Middle East Roundtable /
A Palestinian View:
A logical consequence of failed politics
by Ghassan Khatib
The dramatic Palestinian attack on an Israeli military
post on the border with the Gaza Strip did not come as much of a surprise to
anybody. On the contrary, it represented the gradual and consistent
escalation of violence that has been witnessed since the unilateral Israeli
withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the subsequent siege that was imposed on
And while, as usual, both sides have been blaming each other, the
overwhelming weight of responsibility lies at Israel's door. Israeli
violence, not just in the Gaza Strip but in the West Bank, has been steadily
increasing. Assassinations and arrests often ending in killings, often of
civilians, have been increasing and a months-long campaign of constant
artillery fire has blighted Gazans' lives.
This violence has come in tandem with an Israeli siege that almost
hermetically sealed off Gaza from the outside world and shut the door in the
face of any chance that Gazans' lives and livelihoods might improve after
the withdrawal. On the contrary, according to all relevant international
agencies, especially the World Bank, the siege caused a sharp economic
deterioration and poverty and unemployment rose dramatically as a result.
The siege, furthermore, was in direct contravention to bilateral agreements
that sought to avoid exactly such an eventuality.
Israel wanted to have its cake and eat it. Starting from the time of former
Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Israel did not want to continue with the
implementation of the peace process, and since then Israel has shown no
interest in bilateral negotiations on the basis of international legality.
Instead, successive Israeli governments have pursued a unilateral strategy,
a strategy that is about Israeli behavior to achieve Israeli interests with
no regard for international legality and certainly not for the Palestinian
side. At the same time, Israel expected the other side to abide by the rules
of a game that was created by the peace process.
It is this Israeli position--deviating from the bilateral process and its
legal agreements--and the behavior that arises from it, that encourages, and
in the eyes of many Palestinians justifies, Palestinian military activities.
But there are also ways of looking at these developments in the light of the
internal Palestinian situation. There are two possible motives for Hamas to
resume its involvement in military activities against Israel. The first is
that Hamas' restraint in the face of these continuous Israeli attacks
negatively affected its strong public position. The relatively moderate
position of Hamas brought on by the responsibility of having formed a
government created a vacuum that was being filled by other more extreme
elements within Palestinian society that tried to answer the public's desire
to avenge the continuous Israel attacks and the siege.
The other possible motive is to escape the responsibilities of government.
Having won parliamentary elections, Hamas was unable to fulfill the
obligations of governing. The faction is also unable to admit this or go for
an alternative governing arrangement such as a coalition government, because
that would imply that the movement has failed.
Of late, many politicians and analysts have warned that a continuation of
the political vacuum will inevitably encourage and increase violence. In
this context we must learn from the missed opportunities of the recent past.
The post-Israeli and Palestinian elections period was an opportunity for
third party initiatives to resume the political process, as was the period
after President Mahmoud Abbas succeeded the late Yasser Arafat.
In both cases the international community failed to grasp the opportunity.
This encouraged other elements, whether from the Israeli or Palestinian
side, to try to fill that vacuum with alternative initiatives and programs
of the kind that are responsible for the current deterioration.
It would take a bold initiative from a strong third party toward a bilateral
political process based on international law rather than the balance of
power and the use of force to bring back hope of any civilized and
non-violent way out of the current situation.- Published 26/6/2006 ©
Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet
publications. He is the former Palestinian Authority minister of planning,
and has been a political analyst and media contact for many years.
An Israeli View:
Israel's Gaza dilemma
Most Israelis, this writer included, believe that there is no moral
equivalency between Israeli civilians deliberately targeted by
Palestinian terrorists and Palestinian civilians inadvertently
killed in the course of attacking the terrorists as a response to
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