Friday, April 29, 2011

Rapprochement?

Last month it was noised abroad that Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the PA, was to visit Gaza. Then a Jewish settler family was found murdered in the West Bank and the ensuing 'hue and cry' in West Bank villages put an end to the visit. The notion of Abbas sitting down with HAMAs seemed still-born.

But the Arab spring was in full swing and whatever powers there were in a newly 'de-Mubaraked' Egypt  invited the feuding sides to meet together without the standard Egyptian 'interests' (viz Mubarak's agreements with Israel) involved. The result, announced to-day, was another plan to unite the two main 'factions' of the PA into one political entity. HAMAS and FATAH  are uniting their forces to move the Palestinian agenda forward.

So what's new this time? There have been such 'plans' before.

True, there have been a number of attempts to re-engage the two halves of the palestinian polity, often at the behest of the Arab League. The league members have their own agenda and support of the Palestinian cause is, for many of them, mostly mouth action. Previous plans involved paying HAMAS for caving-in to FATAH. The latter being vaguely palatable to Israel as a 'peace partner' and acceptable to the western powers as 'reformed terrorists'. Obviously had HAMAS seen any benefit to joining the moribund rump of the PLO, it would have done that. But one of the main causal reasons for HAMAS is the loss of 'belly-fire' in the resistance, and the co-option of Arafat's movement to align with Israel's main supporters. Not to mention the fact that 'virtual zero' for Palestinians was thoroughly explored in a very protracted series of peace 'lunches', while the Zionists colonized the West Bank..

HAMAS, having fought off FATAH twice, was in  no mood to join the 'losers', even though such action isolated and severely punished Gaza. It is perhaps this stalwart defence of their principles that is bringing the West Bank Arabs to the realization that, if there is no substantial change, the 'screwing' they've been getting will continue indefinitely.

Among agreement on 5 points is one to organize and hold an election in Gaza and the West Bank. This is vital. The last parliamentary election saw a Hamas government elected, and then arrested by the Israeli military. HAMAS took over administration of GAZA. Fatah held its strongholds in the West bank by rounding-up and jailing HAMAS proponents. HAMAS reciprocated after intercepting a US arms shipment bound for FATAH supporters in Gaza and chased the party activists out. The next election will allow ballot box comment on a raft of changes  from new settlements to the Wall.  I'd bet FATAH's day is done. 

Of course the greatest reaction to this announcement came from Israel. The three biggest news sources were full of commentary and interpretation of the event. The Jewish blogosphere lit up with dire warnings that destruction had taken wing, the existential threat was being realized. There were demands for the UN to outlaw everything in Palestine and impose sanctions - definitely to ignore any calls for Palestinian statehood or study of Mr. Goldstone's original report - which still stands as written. The Israeli 'security' cabinet was meeting to discuss the ramifications.

Among the immediate actions being demanded is the withdrawal of US support for the Palestinian Authority which is, once again, being described, by 'Israelis', both 'foreign and domestic', as a "terrorist state". Israel calls upon the world not to recognize the 'new' Palestinian government. After an election this might be a more problematic. Israel might be well-advised to use the wallet of the USA to try to get a better settlement now, rather than risking a worse one at some time up the road.

It goes without saying that, unless she's obviously attacked, 'punching out' the neighborhood, again, as a diversion, is a counter-productive non-starter. But it isn't off the table, nu?

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