Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Gaza: Israel’s Tough Love?

Are Gaza Palestinians paying the price for Israel’s idea of peace?

This past week has seen some dramatic developments in the Middle East Peace Process, in particular where they relate to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

During his recent visit to the region, US Vice President Dick Cheney said that while peace between Israel and the Palestinians was long overdue, it would still need painful concessions from both sides if they were to achieve Washington’s deadline of a final agreement by the end of this year.

Israel for its part, has consistently insisted it wants to achieve a lasting peace with the Palestinians, but is refusing to enter into any dialogue with the Hamas movement that controls Gaza.

In its attempt to dislodge the democratically elected Hamas, Israel has imposed a months long siege on the strip, depriving the 1.5 million residents of most of the daily necessities of life.

Israel argues that the siege is aimed at weakening Hamas to the point where it has no choice but to yield to the authority of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the Israeli and American choice for negotiating partner.

Once Hamas is destroyed as a political and indeed military entity, the peace process can move forward and the long cherished wish of President George Bush of a peace deal by the end of this year could be achieved.

So, broken down to its basic element, Israel is actually being cruel to the Gaza Palestinians in order to be kind. You could call it a tough love. The Gaza siege, apparently, is aimed at furthering the peace process by destroying support for Hamas.

The unspeakable suffering of the Gaza Palestinians, it seems, is ultimately for their own good. A tough lesson to a recalcitrant child. A painful, albeit unwilling concession they are making now to achieve the goal of peace and freedom. Perhaps one of Cheney’s painful concessions, maybe.

On Sunday, meanwhile, Fatah and Hamas signed a joint statement in Yemen agreeing in principle to unite in a single Palestinian government.

By Monday, however, Dick Cheney accused Hamas of doing what it could to torpedo the process, while Fatah responded by saying their representative did not have the authority to sign what became known as the San’a Declaration.

Israel, for its part, warned Fatah that any reconciliation with Hamas could spell the end of the peace process.

Fatah’s envoy to San’a, Azzam Al-Ahmed defended his decision to sign the agreement, saying he had an open mandate from the Palestinian Authority and was in open contact with the president.

AL-Ahmed said he is convinced there are influential people who believe their interests will be harmed by the agreement and are doing their best to sabotage it. Perhaps even outside interests.

But who would stand to gain?

That question was posed in the introduction to the Tuesday 25th March edition of Middle East Today, hosted by the author and broadcast on PressTV.

A panel of experts drawn from different political backgrounds were then asked a number of questions related to the latest events in regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and some of their responses were quite surprising.

But rather than detail them here, I would now like to take this opportunity to put a few of those same questions to you, our readers.

In a second, follow up article, I would like to compare your answers to those of our panel of experts. It will be interesting to see if you draw the same conclusions, or see angles that they missed.

When answering by using the comment facility, simply put the question number and then your comment.

I look forward to your participation.

Q1. On his recent visit to the region, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney said reaching an agreement between Palestinians and Israelis was long overdue. But he said it would still require “tremendous effort” and “painful concessions.” Is Washington itself willing to make any compromises, the least being modifying its perceived unreserved support for Israel?

Q2. It has been suggested that Washington’s support actually emboldens Israel to the extent where it feels free to ignore calls for restraint from the wider international community, including the UN General Assembly and the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon. Washington’s unreserved support, pundits say, is in fact one of the greatest obstacles to peace in the Middle East. Your view on this?

Q3. There have been accusations that there are elements within Hamas and Fatah who are deliberately trying to sabotage the San’a Declaration for their own selfish motives. Who would benefit from its collapse?

Q4. Israel has issued a warning to Fatah against any reconciliation with Hamas, saying it would effectively sink the peace talks. What does this tell us about Israel’s commitment to striking a comprehensive peace deal with all Palestinians?


It has been suggested said that if a fair peace could be established between Israel and Fatah in the West Bank, and if that peace could be seen to be working, it would dramatically undermine support for Hamas. So why isn’t it happening? Is Israel manipulating the crisis for its own ends?

Q6. Indeed, on the face of it, Israel isn’t doing itself any favors with Fatah either, through the dramatic and illegal expansion of Jewish settlements and the continued construction of the separation “apartheid” wall in the West Bank. Is Israel deliberately trying to alienate its only potential negotiating partner?

Q7. The Western and Israeli policy of isolating Hamas and the Gaza Strip is obviously counterproductive to the interests of peace. Let’s face it; isolating a population, causing them extreme distress is effectively a driving force for hatred of Israel. And hatred of Israel essentially equals support for Hamas. Vicious circle, but is it really just a misguided policy or a deliberate ploy?

First publication: Ohmynews International,

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