefore, the "lull" negotiated between Israel and the Hamas cannot fail to gain the support of all right-thinking people. The conventional wisdom of California or New York is that a working relationship with the Hamas will "soften" that group and eventually turn them into a peace partner, despite their repeated protestations that they will never recognize Israel. It might be so.

On the other hand, one cannot help noting how the "lull" affects the delicate equations that describe the relations between the Hamas, the PLO government of Mahmoud Abbas which rules in the West Bank, and the peace process. One part of this equation is that it is the PLO that is publicly committed to peace and that is the peace partner supported by US policy as well as the recognized legitimate Palestinian government, while the Hamas are usurpers and opposed to the peace process, both because it is a peace process and because it is American sponsored. Another part of the equation is that legitimizing Hamas raises the influence of Iran, Syria and the extremists that they support, and sidelines the PLO. A third part of the equation, however, is that Palestinian unity is essential both as a necessary condition of peace and as a Palestinian national goal. Unity is essential for peace, but unity under Hamas will block the possibility of peace. The "lull" that Egypt negotiated is not particularly good for Israel. Israel did not even gain the short term PR value of getting captive soldier Gilad Shalit released. It is more than obvious that arms smuggling will continue through Rafah, and there really is not much that either Egypt or Israel can do about it. So we have to ask why it is that Israel, which has overwhelming military superiority, rushed to conclude an agreement that has legitimized Hamas.

It is surely striking that while the impossible lull was concluded with the Hamas, the peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority stalled out entirely. This unwelcome "lull" came about despite the fact that peace, as always, seems to be only just beyond the next corner, and everyone assures us that the shape of the final agreement is known in advance. It is also interesting that the "lull" officially covers only Gaza. In the West Bank, Israel can supposedly continue its incursions. Since these incursions arrest Islamic Jihad people and others opposed to Palestinian Authority rule, they indirectly benefit the Palestinian Authority. Of course, it would have given the waning prestige of the Palestinian Authority a boost if Israel had concluded a truce agreement with them that stopped the West Bank incursions. Instead however, a very strange arrangement evolved. Israel denies that the truce covers the West Bank. The Islamic Jihad insists that they will retaliate in Gaza for any Israeli action in the West Bank, and in fact, an Israeli incursion in the West Bank elicited mortar fire in Gaza. After that one incident, the Israeli incursions in the West Bank stopped. Strangely, nobody seems to have commented on this unofficial aspect of the lull. The Islamic Jihad, and not the Palestinian Authority, got to demonstrate that they can protect Palestinians from Israel, not by negotiations, but by terror. A very edifying lesson.

Israel did not have to conclude a lull under such disadvantageous terms. It could have waited for better terms while beefing up the defenses of towns in the Western Negev, it could have pressed for free elections in Gaza under international supervision, or it could have decided to invade Gaza and wipe out the Hamas. There is little chance of a repeat of the Lebanon war fiasco in Gaza. There would no doubt have been a large number of civilian casualties, but Gaza is a small area, and with sufficient troops even an incompetent army could bring order there. The problem, as Israeli analysts put it, was the "exit strategy." Once you go in, how do you get out? For this, there was perhaps an easy solution, but nobody in Israel wanted to consider it.

After eliminating Hamas government, Israel could turn the Gaza strip over to the legitimate Palestinian government, the one that is recognized by the UN and the EU and backed by the United States, which could hold free elections under the Oslo accords. Since those accords exclude groups like Hamas that are committed to violence, and since every poll showed overwhelming support for Fatah as opposed to Hamas, Hamas would either have to commit to observing the conditions of the Oslo agreements, or sit out the elections. In any case, those elections would likely produce a moderate PLO government committed to the peace process. Israel could then negotiate a peace agreement with that government, the Palestinian state would be born, and everyone would ride off happily into the sunset. There were two objections to this roseate scenario. The first came from those who insisted that the Palestinian Authority government of Mahmoud Abbas is too weak to enforce a peace agreement. That might be so today, but the situation would certainly be different if Hamas rule was eliminated in Gaza and if the Palestinian Authority leaders could offer their people a program for statehood that they could support. The second came from those in Israel who are opposed to peace, because peace would require territorial concessions. This includes not only the die-hard "Greater Israel" people, but also government leaders, who are fearful that any hint of a deal with the Palestinians could spell the end of the shaky coalition.

The Palestinian Authority played their part in this sorry narrative. Had the Palestinian leadership turned to the Israeli people - and the world - with an offer that was fair, supporters of peace in Israel and the United States could not be ignored. The US administration would have been dragged, even if against their own volition, into supporting the Annapolis peace talks that they themselves had sponsored. Instead, Mahmoud Abbas and his negotiating team served up more of the same old, same old, insisting repeatedly and loudly in public on right of return for refugees, completely ignoring any Israeli rights in the old city of Jerusalem and repeating the meaningless slogan "A Palestinian State with its capital in Jerusalem." In private, they may have talked differently, but their repeated public utterances helped to solidify a coalition of right wing Zionists with a totally obstructionist and maximalist equal and opposite view that championed "united Jerusalem." To make matters worse, Abbas continued and continues to signal that at any opportune moment, whenever it might be most embarrassing for Israel, he will conclude a unity agreement with the Hamas on terms that preclude peace with Israel. This bid for Palestinian "unity" is popular among Palestinians for understandable reasons, but it spells death for prospects of peace.

It is vain to hope that the Hamas will eventually be coopted into the peace process by continued negotiations and contact. This model might work in California or New York, and it might work here if the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad were really independent Palestinian groups. But the Hamas and Islamic Jihad are puppets of Iran. Iran has no interest in a Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement and certainly has no interest in seeing the American-sponsored peace process succeed. Unlike New York and California, the Hamas demonstrated how governments are chosen in Palestinian society: The people who shoot the straightest get to govern, and the opposition are simply murdered.

Hamas is now peacefully and firmly ensconced in Gaza. This victory will be solidified when Gilad Shalit is exchanged for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, perhaps including Marwan Barghouti. The Rafa crossing will be opened, and then other crossings. Gazans will be living the good life. Barring unforeseen circumstances, Hamas may win the upcoming Palestinian presidential elections in December, or they may let Barghouti become president, representing his "national and Islamic coalition." That would probably spell the end of any possibility of a negotiated peace in the foreseeable future. Hamas will control the West Bank and Gaza. They will establish "order." In the short term, Israel might get a cessation of terror activity. The Palestinians may see an improvement in their standard of living as orderly government returns. Everyone will be happy, for a while. Meanwhile the occupation will continue. The Hamas will continue to educate Palestinians against the Zionist Entity that is run by the elders of Zion and occupies Tel Aviv and Haifa, as well as stockpiling arms and growing stronger. Firmly entrenched in both Gaza and the West Bank, they may opt to subvert Jordan before renewing their struggle against Israel. In any case, the Hamas will have the option of renewing the violence whenever it is convenient and Israel is free to proliferate settlements in violation of the defunct roadmap. The road map will not matter because Mr. Bush will no longer be president of the United States, and the Palestinian Authority as it was originally constituted will no longer exist. One road map condition will be fulfilled - at long last, Palestinian guns will all be in the hands of one group, and the prohibition on unofficial armed groups will be enforced with a vengeance. The group holding the arms will be the Hamas. Mr. Olmert will not have to make unpopular territorial concessions and the Hamas get the power and legitimacy that they want, without recognizing Israel or making any concession to peace. Everyone is happy except the people. As with all negotiated bargains, each side obtains what it is most in their interest to obtain. In this case, it is a true meeting of the minds.

Ami Isseroff

If you like this post - click to Reddit!
add to del.icio.usAdd to digg - digg it

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/00000706.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 @ 04:37 PM CST [Link]

NEWS

Middle East e-Zine

Midde East News

Opinion Digest

Late Updates

REFERENCE

Middle East Glossary

Middle East Maps

Middle East Books

Middle East Documents

Israel-Palestine History

Israel-Palestine Timeline

Middle East Countries

Middle East Economy

Middle East Population

Middle East Health

Zionism History

Palestinian Parties

Palestinian Refugees

Peace Plans

Water

Middle East

  

Blog Links

OneVoice - Israeli-Palestinian Peace Blog

Bravo411 -Info Freedom

Israel News

Oceanguy

Michael Brenner

Dutchblog Israel

Dutch - IMO (Israel & Midden-Oosten) Blog (NL)

GulfReporter

Israpundit

Alas, a Blog

Little Green Footballs

Blue Truth

Fresno Zionism

Reut Blog

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Blog

Simply Jews: Judaism and Israel

Jeff Weintraub - Commentaries and Controversies

Vital Perspective

ZioNation

Meretz USA Weblog

normblog

MIDEAST observer

On the Contrary

Blogger News Network- BNN

Google Sex Maps

Demediacratic Nation

Realistic Dove

Tulip - Israeli-Palestinian Trade Union Assoc.

On the Face

Israel Palestjnen (Dutch)

Middle East Analysis

Israel: Like This, As If

Middle East Analysis

Mid_East Journal

Z-Word Blog

Dvar Dea

SEO for Everyone


Web Sites & Pages

Israeli-Palestinian Procon

End Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: One Voice

Democratiya

ATFP- American Task Force on Palestine

Americans For Peace Now

Shalom Achshav

Chicago Peace Now

Nemashim

Peacechild Israel

Bridges of Peace

PEACE Watch

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Z-Word

Zionism

Zionism and Israel

Zionism and Israel on the Web

Israel - Palestina:Midden-Oosten Conflict + Zionisme

IsraŽl in de Media

Euston Manifesto

New Year Peace

Jew

Christian Zionism

Jew Hate

Space Shuttle Blog

Israel News Magazine

SEO


My Ecosystem Details
International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

Link 2 us
We link 2 U.
MidEastWeb- Middle East News & Views
MidEastWeb is not responsible for the content of linked Web sites



Please do not leave notes for MidEastWeb editors here. Hyperlinks are not displayed. We may delete or abridge comments that are longer than 250 words, or consist entirely of material copied from other sources, and we shall delete comments with obscene or racist content or commercial advertisements. Comments should adhere to Mideastweb Guidelines . IPs of offenders will be banned.

Powered By Greymatter

[Previous entry: "Democracy in the Middle East"] Main Index [Next entry: "Not Everything is conflict"]

ALL PREVIOUS MidEastWeb Middle East LOG ENTRIES

Thank you for visiting MidEastWeb - Middle East.
If you like what you see here, tell others about the MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log - www.mideastweb.org/log/.

Contact Us

Copyright

Editors' contributions are copyright by the authors and MidEastWeb for Coexistence RA.
Please link to main article pages and tell your friends about MidEastWeb. Do not copy MidEastWeb materials to your Web Site. That is a violation of our copyright. Click for copyright policy.
MidEastWeb and the editors are not responsible for content of visitors' comments.
Please report any comments that are offensive or racist.

Editors can log in by clicking here

Technorati Profile

RSS FeedRSS feed Add to Amphetadesk Add to Amphetadesk

USA Credit Card - Donate to MidEastWeb  On-Line - Help us live and grow