The aftermath of the war on Gaza

Out of the rubble

Speaking to his people on January 18, hours after Hamas responded to Israel’s unilateral suspension of hostilities with a conditional ceasefire of its own, the deposed Palestinian Authority prime minister Ismail Haniyeh devoted several passages of his prepared text to the subject of Palestinian national reconciliation. For perhaps the first time since Hamas’s June 2007 seizure of power in the Gaza Strip, an Islamist leader broached the topic of healing the Palestinian divide without mentioning Mahmoud Abbas by name.

At a press conference the following day convened by Abu Ubaida, the spokesperson of the Martyr Izz al Din al Qassam Brigades, the Hamas military wing, the movement went one step further. “The Resistance”, Abu Ubaida intoned, “is the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”.

What these statements make clear is that Hamas will no longer engage with Abbas, and is even less inclined to throw him a lifeline in the form of a national unity government he would appoint. These statements are not so much a direct challenge to his leadership as a confirmation that his legitimacy has been fatally damaged by the Gaza war. Even his hand-picked prime minister, Salam Fayyad, told journalists that the PA in Ramallah has been “marginalised”.

Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip has produced a transformational moment in Palestinian politics. It is a moment all too reminiscent of the period succeeding the 1967 War when the credibility of the prevailing Arab order collapsed and – deriving their legitimacy from the barrel of a gun – Yasser Arafat and a coalition of Palestinian guerrilla organisations seized control of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). [continued…]

The next step

The vast majority cheered loudly, the negligible minority shouted in silence, like a whistler in the dark. The overwhelming majority only wanted more and more, the inconsequential minority wanted only to stop. The absolute majority gorged, ordering pizzas and scenes of the bombing by VOD, and some stood on the rooftops opposite Gaza with their children to watch the massacre with their own eyes. The trifling minority tried to protest, cringing with shame and feelings of guilt at every image that arrived from Gaza.

Not since the summer of 1967 have we had such a uniform, brainwashed chorus – and back then it was not so nationalist and bestial, insensitive and blind. But now, as the dust clears over the ruins and there are not enough bandages to cover all the wounds; with the cemeteries full and the hospitals bursting; as the cripples, the incapacitated, the amputees, the traumatized and the bereaved, the thousands of wounded and tens of thousands of newly homeless try helplessly to rehabilitate whatever they can, the time has come to respond and say what can be done. Now it is time to elaborate on the alternative to the cruelest and most brutal war in Israel’s history, and one of the most unnecessary.

First, there is a different path, which Israel has never embarked on. Neither Oslo nor the disengagement was a sufficient step. With war the initial means and unrestrained violence the preferred choice, we have almost always spoken only with force, our only language. By force and stratagems we made war, another war. The force was supplied by the Israel Defense Forces, the stratagems by the media. Alternative proposals were inevitably condemned. Second, it is impossible to start from today. We have to remember the context, and the context is always twisted and distorted out of all recognition. [continued…]

No moderates left

he three leading candidates for prime minister are extremists. Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak went to war in Gaza and are therefore as radical as can be. Benjamin Netanyahu is more radical in rhetoric only.

We must not be led astray in this election campaign and consider both Livni and Barak as moderates, in contrast to the “extremist” Netanyahu. This is a deception. Kadima and Labor, the center and left-wing parties, have led Israel to two awful wars within two years. Netanyahu has yet to go to war once. True, he speaks more radically than the other two, but so far it has only been words, while the “moderates” have taken radical, aggressive action.

“Bibi is unreliable and terribly right-wing,” Kadima’s electoral broadcast asserts. Is he? Livni and Barak are just the same. None of the people involved in the Gaza war can speak of peace now. Those who delivered such a brutal blow to the Palestinians, only to sow more hatred and fear among them, have no intention of making peace with them. Those responsible for firing white phosphorous shells into a civilian population and destroying thousands of homes cannot talk the following day about two states living peacefully side by side. [continued…]

A new Mideast approach

Rather than seeking to bolster the moderates in this conflict, the Obama administration should focus on moderating the extremists. The idea of eliminating Hamas could not be seriously proposed by anyone with any knowledge of domestic Palestinian politics. The notion that Hamas is a primarily militant organization based in Gaza ignores the movement’s vast support in the West Bank and elsewhere.

Dealing with Hamas and groups such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Islamic Jihad in arenas of legitimacy, such as elections, negates the possibility that outside parties will spoil peace negotiations.

Those who would resolve the conflict must understand that such parties and groups, often labeled rejectionist, are not primarily ideologically based and are not monolithic. They, like most political parties, are beholden to a constituency. [continued…]

Report: Turkey says Israel must really want peace for it to broker Syria talks again

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has said that Ankara will only resume mediating Israel-Syria negotiations when Israel shows a real desire for peace, the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat reported Sunday.

Turkey brokered indirect peace talks between the two enemy states last year, although their future has been unclear as Israel prepares to elect a new government that may break then off.

The paper also quoted Erdogan as saying that harsh comments he made during the recent hostilities in Gaza were not against Israel but merely expressed a principled position in opposition to the killing of civilians. [continued…]

Hamas ‘set for Gaza truce talks’

Members of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas are due to meet Egyptian officials to discuss ways to shore up a fragile ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. [continued…]

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