Sunday, June 17, 2007

Palestine splits in two

For those of us in Israel who yearn and work for peace and a decent life for ALL the people of Israel and Palestine, the latest situation in Gaza raises many issues.

Firstly, it is unclear what exactly has happened in Gaza. What we do know is that armed factions of Hamas have attacked Fatah installations and offices and have killed Fatah supporters, sometimes with great brutality.

Some Arab observers have likened the situation in Gaza to putting 2 children in a closed room with one slice of bread, "so you shouldn't be surprised if they fight". The other possible conclusion is that Palestinian Arabs have a strong predisposition of trying to resolve disputes by violent and bloody means which the developed world no longer accepts.

It is unclear whether these actions by the armed factions of Hamas were supported by the Hamas Prime Minister and other Hamas leaders including Haled Mashal in Damascus and whether there is or was a political objective behind it. One suspects that it was not planned or thought out and I doubt whether the Hamas leadership (if indeed it is behind this) thought of the possible results. Reports claim that they declare the indivisibility of Palestine and their desire for a continued joint government with Fatah. If so, this is a mighty strange way of going about it. Not only has President Abbas dismissed the former government, appointed a Fatah-based emergency government in its place but he has also declared Hamas an illegal organisation.

The perception is that Palestine has been efffectively split into two statelets, one under the control of the fundamentalist Hamas in Gaza and one under the control of Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank. This effectively helps Israel which has been trying to isolate Gaza from the West Bank for years, and enable Israel and the West to ease restrictions on the Palestinians in the West Bank.

The surrounding Arab governments, especially Egypt, who, in any case view the Hamas - offshoot of Egypt's Islamic Brotherhood - view the takeover of Gaza by Hamas by violent means with great concern.

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