Wednesday, July 05, 2006

I Hate Everybody

In response to the fire of new and improved Qassam missles at Ashkelon, Israeli forces have seized part of the northern Gaza Strip with an eye toward ending it. While I respect in principle the Palestinians' right to resist, this is becoming increasingly stupid. One thing I don't like about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is that when people pick sides, they tend to support their chosen side under all conditions using strident rhetoric whenever possible. I believe the Israeli occupation of the West Bank is both wrong and harsher than it needs to be given Israel's states objectives, and I find the Israeli settlements and appropriation of Palestinian lands to be even more wrong. In fact, I even understand the idea that Hamas shouldn't have to extend formal recognition to Israel until Israel recognizes a Palestinian state.

However, both Israel and the elected President of the Palestinian Authority have committed themselves to peace negotiations. It is Hamas, which despite is Parliamentary majority carried only 43% of the vote, much of it in protest votes, which has held up the process before finally agreeing to a joint position with Fatah last week, and it is Hamas's armed wing together with a few other groups has been driving much of the escalation surrounding the Gaza Strip. I didn't like Israel's stupid show of shelling, but it wouldn't have happened were it not for the Qassams, which is really what began this whole mess. Fatah and Hamas, meanwhile, would rather fight each other for control of the PA's meager resources and the right to be king of what passes for their hill than take the steps necessary to gain the monopoly over foreign policy which is a basic prerequisite for statehood.

What's the Israeli government supposed to do here? One reason the long-term occupation of Palestinian territory is so wrong is that that government is answerable to the Israelis, and not at all to the Palestinians whose fates they control. But in practical terms, what matters for the moment is that Israel's government is answerable to the people. Is the crew currently in charge supposed to sell negotiations with a group whose charter is filled with anti-Semitic claptrap which can't even control its own territory? Would Palestinians favor that if roles were reversed? Out of desperation, they've barely swallowed the bitter pill of negotiating with increasing Israeli settlement, and the Israelis at least curtail settlers' worst behavior.

Of course an escalation like this was to be expected, which is why we have the whole "spiral of violence" thing which included Operation Summer Rains in the first place. However, it's only going to stop when one party steps back from the brink, and for once I think it's the Palestinian side, and Hamas in particular, that need to demonstrate they can be a responsible diplomatic actor and a strong enough government to enforce on their side any peace agreement Israel makes. Yes, I know the Gaza Strip is desperately poor, but Hamas's main solution seems to be a failed ideology of ongoing struggle pushed mainly by exiled leaders who themselves aren't carrying on much of a struggle.

I remember this Danny Rubinstein column:
"It is a known fact that there is no military solution to the overall Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But now it is becoming increasingly clear that there is no military solution for putting an end to the Qassam rocket attacks. The Israel Defense Forces has struck at the rocket-launching crews and their commanders; it has destroyed the bridges and the roads leading to the launching areas; it has carried out what it calls 'exposure' activities and has destroyed farmland; it has bombed the launching sites, over and over. The army has dispersed fliers warning the population and threatening to destroy entire neighborhoods and towns."

The first sentence applies to both Hamas and the Palestinians. I post the rest merely to show that Israel's seizure of territory was not its kneejerk reaction to the fire, even if I find some of the above measures more objectionable than what they're doing now.
"There are many more rockets and missiles in Gaza today than in the past. The know-how, the means and the capabilities to launch them against targets in Israel have only improved and become more sophisticated. And there is no doubt that the continued deterioration of the security situation will only sharpen Palestinian martial skills and broaden their activity in this area. We can even assume that sooner or later, in the absence of a diplomatic option, the motivation, the means and the know-how for launching missiles will also reach the West Bank."

All of this is true, and shows why Israel feels compelled to act as it does.
"It has already been four years since the Arab initiative was presented at the Beirut summit, which called for normalization with Israel. The terms are obviously difficult to meet, but Israeli statesmen have not even bothered to relate to the initiative. On the agenda now stands the so-called prisoners' document, which has met only with rejection and derogatory responses from the Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his spokesmen. And there are also the decisions of the Hamas government to permit contacts with the Israeli government on practical matters - economics, finance, agriculture, electricity, health, tourism."

This is just my frustration talking. As the title of this post says, at the moment, I hate everybody. Rubinstein goes on to argue that Israeli attacks fuel suspicions among the Palestinians that Israelis don't truly want peace. This is true, but the same holds for Palestinian attacks on Israel. At the moment things are out of control. Somebody needs to stop the madness.

Let's bring back the Canaanites.


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