Saturday, July 23, 2005

Midsummer Mideast Madness

An editorial from today's NY Times:
The second-to-last thing that Palestinians need is an internal civil war between members of President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party and militant extremists from Hamas and Islamic Jihad. It was heartening to see that after a week of the worst infighting in years, the two sides announced a cease-fire - even if they did have a shootout four hours later.
It's refreshing to see that the Palestinians take cease-fires amongst themselves as seriously as they take them with Israel.
But if the Palestinians can't afford an internal civil war, they can afford a war with Israel even less. So while it is nice to see Mr. Abbas trying to quell the Palestinian-on-Palestinian violence, he would do well to focus more of his energy on quelling the Palestinian-on-Israeli violence that has been under way in advance of Israel's planned disengagement from Gaza. Indeed, the so-called cease-fire between Fatah and Hamas apparently just clears the decks for Hamas to refocus on Israel. That was immediately evident this week, when, in announcing the cease-fire, a senior Hamas leader said the organization was doing so "in order to ensure that arms would only be used to resist the Israeli occupation."
That paragraph almost gave me whiplash. Could Hamas and other "militant extremists" be the problem? Hmm?
This really is a textbook case in the myriad ways that extremists can hijack an entire population. No reasonable person can doubt that the Hamas attacks hurt the Palestinians more than the Israelis.
Well, I guess that makes me an unreasonable person. I guess that Israelis who have been under rocket and mortar attacks are also unreasonable people.
That is exactly the kind of violence that has given the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, the ammunition to destroy the Palestinian police force, freeze the movement of ordinary Palestinians throughout the occupied territories and seal disputed land behind Israel's new security fence. But Hamas appears hellbent on trying to prove to the world that it is their attacks that are driving Israel out of Gaza. So instead of sitting back and waving goodbye peacefully as the Israelis leave, Hamas seems to prefer that the exodus be carried out under fire.
Again, no mention of Israeli civilians who have been under attack, and those who are safer because of the security fence.
Meanwhile, Israel's extremist right wing is doing its own hijacking. While polls show most Israelis support the withdrawal of 8,500 Gaza settlers, you wouldn't know it from the noise being made in Jerusalem, or in the desert near the Gaza Strip, where thousands of religious protesters have camped out, pledging to do whatever they can to hamper the withdrawal. While Mr. Sharon has blocked their efforts so far, he continues to try to advertise the pullback as one undertaken for Israel's own reasons, and not part of any negotiated deal with the Palestinians, or a response to Palestinian terrorism.
Okay, it's moral equivalence time again. Israeli right wing protesters=Hamas terrorists.
The withdrawal from Gaza, handled with sanity, could be a first step toward getting back to the road map to peace. Unfortunately, sanity has not been the norm so far on either side of the Israeli security barrier.
Once more with the same moral equivalence game.

Comparing the Israeli right wing with Hamas and other terrorists, is far from valid. As the NY Times' own columnist, Tom Friedman has pointed out, in Israel the center rules. It has thus far shown the will and the ability to control the extremist elements in its society. The same cannot be said of the Palestinians. The only way for there to be true peace and coexistence in the region is for a strong Palestinian center to emerge. While nobody should hope for violence, it may be that the only way for this to occur is through a Palestinian civil war.

The Times editorial makes no sense in that it does not offer a solution to the violence and stated goals of Hamas. While the Times mentions the roadmap to peace, the Editors might want to review some of the responsibilities of the Palestinians under Phase I:
Palestinians declare an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism and undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt, and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis anywhere.
Rebuilt and refocused Palestinian Authority security apparatus begins sustained, targeted, and effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure. This includes commencing confiscation of illegal weapons and consolidation of security authority, free of association with terror and corruption.
This takes us back to the beginning of the editorial. Contrary to what the NY Times argues, could a Palestinian civil war lead to the formation of the strong center that is necessary for peace to have a chance? Is the NY Times condemning the Palestinian Authority for actually attempting to control terrorists, which is clearly laid out in the roadmap to peace as one of its responsibilities?

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