Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Peace Is The Only Option for Israel

Another dreadful week is underway in Palestine in a rapid sequence of events.

Amid ongoing air-strikes by Israel, Hamas has emerged from vicious factional fighting to take control of Gaza. Fatah leader and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas responded by dissolving the recently formed Palestinian unity government and naming a secular prime minister for the new "emergency government". It will control the West Bank, where Fatah is still the more powerful group.

Meantime, Israel has hinted at releasing millions in tax revenues to the new government, which have been withheld since Hamas were elected and even after they joined with Fatah. There is also talk of ending the international siege on the Fatah-controlled West Bank. Both events are occurring under the continued campaign of strengthening Abbas and Fatah and turning Palestinians against Hamas.

An Israeli minister has called for even more action against Hamas. Benjamin Ben-Eliezer advocates targeting the entire Hamas organization, including members of the government. He said: "We have to put them all in the cross-hairs".

Israel has been pounding Hamas positions in Gaza with air strikes for over a week, and rockets are continuing to fall. With Hamas now in charge, Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is coming under pressure to re-occupy the strip.

Whether they like it or not, Israelis should realize that, every air strike and assassination in Gaza and the West Bank, hardens Palestinian resolve.

Even though Palestinians are under occupation, impoverished, restricted, suffering humiliation and under fear of Israeli bombs and snipers, there will always be Palestinian resistance movements, and they will always have popular support. Israel has been launching air strikes and carrying out assassinations for decades, and Israelis in towns near Gaza are in more danger than they ever have been from the increasing rocket attacks.

The only way Israel can kill Palestinian resistance is to actively seek out a way to end the occupation, return the land gained in 1967 or its equivalent, and find a solution to the refugee issue that can be accepted by both sides.

It is said Israel can't relinquish the land because it would put them back to the strategic weakness that led to them fighting two defensive wars in 1948 and 1967. Israel should be proud that it was able to repel such attacks with what was then a relatively small, poorly equipped army. An army that has increased in size and bought more arms, advanced weaponry and Weapons of Mass Destruction in the last 40 years than anyone who would threaten it.

During that long time span, the Israeli army has become feared and revered -- and not to mention U.S. support becoming an engrained policy. I believe that if Israel ends the occupation, there is a good chance of securing a peaceful Middle East, certainly more likely than continuing on the current path: the continuing financial blockade increasing poverty in a previously impoverished place, and with the 10 metre high wall Israel is building around settlements, isolating Palestinian areas and adding to the hopelessness and desperation of all Palestinians. Not to mention the anger at regular assassinations in the West Bank and periodic air strikes and ground incursions in Gaza, and the civilian death tolls.

Hamas' charter calls for the destruction of Israel, and since Hamas won the Palestinian election in early 2006, Israel has been blinded to peace by its desire to destroy Hamas. Attempting to destroy their popular support with the internationally supported financial blockade, and, since factional fighting broke out with renewed brutality, by arming Fatah and launching targeted strikes against Hamas militants and rocket squads.

The strikes have been intensified since Hamas withdrew from the ceasefire with Israel. Hamas taking control of Gaza is proof that this policy has been a massively bad idea, because any group that doesn't actively fight to end the occupation will not have credibility in Palestinian eyes. Fatah being armed by the Israeli government for the factional war solidified Fatah and their leader Abbas' image as Israel and the U.S.' lap-dog .And as Fatah continues to be favoured and armed by Israel at the expense and to the detriment of the people's favourite, Hamas, any shred of credibility for Palestinian Authority President Abbas and his secular Fatah party slips away. Israel's collateral damage therefore increases support for Hamas even further.

It is fair to say that any deal reached by Fatah will be seen to concede too much to Israel, because whatever it concedes, Palestinians will be dubious about what has been given away behind the scenes. No deal that isn't accepted by all Palestinians would last more than five minutes, and Palestinians will accept no deal that isn’t at least overseen and accepted by Hamas. If Israel realized that peace was the only way to secure their population, then they must also realize their current air strikes are targeting their best chance of reaching a lasting agreement with the Palestinians.

There may be the opportunity for a ceasefire agreement to end the current Gaza fighting, now solely between Hamas and Israel. If this is done properly it could lead to direct Israel-Hamas talks that could secure a peace deal, which would likely be accepted by the majority of Palestinians. Israel's Fatah-dog would no doubt succumb to Israel's wishes. I don't hold out much hope.

My take is that Israel hopes that the more bombs it drops and civilians it kills, the more it will turn Palestinians against the "terrorists", but after two decades of these policies, Palestinians turned to Hamas anyway -- showing that it is time for a change. Until Israel realizes this, there will be no peace and no security for Israelis.

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