Sunday, November 18, 2007

Understating the Obvious

The upcoming summit at Annapolis, Maryland on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is going to be an unmitigated disaster. That's my take, precisely because the Palestinians have not lived up to their obligations at all under any of the preceding agreements.

There can be no peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians unless and until the Palestinians accept the Jewish state of Israel alongside the Palestinian state. They refuse to do so. Period.

Hamas doesn't accept Israel's right to exist, and they control Gaza exclusively. No agreement at Annapolis will be worth the paper it's written on while Gaza is in the hands of Hamas.

Gazans are living the nightmare of their own creation. They wanted Hamas to win in elections against Fatah, and the result of that, and the ensuing Palestinian civil war has turned the squalid mess in Gaza into a glimpse of hell. Only the New York Times can figure a way to wrap a bow around it and somehow blame Israel.
It’s not just that Hamas is shunned by the West and Israel, which has declared Gaza “a hostile entity” and is moving to restrict supplies of gasoline, diesel fuel and electricity. Gaza is also shunned by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, who is a ready accomplice in the effort to punish and pressure Hamas.

After the Israelis pulled out in 2005, Gazans complained that they lived in a big prison, since Israel still controlled their airspace, sea coasts and principal border crossings. Such claims had an element of propaganda, but now, with the crossing into Egypt for people also shut, by Egypt, the accusation is much closer to reality.

A trickle of the 1.5 million inhabitants of Gaza can now leave their tiny coastal strip for any reason whatsoever. The streets are ghostly, with little traffic, and the private economy is dying, lacking needed imports and unable to export.

Gaza is a deeply conservative society, but Hamas’s growth has been reflected in the increasing number of women not only covering their hair, but also their faces. Israel says that it will ensure that no one starves in Gaza, and that the essentials of life will be provided.

But Israel also wants to see that Hamas suffers, by making Gazans suffer, to impress on them that the best path lies in accommodation and negotiation with Israel for a Palestinian state. Fatah backs that strategy, not the violent, religious and national struggle against Israel that Hamas advocates and practices.

Raji Sourani, director of Gaza’s Palestinian Center for Human Rights, is himself stuck in Gaza. No friend to Hamas, he has a new metaphor.

“At least in prison, and I’ve been in prison, there are rules,” he said. “But now we live in a kind of animal farm. We live in a pen, and they dump in food and medicine.”
The Palestinians have reaped what they have sown. Arafat refused to counter the Camp David offer by Barak in 2000, which would have created a two-state solution, including all of Gaza and much of the West Bank. The Palestinians launched Intifada 2, which continues to this day.

Israel built the security fence to prevent suicide bombers from penetrating into Israel. The number of suicide bombers that have successfully carried out attacks is down significantly, but the Palestinians have resorted to firing rockets and mortars into Israel on a near daily basis. Thousands of kassams have been fired into Israel, especially at the Israeli town of Sderot. And yet we're supposed to be sympathetic to the Palestinians? Hardly.

That isn't to say that the West Bank under Fatah is any better. It isn't. Fatah's thugs in the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade are just as dedicated to Israel's destruction as Hamas is (that is when they're not being blinded by all the bling thrown around by the West and filling their pockets with the filthy lucre instead of dedicating it to the humanitarian aid that it was designated for).

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