Rabbi Moshe Reiss
- Palestinian conflict: Part C
ONE WANT A PEACE TREATY?
Neither the government of Israel
as represented by Sharon and his heirs nor Hamas are interested in
a peace treaty for a two state solution; in fact both prefer a long
interim truce, for different reasons.
That is one
of the bases of Strategic Unilateralism.
Sharon’s objective was to
interim long-term agreement with the Palestinians. It became obvious to
Palestinians would not agree. He could not even bring Abbas into this
Recognizing the demographic pressure and both American, European and
international pressures Israel
had to take some action. Sharon chose a
way for Israel
to move forward without negotiating with the Palestinians. 77% of
Israelis, before Hamas’ victory, believed there was not a Palestinian
for peace. It was unilateralism. The Gaza
disengagement was the
first step. But the strategy is more that withdrawal from the center of
Arab population. Withdrawal will be based on military needs and will
Sharon while a strong supporter of the
settlers, was never either religious or a messianic. The settlers see
betraying them; their faith is religiously based on God given land; Sharon’s never
position was based solely on Israeli security as he perceived it; when
needs changed he changed. He chose a route that would bring less
more stability. It appears the majority of Jewish Israelis agree.
Hamas victory had little to do with
destroying the State of Israel.
Abbas may be necessary as a moderating force. However in his one year
President he did not advance towards a Palestinian state but continued
corrupt, ineffective and inefficient policies with the result being a
dysfunctional and failed Palestinian Authority. Abbas continued the
spending more than 70% of the funding on a dozen competing security and
intelligence services. Why was the money not spent on education,
health services? Hamas with its social movements in both Gaza and the
filled that role and consequently won the election.
Mahmoud Zahar, Hamas spokesman stated
their position; if Israel "is ready to give us the national demand to
withdraw from the occupied area [in] '67; to release our detainees; to
their aggression; to make geographic link between Gaza Strip and West
that time, with assurance from other sides, we are going to accept to
our independent state at that time, and give us one or two, 10, 15
in order to see what is the real intention of Israel after that." Is
open-ended truce in exchange for a well-armed and independent
state; a prolonged cessation of hostilities, but no peace treaty and no
resolution of the conflict's underlying issues.
Abdul Aziz al Rantissi the late head of
Hamas, assassinated by Israel, stated in
2003 that it could take 100-200 years to liberate Palestine (Haaretz, June 18, 2003).
it will take a future generation or two to end this conflict.
All Palestinians were aware that Fatah
favored negotiations with Israel
and Hamas opposed them. But they were equally aware that no peace
in sight. In the weeks before the election Fatah gangs engaged in
violent attacks on government offices and attacks on each other. A vote
Hamas was for law and order and against domestic violence and chaos.
little doubt that in the immediate future chaos will ensue in Gaza
and the West Bank cities; as a result
funding crisis and the numerous competing Palestinian security
been two kinds of responses to Hamas victory in the Islamic-Jihad press
websites: One is to criticize Hamas for participating in the elections
are considered a western ideology and secondly to use their victory to
welfare of the Palestinian people.
In the Israeli press there are also
different responses. Steven Plaut, Professor at Haifa University
states that nothing has changed since Fatah and Hamas have the same
(Arutz Sheva January 26). Others believe that the ‘pragmatic moderate’
leadership will take over the Palestinian Authority and proverbially
potholes as any responsible and functional government would. They as
Fatah are a disciplined organization. With one exception that kept the
for ten months – the exception was after Israel killed 19 Hamas
Despite winning only 44% of the votes compared to Fatah’s 41% they won
compared to Fatah’s 45. (When Abbas was elected in January 2005 he won
the vote.) They managed their candidates in the district based seats
the seats had districts and half nationally elected) to win and did; 45
out of 66.
In the national election Hamas won 30 to Fatah’s 27.
What will the likely transition to a
Palestinian government be like? Months! Some think President Mahmud
have more power today than he would if Fatah had won the
needs him to maintain order, the United States and Israel need him as a
negotiating partner, and Palestinians need him to prevent a civil war
veto legislation requiring two thirds to overturn; Hamas does not have
thirds of the seats.
Abbas says he will take over the
various security services; when Abbas was Prime Minister and Arafat as
President refused him control over the security forces he resigned.
Hamas Prime Minister do the same? Abbas clearly has failed to
twelve security forces in his year of office. The numbers in these
estimated as between 50,000 – 60,000; this excludes non PA terrorist
including Hamas (another estimated 10,000 fighters).
Lieutenant General William Ward, the U.S. appointed
coordinator for reform of the chaotic Palestinian security apparatus,
Congress that the PA has failed even to fulfill the requirements that
bring significant international financial and material assistance to
security forces. He said Palestinian security services were
armed and undermined by rivalry between security chiefs as well as by
corruption. Hamas has said it would consolidate them all into a
Army. How will they solve the problems stated by Ward? How will Israel
react to a Palestinian Army?
Israel is very important to the
They provide electricity and water. They collect tax receipts and
customs receipts provide about $50 million a month that pays for
administration. Israel controls, with the exception of Rafah, all
and outside the territories. Will Hamas appoint Salam Fayyad as prime
and Mohammad Dahlan for security, and create a technocrat cabinet? That
be very appealing to the West.
Arthur Lord Balfour stated when issuing
his declaration in 1917 "I have no idea what the result will be, but I
certain that it will lead to a very interesting situation." The two
critical events in the Palestinian world in the eighteen months are the
of Arafat and the victory of Hamas. Are they connected? Almost
who guessed that as a result of Arafat’s death the largely secular and
signatory Fatah would fall to the largely religious and non-negotiating
(A very significant number of Arab Christians voted for Hamas. Does
think that was on religious grounds.)
In these unchartered waters I have no
idea what the end result of Hamas victory may be except for more
waters. I recall my favorite American philosopher stating that
hard especially about the future’ (Lawrence
If a relatively successful Palestinian
state ensues it can only be if Hamas decides on a pragmatic approach.
fail the danger is not only to Israel
but to Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan
and Saudi Arabia.
Cairo, Amman, Riyadh and the Arab
already suggested to Hamas that it moderate its position with regard to
Are Egypt and Jordan as concerned about Hamas as is Israel?
The next critical date, at the latest, is in four years. Will there be
elections in four years or will the "one person, one vote, one time"
theses prove true?
not changed its spots; it believes from a religious perspective that
cannot remain in Islamic land. It has not yet accepted that they cannot
militarily win over Israel
through terrorism. Democracy and terrorism are inconsistent strategies.
take Hamas 10-20 years until they recognize that.
militarily occupy the Palestinians indefinitely and remain a democratic
By controlling almost 80% of the original Palestine
and being within the Middle East a military superpower Israel
has the power to force the
Arab nations to react to its actions.
The short term future is impossible to
predict, but the long term (a generation) is not. The Radical Islamists
lose not only to the West but equally to a multipolar world in which China, India
will clearly be major players as might be other countries.
Zakaria wrote in his Newsweek column (January
19), "The great obstacle to progress in the Middle East is no longer
Israeli intentions but rather Palestinian capabilities. The big story
one wants to admit yet is that the Palestinian Authority has collapsed,
Gaza has turned into a failed state and
there is no single
Palestinian political organization that could create order in the
and negotiate with Israel.
Palestinian dysfunction is now the main limiting factor on any progress
Israelis say that only the right can
make peace. Could this be equally true for the Palestinians?
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon adopted
unilateralism as a policy of disengagement and separation in order to
the existence of a democratic state with a Jewish majority. Sharon
appealed to the aspirations of much of Israel’s Jewish electorate.
many years, opinion poll has found a clear majority of Israelis
weary of the occupation and its attendant problems. At the same time,
large majority has endorsed the view, that “there’s nobody to talk to”
This resulted in a strategy of
unilateralism. Its first step was the Gaza
Unilateralism includes ignoring the
roadmap, deciding on ‘temporary’ borders without negotiation, making
about settlements wholly based on Israeli interests and reacting to
independent of the Palestinian Authority. The victory of Hamas confirms
the strategy of unilateralism will continue.
The Gaza disengagement plan has now been
implemented but not without great internal dissent. That dissent is
sorted out between Israel’s
religious community itself and between the religious and secular
Jewish fundamentalist’s dream of a Greater Israel - a nightmare to
Israeli’s and to all Palestinians – has ended. Ariel Sharon
is the first Israeli Prime Minister to confront and challenge and win
the significant ideological fundamentalists of the Greater Israel
thesis who have controlled
Israeli policy regarding the conflict with the Palestinians. Sharon’s
strategic policy of unilateralism
does not require Palestinian cooperation.
It is most important to note that the Sharon
was Unilateral; it was not based on negotiation nor on reciprocity.
requires negotiation, disengagement does not and security may not. The
disengagement may solidify Israel’s
borders in line with the demographic situation.
This differs radically from previous
strategies engaged by both major political parties and previous
reflects a trend which is likely to continue with any Palestinian
is already clear, only several months after the Gaza
disengagement that it will be a long time until stability and order
rule in the
even construe this unilateralism by the Jewish State as a decision that
medium future Israel
has withdrawn from the usual Middle Eastern Muslim politics. It is an
to take control, to the best that is possible, of its own strategic
This unilateral strategy has been
confirmed by Ehud Olmert as acting Prime Minister and leader of the new
party. He stated in Herzliya
“We will not be able to continue ruling
over the territories in which the majority of the Palestinian
We must create a clear boundary as soon as possible, one which will
demographic reality on the ground. . . . The choice between allowing
live in all parts of the land
of Israel and living in a
state with a Jewish majority
mandates giving up parts of the Land of Israel.
continue to control parts of the territories where most of the
live." (Herzliya Conference, January 24)
Can unilateralism succeed in the West Bank without some help by the Palestinians?
coordination will be required than was required in Gaza. If the West Bank is so
cut off that it descends into an anarchic, violent, failed non-state Israel
will suffer. To be successful in Israeli terms, disengagement must
real economic integration. (We will discuss this in more detail in a
column.) That can only happen if Hamas creates a calm situation in Gaza
West Bank cities.
Will Hamas develop their own
Unilateralism? Do not the statements by Rantissi and Zahar noted above
that? Can parallel unilateralism work? I believe it is the only
will work for at least a score of years.
Democracy, the key foreign policy of
President George Bush, has had unintended consequences – it opened up
of electing radical Islamists. James Glanz (New York Times) stated it
little chemistry experiment had blown up in its face."
The authoritarian regimes supported by
various American administrations of the last decades had disastrous
interests in the Arab world.
movements are today the major opposition political force in most Arab
countries. No amount of U.S.
or European support for liberal and secular politicians will change
reality for the foreseeable future. The liberals in the Islamic world
virtually no organized constituencies. But both all Islamists are
seven examples of Islamic parties winning seats in Parliament elections:
Algeria 1992 – the
FIS won the election and the military overthrew the results and a civil
Jordan 1989 – The Muslim
thirty percent of the Parliamentary seats and despite being the Father
Islamic organizations accepted various social welfare ministries with
government. They did not rebel even when Jordan
signed a peace treaty with Israel
in 1994. They worked with the government in 1996 rioting.
Hizbollah – Has been in the Lebanese
Parliament for more than a decade and has three members in the Cabinet.
Nasrallah its leader has stated the Hamas will government will "burden
them with larger political responsibilities. [and ] its behavior may be
influenced". It happened to him.
Turkey 2002 - The AKP won a
majority of the
Parliamentary seats and continues to seek admission to the EU.
Morocco 2002 – The Islamic party PJD
won 42 of 325 seats. When the Parliament voted for civil family law
Sharia law (which they opposed) they accepted the democratic law.
Egypt Dec. 2005 – The Muslim
20% of the seats, the liberals 4%; the
governmental results are not yet known.
Iraq Dec. 2005 – The Shi’ite
parties won a majority; the governmental results are not yet known.
Each case is different and no
generalizations can be made from these experiences.
Hamas was able to win the elections due
to American insisting on there being allowed to run. Instead of
Middle Eastern politics it may have created a quagmire and not
democracy. George Bush now has a freely elected government that he will
The Quartet reiterates its view that
there is a fundamental contradiction between armed group and militia
and the building of a democratic State.
A two-State solution to the conflict requires all participants
democratic process to renounce violence and terror, accept Israel's
right to exist, and disarm,
as outlined in the Road Map. The U.N. security stated the same on
President Abbas suggested that he would only ask Hamas to form the
if the Islamic militant group renounces violence, recognize Israel
and adhere to all previous
agreements. At the same meeting in Cairo
front of President Husni Mubarak Omar Sulleiman Egypt’s Intelligence Chief
is difficult to convince the leaders of Hamas to make an 180 degree
They are extremists difficult to convince".
Natan Sharansky in a book recommended
by George Bush ‘The Case for Democracy’ stated that elections were not
first step to democracy, a free society was. It is not clear how one
free society without elections. We are also long from knowing how Hamas, Israel
and the West will react to an actual Hamas dominated government.