Saturday, May 21

The Fragile Cease-Fire and Future of the Peace Process

Over the last couple of days, there has been unrest between Israel and the Palestinians. Palestinian terror groups (apparently some fringe groups associated with Fatah or Hamas) have fired mortars into Gush Katif and even within the green line not far from Sderot. According to reports, all sides wish to observe the cease-fire. If this is the case why is there a resumption of this violence?

The Palestinians (and perhaps the Israelis) are playing a very dangerous game. Restraint is so important in this part of the world yet this has become a commodity that can be overturned with such ease. There is no doubt that there are extremist Palestinian terrorist elements that will never come to terms with Israel's existence and will continue to aggravate the situation. Perhaps they will just be stoking the flames coming short of sending the situation to a point of no return.

It would be appropriate to ask what has happened to P.M. Abu Mazen's promises of a peaceful solution to the conflict. He has done very little to prevent the terror attacks. When there are captures of Palestinian terrorists by the Palestinian police, they release them almost immediately without punishment.

It seems that Abu Mazen, despite his statements to the contrary, does not have what it takes to show strong leadership in preventing these terror activities. His support in Palestinian street seems to be waning. Palestinian elections are due very soon, if they are not postponed and Hamas seems to have a very strong following. As matters stand now, many Palestinians see Abu Mazen as an American and Israeli lackey who carries out US and Israeli policies. This image is very dangerous for him as it erodes any support that he may have. Apart from lip service of his desire to disarm terrorist groups and para-militias in the occupied areas, he has done nothing (or very little) to achieve that goal. Is this because he is trying to convince the Palestinian electorate that he has Palestinian interests at heart and does not wish to cause more disunity by antagonizing the extremists or does he not have the ability or means to disarm them? The answer to this is probably a mix of all these factors.

Abu Mazen will be going to the U.S. where President Bush will insist that he do more to restore order amongst the various Palestinian terrorist groups and disarm them. Sharon, on the other hand, has shown a desire to carry out the Disengagement Agreement unilaterally if the Palestinians do not become organized and control the terrorists.

If there is no coordination between the Palestinians and Israelis on disengagement, the Palestinian terrorist groups will move their mortars closer to larger towns such as Ashkelon that will be within their firing range. This would be the worst scenario imaginable! The Israeli Army would return to Gaza very quickly and this time there would be a war. There will not be any illegal settlements in the Gaza strip that would act as a "buffer zone". It seems as if the Palestinian extremist terrorist groups do not abide by any agreements. It all depends on their desire not to launch rockets or mortars under Abu Mazens "gentle" pressure on them. This is dreaming.

There is a hard core of Palestinian terrorists against peace with Israel. They are armed, dangerous and a law to themselves. I hope that if Hamas does win the elections, they will adapt a more pragmatic attitude towards Israel's existence. There is much for them to do without being embroiled in terrorist activity against Israel. They have to rebuild the nation who elected them. The intifada of the last five years has taken a heavy toll on both sides of the conflict. Terror and nation building, which includes rehabilitating the infrastructure destroyed by the Israeli Security Forces, is not compatible. Municipal matters are in a crisis as well as the economy of the Palestinians. Continuation of the violence will achieve nothing for the Palestinians apart from more death, destruction and tragedy.

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