Monday, December 18, 2006

Showdown in Palestine

I haven't written about Palestine for a while. Just to catch up:

Hamas and Fatah are drifting toward open civil war, with kids getting killed and senior officials getting targeted, including the kidnapping of a top Fatah official.

Meanwhile, weapons smuggling goes on unabated, threatening peace talks with Israel and heightening the danger of civil war.

Amid it all, President Mahmoud Abbas vows to push ahead with early elections in a continuing showdown with Hamas.

Oddly, none of this has me despairing. The Hamas-Fatah split has needed resolving for a long, long time, and the papering over of their differences has been one of the biggest obstacles to a long-term peace deal. The militants in Hamas are being forced to confront the fact that their Israel policy is not the one most Palestinians prefer, which is why Abbas can threaten them with elections: they know they will lose. This confrontation will force Hamas to decide whether they will bow to the will of their electorate and moderate, or become an outlaw faction. The split could degenerate into rampant bloodshed, but it had to be addressed one way or the other.

As for the weapons smuggling, I don't understand the outrage. Why should only one side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be armed? I recognize the destabilizing effect that pouring weapons into a burgeoning civil war can have, and so I oppose it on those practical grounds. And of course I oppose barbaric practices like firing unguided rockets into civilian areas. But as far as the mere act of acquiring weapons is concerned, this is a war: both sides can be expected to arm themselves as best they can.

I hope the Palestinians can avert a bloody spiral into internecine warfare. But more than that, I hope the current confrontation resolves the issue and lets the Palestinians negotiate for peace seriously and with a unified voice.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe it would be a good thing for Hamas and Fatah to go at each other. In fact, I'm almost sure it would be.


12/18/2006 8:47 PM  

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