Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Gaza: State of siege

The only way out of these failing policies is to actively seek Palestinian reconciliation, rather than veto it

The Guardian, Tuesday 22 June 2010

".....For its part, the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas now has even less reason than it had before to be reconciled with the Palestinian Authority by signing a document drawn up by the Egyptians, by which it would accept the PLO agreement to recognise Israel. Why would Hamas stop being Hamas, after all Gaza has endured, and follow Fatah down its fruitless 17-year path searching for peace, at the very moment at which international support, particularly in Europe, for its contined isolation appears to be crumbling? The longer the stalemate continues, the more Hamas becomes part of the landscape. Even if it were incapable of governing, maintaining some form of collective discipline with other armed factions, Hamas would still retain its legitimacy. There is still, after four years, no convincing evidence that Hamas is losing the support it won in the only free election to be mounted in the Arab world. Political isolation has not worked any better than physical isolation. The only way out of these failing policies is to actively seek Palestinian reconciliation, rather than, as at present, to veto it. This has as much to do with US and the Quartet as it has to do with Israel. Conditions that demand the unilateral surrender of Palestinian militants before they even get to the negotiating table should be shelved and replaced by objectives that are achievable, such as a general ceasefire.

As things are, any attempt to allow Hamas into the ring would be regarded as a move against the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. This is a lose-lose situation for each side. The Palestinian president is losing authority by saying that now is not the time for the naval blockade to be lifted. But he is equally losing by failing to secure the three core demands of a viable Palestinian stateborders, the right of return and East Jerusalem as its capital. For Hamas, it means that the test of political negotiation – of keeping unity while redefining political goals in the light of what is achievable – can for ever be put off for another day. The pressure on both wings to react to the next hammer blow does not go away: the threatened resumption of large-scale settlement construction, the withdrawal of residency rights and the demolition of Arab homes in East Jerusalem. In the absence of peace, Israel continues to expand into the space surrendered by a divided Palestinian leadership."

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