Jeopardizing the Palestinian Cause

By James Gundun

Several droplets had barely dripped down the sides of a frozen Israeli-Palestinian conflict when a new blizzard iced them up again. The Goldstone report, nearing infamy, has transformed into a political groundhog. Both Israelis and Palestinians saw their shadows and ran back inside, ensuring six more weeks of winter.

That could be six months, a year, or longer in Middle East time.

The Goldstone affair is playing out in predictably ugly fashion. Palestinians were bound to exploit it and Israel certain to torpedo it, with America awaiting the coordinates. Forget the politics gyrating around Richard Goldstone’s report for a moment, if possible, and remember why the report exists in the first place – to bring justice, order, and restitution to Gaza.

Forget the politics because the leaders – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – cannot. Each undoubtedly believes they’re pursuing the best for their people, yet each is in a deeper hole than when the Goldstone report was first submitted to the UN Human Rights Council last week.

Why? They saw power in their shadows, not fear, and wanted more.

Abbas is looking less guilty each day compared to his counterparts, but he committed the original sin. Withdrawing the report wasn’t a problem if his plan was to gather more support or wait until reconciliation with Hamas, but bowing to American pressure, little choice did he have, after an equally embarrassing UN summit exposed too much weakness from Palestinian leadership. Shrouding the reasons for his actions compounded the damage.

Of the three leaders, Abbas is most difficult to explain. With nothing to gain by delaying or lying, he burnt his credibility and opened the door for challengers like Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Mustafa Barghouthi. He appears terrified to act against America’a wishes, but what good is American support if he’s losing Palestinians? Abbas may have been lured by the illusion of President Obama’s power.

The Goldstone report has become a weapon in the Palestinian’s negotiating arsenal (by any means necessary). If anything good can be said for Abbas it’s that he didn’t overplay a good hand, potentially saving deeper investigations for a more timely occasion. The same cannot be said of Khaled Meshaal.

Hamas easily stood to gain the most through the Goldstone report despite its own implication. Israel predictably overreacted to a counterinsurgency and induced a propaganda battle disguised as a legal battle, possibly Hamas’s plan all along. This strategy has more potential to damage the Israeli state than any rocket and it’s showing.

Why then was Hamas so unprepared to seize the advantage? Simple – greed.

Hamas would be in a greater position of power if not for itself. If Hamas had stayed cool and collected, reaffirmed the reconciliation process, added its weight to Fatah and Arab states to push the Goldstone report, and championed the voice of Palestinians, the party and its leaders would’ve spiked in popularity while simultaneously bringing down Abbas.

Instead Meshaal is playing his hand too quickly, telling seven Palestinian groups in Damascus, ‘A courageous leadership is a leadership that is frank with its people. Those who are accumulating political mistakes are today continuing their lies. This is not a leadership that deserves to be entrusted with the leadership of the Palestinians.’

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