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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Palestine: Two failed states?

It seems to me that it is a bit early to mourn the demise of Palestinian statehood, as Emanuele Ottolenghi does below. There may be two failed states now, but there doesn't seem to be any practical political alternative to Palestinian statehood.

Ami Isseroff

Two failed states

Emanuele Ottolenghi

June 18, 2007 11:30 AM


Already in its death throes after seven years of futile struggle against Israel, the Palestinian national movement suffered a fatal blow last week, when Gaza fell in the hands of Hamas. Now, instead of a state-in-the waiting, Palestine is two failed states, under two governments at war with one another.

Hamas in Gaza might still pursue its fight against Israel; and Fatah in the West Bank might still voice the rhetoric of grievance against Israel as the occupier. But the two are now locked in a deadly struggle. Anti-Zionist rhetoric has been waving the ghost of a one-state solution - implying that Israel might disappear, replaced by a united binational state comprising the West Bank and Gaza as well as present Israel. It now looks as though there will be a one-state solution after all - Israel, alongside two failed states, both Palestinian, and fighting each other.

It has not been easy for Palestinian nationalists. Ever since their late leader and national symbol, Yasser Arafat, chose to exploit the Intifadah, in September 2000, to extract more concessions from Israel, everything that could possibly go wrong, did. First, violence turned Israeli public opinion against the now moribund Oslo process: Ariel Sharon quickly replaced the left-wing peace coalition against which Arafat had unleashed his Intifadah. Systematic resort by Palestinian factions to terrorism against Israeli civilian targets only created the momentum for Israel's military offensive in late March 2002. West Bank towns were reoccupied and the backbone of the terror network that seemed so close to breaking Israel's will was crushed.

Arafat's flirting with gun-toting militias and a myriad offshoot of armed groups only earned him confinement by Israel and isolation from America. Sharon easily won the next electoral round and set the stage for unilateralism - Israel would withdraw to borders of its choosing and the Palestinians would be left behind, once more. The spectre of this move did nothing to propel Palestinian leaders into action to bring an end to the mounting anarchy within their ranks and sue for peace. Instead, Arafat allowed anarchy to grow, as if it would only harm the enemies of Palestine, and not Palestine itself. Eventually, the persistent refusal of the Palestinian Authority, first under Arafat, then under Abu Mazen, to disarm all militias and dismantle all terror networks yielded the outcome all but fools would predict. In January 2005, I wrote that:

"Terror groups have grown stronger since the intifada began. Abbas' predecessor... used terrorism to pressure Israel into more concessions. Convinced as he was that outsourcing violence to a network of terror groups would promote his goals, he willingly let them run amok, thus renouncing the monopoly over the use of force. Four years later, terrorists pose a formidable challenge not only to peace, but even more crucially to Palestinian statehood. Today, terrorists mainly attack Israeli targets. But tomorrow, unless disarmed and forced to recognize that only the Palestinian Authority has the monopoly over the use of violence, they could use their weapons and their militancy to dictate conditions or carve out areas of influence through threats, blackmail and intimidation. They have to be disarmed - not for Israel's sake, but for Palestine's sake."

Alas, it is too late now. Brother will fight brother, while the West Bank and Gaza go their separate ways. At last, Abu Mazen seems to have understood the need to establish the monopoly over the use of force. Hamas has clearly understood it too, as it moved to disarm everyone not loyal to Hamas in Gaza. But this is too little too late. Two governments are now in place, and with them, two separate entities are slowly coming into being. They'll play this war out to the bitter end. The west has already chosen its horse, not realizing that this is a cockfight, where the audience can do little else but watch.

There is little rejoicing in this turn of events, but it must be understood for what it is: the end of Palestinian national aspirations.

Hamas' takeover in Gaza has created a small Islamic state on the shores of the Mediterranean, next door to Israel and to Egypt. Helped by Iran and Syria, Hamas has now opened a southern front in their war against Israel but in the process, it has made Palestine as a state even less viable than before.

Now, Hamastan needs to conquer the West Bank to make itself the credible and legitimate champion of the Palestinian struggle. Meanwhile, Fatahland will try to regain its lost territory of Gaza before it can even begin to negotiate credibly with Israel. An endless war will further contribute to Palestine's demise. For ordinary Palestinians, seven years of the Intifadah yielded nothing but grief, death, and poverty. The passage of time did nothing to strengthen Palestinian territorial claims: if anything it gave time to Israeli settlements to expand and Israeli control over Jerusalem to tighten.

As Hamas assumes control over Gaza, Gazans are longing for the return of the despised Israelis. Palestinian intellectuals have conceded that Palestinians might need to be "re-occupied" by an international force led by the Arab league - a return to the pre-1967 occupation by Jordan and Egypt, no less. Now, not even this option seems available - unless, that is, foreign forces are sent to fight Hamas and re-conquer Gaza.

With the Gaza takeover by Hamas, history has finally drawn its curtain on the two-state solution. Before Palestinian nationalism can reclaim one Palestine, complete, before it can even settle for the meager leftovers Israel held for 40 years, Palestinians have to face their own, wearing each other out, Hamastan against Fatahland, while the Israelis look on.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


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