Civil War or What ? 4.10.2006

Civil War or What ?

Today, Singapore, 04/10/2006

It’s only been two weeks since most observers, including the undersigned were fairly certain that a fragile unity government between Hamas and Fatah in Palestine, lacking as it would have been, was just around the corner. What should have been a reasonable assessment in view of the realities on the ground, did not sufficiently take into consideration the enmity and need for power-play prevailing in this godforsaken corner of the world called Palestine.

The Palestinians, for the umpteenth time, are not about to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. President Abbas’ strenuous attempts to reason with Hamas Prime Minister Haniye to agree on a joint Palestinian platform which could find favor at least with the European Union, if not Israel and the US, failed when the minimum requirement, an acceptable attitude towards previous agreements with Israel, was not sanctioned by Hamas hardliners led by Haled Mashal in Damascus.  As a result, no financial support for the Palestinian Authority is forthcoming and the impossible economic situation in the Gaza strip is deteriorating even further leading to sporadic outbreaks of violence that have already caused 12 deaths and are threatening civil war in earnest. Hamas forces in Gaza are using violence to break up Fatah protests against the failing PA government which is unable to obtain vital funding for its functioning and Fatah is retaliating, also in the West Bank. Hamas has also rejected Israel’s offer for a prisoner exchange that would have included about one thousand long serving Palestinian prisoners, in addition to women and minors jailed by Israel.

The Palestinians are again wasting their energy on their own political struggles instead of uniting in a position vis-à-vis Israel, whose government, without any agenda, is looking at the ensuing imbroglio with maddening indifference, as if the Jewish state had nothing to lose if the PA goes down the drain. That’s just days after Israel’s outspoken head of the internal security service, Yuval Diskin, informed the government that the Palestinians, under the watchful but apparently disinterested eyes of the Egyptians, are smuggling commercial quantities of weapons and explosives into Gaza across the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Soon enough, these weapons will include rockets similar to those launched by Hezbollah against Israel in the recent Lebanese war. When (not if) these will be launched against Israel, its government may find the time to address the Palestinian issue with some initiative or even creativity. That is, unless, off course, Israel will once again prefer the use of force which, having failed miserably every single time before, may nevertheless again be the response of choice.

For the time being, Haled Mashal’s veto over the terms of the unity government is overpowering all efforts at compromise by PM Ismail Hanye and Abbas, the suffering population be damned. Probably the only person who could get Mashal to cooperate, if he really wanted to, is President Bashar Assad of Syria but  Israel, despite having been invited repeatedly, is presently mulishly disinclined to talk to him at all.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, her mind on the “State of Denial” in Washington, is concluding a tour of several Middle Eastern countries, including the PA and Israel, trying to salvage what there is to salvage. But let’s face it, nothing she does changes the fact that the Palestinians, at this time, are not able to handle their very limited independence. Israel, for reasons that one could well be disposed to call “temporary insanity” , stays on the sidelines lobbing in a few shells or missiles every once in a while claiming uselessly, with little justification, that conditions in Gaza are an internal Palestinian issue.

The choices now are between fully fledged civil-war, unlikely since Fatah and Hamas have ample experience stepping back from the abyss just in time, or dissolution of the government and new elections, risky for Abbas to call for since a Fatah victory cannot be assured.  Or, still the likeliest outcome, a unity government of unaffiliated experts which will come out of nowhere and may go nowhere, or else, save the day.

Considering the importance of this conflict as a major contributing cause to the advent and perpetuation of Islamic radicalism in the world, it is unconscionable that the international community, in any form or shape, does not put more efforts into resolving it. Israel and the Palestinian’s are proving daily that they are either unwilling or incapable, or both. What is everybody waiting for, the Messiah?

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