Sunday, October 26, 2003

Re: One state solution Gaining Ground

Dave, I had written a lengthy response, but my computer crashed and I lost it, so I'll give the shorter version here. First with regards to my initial post, I want to clarify my premise. I believe at this point that the vast majority of people on each side (including the current leadership of both sides) favor a two-state solution. I also, however, believe that Ariel Sharon's government, despite their ultimate belief in the necessity of the 2 states, is resolutely unwilling to take the steps necessary to implement one. Further, I believe that this is a very stupid decision on their part, because the Palestinians can afford to wait, but the Israelis cannot.

The reason there is no peace is not Hamas. Oslo failed because it was a completely one-sided deal. The Palestinians were expected to surrender all of their bargaining chips in exchange for some limited civil control over certain areas of the occupied territories. They were also supposed to have some military control over areas of it, but Israel never honored that, nor do I believe they meant to. The Israelis always maintained the right to move their military into any area of the occupied territories as and when they pleased. Essentially Oslo asked the Palestinians to surrender all of their bargaining chips in exchange for a small slice of what they wanted. There was no requirement for a sovereign Palestine, for removal of settlements, for release of political prisoners, for right of return, for free travel and commerce through and between the territories, no guarantee of a Palestinian half of Jerusalem. Oslo was never, ever going to fly, regardless of Hamas' actions. And the roadmap failed, not due to anything Hamas did, but because Sharon's administration is too dependent on the extreme right to be able to take any action whatsoever against the settlements. They were unable to deliver anything resembling the promises for their side of the roadmap.

The founder and leader of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, stated in 1997 that he was willing to accept a two-state solution, a statement that has been echoed by other Hamas leaders since. To insist that their actions regarding the various peace plans are motivated simply by a desire for the destruction of Israel is silly. Hamas signed on to a ceasefire for the roadmap quite willingly and without any real pressure being applied. They honored it too, until assassination attempts were made against them by the Israeli military. As far as interfering with Arafat's Palestinian Authority, I would tend to phrase it the other way around. The PA is considered by Palestinians to be horrifically corrupt. The Palestinian people really do not like Yassir Arafat at this point, but don't feel they can abandon him as long as Israeli actions allow him to play the role of the martyr. Hamas is very much in touch the Palestinian street and is quite popular among them, both for their attacks on Israelis and for their charitable work of building schools and hospitals, etc. As Arafat's PA has become more corrupt, Hamas has become more mainstream. The balance of power in Palestine is shifting, and Hamas is at least the equal of the PA, if not its superior. Hamas is who should be at the negotiating table, instead of the PA (or at least alongside the PA). Hamas would make sure they got an agreement, unlike Oslo, that the Palestinian people could live with, and Hamas, unlike the PA, would have the ability to deliver on their agreements. If this conflict is to be solved before the Palestinians abandon the two-state solution, it will only happen if Israel and the West deal directly with Hamas (and I don't mean with missiles).

No comments: