Thursday, December 14, 2006

Getting scarier in Gaza

The situation in Palestine is getting scarier (if this is possible). The prime minister, or head of the PNA "government," Ismail Haniyeh, is declaring that the shots fired at his limousine were an assassination attempt.

The context for this is that Haniyeh had gone on a visit abroad and was attempting to return to the open-air prison in Gaza with some money for food and salaries to alleviate the misery that continues to increase in the territories. Haniyeh had to leave about $30m in Egypt and eventually, after diplomatic negotiations, was allowed to return. But hey, humiliating the head of "government" is always an acceptable step.

The PNA should have been dissolved long ago, when Abbas could still make the decision himself to end the charade and return responsibility to Israel. If your "government" is arrested by its supposed negotiating "partner," then what sort of "government" is it and what does it "govern"? The Israelis still have all the cards and, like true Likudniks, treat the Palestinians elected as the elected representatives of the prisoners (sorry, "Arabs of Eretz Israel"). But now, Hamas and Fatah cannot agree on anything, and neither will concede for fear of giving the other some sort of edge; and even if they did, other groups make the situation impossible.

As for the horrible situation in the Territories, this can be credited almost entirely to Israel as the power broker. The Palestinian track, if such a thing exists, no longer has anything to do with diplomacy; it is entirely about Israeli domestic politics. Peretz and Olmert jockey for who gets to talk to Abbas or other Palestinians (who hasn't met them in person since the election, but is forced to receive lower ranking Israeli diplomats). Israel's refusal to negotiate or concede any points, and its policies in the Territories, were largely responsible for Hamas's election victory (along with its attempts to subvert Fatah and make it a dependent puppet); and now the boycott and the checkpoints, and the closure of Gaza to almost any traffic, are sealing the deal.

So Israel, as Danny Rubinstein opines in Ha'aretz, will probably have a full-scale Palestinian civil war on its hands soon. If they are hoping the Palestinians will horribly weaken themselves again, they may well be correct, but the fallout won't be pleasant, and the Palestinians won't go away.

What could be done about this? A circumvention of the boycott to pay civil servants through roundabout means, including U.S. funds; release of Palestinian tax funds stolen by the Israeli government to serve this purpose; an alleviation of the unnecessary WB checkpoints; extension of the Gaza "ceasefire" to the WB; an immediate halt to outposts and dismantling of some; resumption of negotiations and diplomatic overtures to Abbas; encouragement of a Palestinian unity government; reopening of the Gaza-Karni and Gaza-Rafah checkpoints to allow agricultural export, movement between Gaza and Egypt and products to move between GS and WB.

What will be done about this? None of the above. At some point, the Israeli government may decide to kill or arrest someone else, to show that they can.

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