Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, June 15, 2007

Thoughts about Gaza

After a week of fighting in Gaza that nobody wanted to call a civil war or an insurrection, there is a new political reality: Hamas has conquered Gaza. Fatah controls the West Bank, but Hamas controls Gaza. Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, helped prompt the crisis by dissolving the Hamas-led government. Abbas was fatlly undermined by the West, who refused to help him at all so long as he tried to negotiate with Hamas. Now that he's lost big time, Olmert and the USA are reaching out to him. Once again, the Bush strategy of refusing to talk to bad guys has failed. The NY Times reported a masked Hamas gunman shouting into a media microphone, "Condoleeza Rice, now you will have to talk to us!" Gee, did it need to come to that before we would talk to the elected representatives of the Palestinian people? You talk to the democratically elected representatives you have, not the ones you wish you had.

Well, I find that comment fascinating, and a measure of comfort. Even Israel is not sounding the armageddon alarm bells. Hamas wants power, respect, and authority. For all its nasty rhetoric, it is capable of pragmatism. The economy is an unbelievable wreck. Unemployment is the norm, not the exception. Schools and hospitals do not function. Nothing does. ? Can Hamas control Gaza? It has been ungovernable since the Israeli pullout in 2005, if not well before then. If Hamas can control Gaza, that's a step towards stability in the region.

A spokesperson recently said that Hamas won't recognize Israel because Israel does not yet recognize a Palestinian state. Well, recognition, schmecognition. Power is power - are they going to talk to one another or not? If not, what do happens then? Does anyone think that the situation is going to improve if Hamas and the Gazans become more isolated and desperate?

The worst result today is the end of democratic legitimacy in the Palestinian Authority. We had a hand in this. The USA and Israel so crippled the government, refusing even to let it collect tax revenues, that it collapsed. Offers to change course now (Israel today called giving money to a Fatah-led government an "opportunity") is too little, too late. Is there any prospect that Hamas will now surrender Gaza to a newly elected Palestinian Authority if it loses the election? A lot less than last month, that's for sure.

Abbas has one card he can still play. He can declare independence outright and call for an election for a national assembly. That might just have enough legitimacy on the Arab Street to force Hamas to stand down in Gaza.

At least the fighting has stopped for now.


Dr. Strangelove said...

Interesting idea about Abbas declaring independence... it might work. Otherwise, are we looking at a Pakistan/Bangladesh-type split here?

uswest said...

The thing here is that the people want peace, the leaders of all sides of this skewed square don't seem all that interested. The cost is too high. For peace to even have a chance, Israel would have to pull back to its 1967 borders. It has illegally built so many settlements and allowed so many new immigrants in that such a thing would be a very difficult if not impossible now. And until the Palestinians can get their house in order,
Israel has little incentive to pull back. And I would wager that is why they pulled out of Gaza in the first place. They knew that the Palestinians would be split and this would prolong the whole affair.

Yes, everyone is to blame. No one seems interested in a solution. They only way this would work would be for some strong UN force to encamp in the area to keep the Israelis and Palestinans from eating each other. But then, considering how well things are going in sectarian Iraq these days, I can't see any nation wanting to contribute to such a force.

Anonymous said...

I've said before that the problem the Palestinians have is that any deal they make with the Israelis can't be trusted because Israeli governments are held hostage by radical religious fundamentalists (sound familiar?). The problem the Israelis have is that no one on the Palestinian side can make a real peace with Israel and live. The result is that neither side has a real partner in the peace process.

But there is something that - hypothetically - could defeat Hamas now. If we ignore Hamas and deal only with Abbas and that deal results in Fatah winning back some MAJOR concessions on Jerusalem, he would be seen by the Palestinians as the man who can deliver while Hamas just gets people killed in their cross fire with the IDF.

The question is this: what can/will Israel give on the Jerusalem issue?


Dr. Strangelove said...

I doubt Israel will bother. From their point of view, Fatah (with its "Martyr Brigades" and other uncontrolled elements) was scarcely better than Hamas... and I don't think the Israelis would hand over a portion of Jerusalem over to anyone. From the Israeli point of view, it is better that the Palestinian armed factions waste their resources killing each other rather than killing Israelis.

USWest says, "The People want peace..." and I would like to know on what she bases that hopeful statement. I think the people want money and jobs--and as the last Palestinian election and other events may indicate--they feel that fighting is more likely to win this for them than peaceful means.

USWest said...

I don't fundamentally disagree with what others have said. Israeli politics are hardly allowing for any peace deals.

I say that the people want peace, meaning that both the general population on the Israeli side and the general population on the Palestinian side want peace because they want jobs, homes, and a quality of life.

There are many Israeli peace activists and there are many Palestinians as well. We rarely hear about them though because guns and cannon fire are always louder than peace marches and quiet acts of kindness done between people.

Also, from what I have heard and read, surveys done in Israel and the Territories have shown a majority on both sides favoring a 2 state solution. The problem is how to carve out 2 states. You have huge resource issues involved as well, water being one of the most important. Having an outlet to the sea, having a water supply, etc. are big issues here that few people talk about. That is why a return to the 1967 borders are important.

Hamas was elected in part because Fatah was corrupted and had failed miserably and Hamas was the only alternative after years of Arafat's rule. We forget that Arafat was a barrier to a lot of progress. I am not going to blame him totally for the failure of the Clinton talks. But he was a revolutionary leader who never successfully made the transition to political leader. Furthermore, Dennis Ross has since said that the mistake made at the 2000 Clinton negotiations was to try and get a deal on Jerusalem. He said that they should have focused on where they could make progress, let the two sides build some trust, and then come back later for Jerusalem. I agree with that assessment. Although the "coming back" part would have been up to the Bush Administration who would have screwed it all up anyway.

Also, I think outside governments had a lot to do with Hamas being promoted to begin with. Furthermore, as has been said here, the refusal to deal with what was a democratically elected government drove the more fundamentalist parts of Palestinian society further right. We have had debates on this topic on the blog before. But I still think Hamas' "drive Israel into the sea" was more posturing than anything else. If Israel refused to talk to Hamas, we could have. And I will venture a guess that we did using back channels.

And let's talk a minute about how weird the situation is. The West Bank and Gaza are really enclaves. They are neighborhoods in tightly confined areas. We aren't talking about a country. The fact that you have Hamas and Fatah going at each other resembles gang warfare more so than civil war.

I agree with Dr. S that the Israelis are probably relieved to not be the main target at the moment. Again, I suspect this may have come up in Israeli discussions about pulling out of the Gaza. So long as Israel has no "peace partner" then it can continue building settlements in the West Bank, it can maintain the status quo.

Dennis Ross has also talked about the extreme victim mentalities on both sides. So it isn't just about real politick here.

The Law Talking Guy said...

The Israeli public has engaged in deliberate self-deception regarding the Palestinians. It has indulged the hope that it can gain security without 'solving' the problem at all. It has indulged the fantasy that it could somehow bully the Palestinians into making peace on their terms - that in the end they can keep everything they want and get the Palestinian problem to go away. The US and successive Israeli governments have similarly refused to get tough or get serious.

On the Palestinian side, the people have indulged the fantasy that Israel has to do all the heavy lifting on peace. They have allowed themselves to get carried away with a public front consisting of masked men with machine guns waving green flags, preaching hate, and supporting terrorism. At some point, they want to think, all this unpleasantness will make the Israelis "leave," or an outside force with vindicate them and get the Israelis to go away.

Neither side seems to get the fact that the other side is not going to go away.

As others have mentioned, both sides have indulged their martyr and victim complexes - which is, for both Arabs and Jews, like mining the mother lode.

Somebody has got to be an honest broker to get everyone in a room and make them put their cards on the table.

Then you have to realize (as Clinton didn't) that one grand meeting won't solve things. It will take a long process of such meetings that cause the parties to transform their own preferences from confrontation to cooperation, as they gradually come to learn the penalties associated with the former and realize -through experience and growing trust - the benefits of the latter. This is exactly what started at Oslo in 1994, and what Bibi Netanyahu and Sharon destroyed with their high-minded refusal to talk with people they don't like. Bush and Rice are no better and no smarter about it.

RBR's question about Jerusalem is good, but it's too early. Solutions that are unacceptable today may be acceptable tomorrow. Negotiation is not just about finding a pareto-optimal solution today; it's about preparing for one tomorrow, after preferences change. The 2000 Camp David Summit actually was useful, in that it created among Israelis, for the first time, some understanding that Jersualem was going to be on the table in some form, and some gut-level understanding that concessions will ultimately need to be made. It also helped focus the Palestinians on a two-state solution. But we're looking at a process, not a moment.