Friday, August 01, 2003

Issues in the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict

As followers of events will know, most of the recent news from the Israeli/Palestinian front has been bad. The worst was probably Israel's decision to build 22 new housing units in the Gaza Strip. As was widely publicized, Israel did remove some illegal settlements soon after approval of the "Road Map," but since then about the same number of new ones has been built. And now the government is authorizing more settlement.

This comes right after Israel announced they would continue to build the "Security Fence" according to present plans. The problem with this isn't Israel deciding to have a strongly fortified border. They probably need one. However, this fence does not follow the Israeli border. It cuts through the Occupied Territories and in some cases even separates Palestinians from their own land. Many Palestinians see it as a land grab, arguing that Israel will insist on keeping all the area the fence encloses. I don't know if that's true or not - some in Israel probably hope it is, but my telepathy isn't that good. What this does say to the Palestinians, however, is that their current policy is largely to slow the rate at which Palestinian land is being Israelized. This is why Palestinian leaders continue to say Israel is not taking serious steps toward peace. Personally, I think it mostly shows that Israelis do not yet have faith in the peace process, and so will not take serious steps to reduce their negotiating position.

The Palestinians, of course, have their own issues. The most important is terrorism. The PA has not moved to dismantle the terrorist organizations, though the claim that they are too weak to do so is credible. Closely linked to the issue of terrorism, however, is incitement in the state media and education system. I've heard mixed reports about this, but if it is still going on, it needs to stop, and the fact it probably hasn't is the main reason I'm not laying the blame for the current impasse solely on Israel. The Palestinian negotiating position is not strong, because the peace process continuing depends on the U.S., and to the U.S. the main issue is terrorism, not settlements. Back in June, Anthony DeJesus argued that an independent Palestinian government would include former terrorists, just like the early government of Israel did. However, I think the geopolitical situation has changed a lot since then, and terrorism is now too big an issue to be overlooked. Abu Mazen may not realize this: His rhetoric has been about a united Palestinian position, ground similar to what Ben Gurion used in the Altalina incident. His great challenge, however, is not to unite all the factions, which many Israelis will find unacceptable. He needs to co-opt and condemn the rejectionists. In order to prevent his own negotiating position from being weakened, he needs to find some sort of alternative Intifada that will win sympathy rather than condemnation, like general strikes of Palestinian workers in Israel, or something.

The peace process may work, or it may not. But I'll be a lot more of a believer once the two sides stop playing business as usual. If people can't agree to stop taking their negotiating partners' land or broadcasting propaganda against them on state-run TV, they're a long way from sharing the Haram ash-Sharif.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home