Islam Qasem: Israel

By Islam Qasem
Special to

After a six-decade of occupation what is left of the Palestinian cause is a warmonger leadership, a civil-war like conflict, and an impoverished and oppressed population in two occupied territories cut off from each other. Doubtless that Israel is the occupying power responsible for the oppression and impoverishment of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza. However, neither the Israeli nor the Americans for that matter takes responsibility for the shameless power-struggle and street-fighting that has divided the Palestinian society and injured the Palestinian cause.

The blame squarely lies on the leadership of Hamas and Fatah. They are equally guilty of giving political factions a priority over unity in the face of occupation. They are equally guilty for dismissing meaningful dialogues to workout their differences for an Israeli-like policy of power politics. The flex of power show put on by Hamas in Gaza, with scenes of Islamist armed gunmen seizing offices, is no less tragic than what Fatah has vowed to bring the West Bank under its control.

Yet neither group Fatah in West Bank nor Hamas in Gaza is truly in charge. Ultimately Israel remains in charge of all the occupied territories. The entry of vital supplies such as food, fuel, and electricity to the 1.4 million inhabitants in Gaza is subject to the political calculation of the Israeli government. President Abbas and his Fatah movement can only prop up its standing in the West Bank by $562 million of frozen tax revenue held by Israel. Not to mention that Israel has the unmatched military capability of re-entering Gaza and West Bank whenever it deems necessary.

In this most recent showdown, there is only one winner, the Israeli state, and one loser, the Palestinians. The Hamas-Fatah split only augments an already exiting Israeli policy of disengagement from Gaza. For Israel doing away with Gaza is an old political and military strategy pioneered by Ariel Sharon. In 2004, as a Prime Minister, Sharon initiated a unilateral disengagement plan. His plan called for the removal of the heavily protected 8000 Jewish settlers from Gaza, in order to solidify Israeli hold on large bloc of settlements in the West Bank. For the Palestinians, however, separating Gaza from the West Bank under the pretext of a two Palestinian states solution is to undermine any future hope of a viable Palestinian state. Therefore a two Palestinian states solution is just like the solution before and the solution before that: from the dead Oslo peace process, the so-called security fence, to the near-dead Road Map – it is a tactical strategy to stale the negotiation and freeze the discussion about the establishment of a Palestinian state.

There seems to be no shortage of solutions for circumventing the ending of occupation. The problem is that neither the current Palestinian nor the Israeli leadership is willing to see the end of this conflict lies in a genuine negotiation based on a just and fair solution. The record of Israeli leadership shows that it has been unfaithful to end this conflict. In an interview with the New York Times, Prime Minister of Israel, Olmert said: “It’s time for Israel to deal seriously, openly and generously with the suffering of the Palestinians that has taken place over many years as part of the conflict between us and them.”  By saying so, ironically Mr. Olmert in the same breath admits that prior Israeli effort to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians has never been taken seriously. By the same token, the internal Palestinian power-struggle is increasingly leading to a self-defeat. Recognizing this somber outcome does not mean the Palestinian cause is a lost one. It means the Palestinian tragedy is entering a new phase, in which divide and conquer is the dominating strategy.

-The writer is a PhD candidate in political and social sciences at the University of Pompeu Fabra (UPF) in Barcelona. He also holds an Advanced Degree in Political Science from UPF and a Master Degree in International Affairs from Columbia University in New York City.

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