Saturday, September 3

Reaping the Fruits of Disengagement

It is early days yet to come to any conclusions about the future for Israel and the Palestinians. Theoretically, the pullout should bring the Palestinians closer to the establishment of a Palestinian state. In practice, this does not necessarily follow for a number of reasons. Israel will benefit from improving her relationships with the outside world. She has illustrated that she is able to pullout from occupied territories with less havoc than was predicted.

An interesting and positive development has occurred last week because of the pullout. Pakistan has decided to start negotiations with Israel under the auspices of Turkey to improve relationships between the two countries. A rather interesting observation is that Pakistan initiated the dialogue between the two countries. Pakistan, with its 160 000 000 inhabitants makes it the second largest Moslem country in the world after Indonesia. Whatever Pakistan's motivations are, this move is an important step in moving towards an understanding between Israel and the Moslem world. Hopefully, Indonesia will follow suit as well as the Arab countries. Jordan's King Abdullah is also showing signs of improving relations with Israel with an impending visit in the near future.

This could create an important impetus for the Palestinians to get their act right and lay down their arms. The Palestinians, unfortunately, are in the stranglehold of non-compromising terror groups. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president has no control over them.

While the threat of Palestinian terror hovers over Israel, the chances of establishing a Palestinian state remain remote. Hamas and Islamic Jihad show no signs of changing their attitude towards Israel's existence. Mahmoud Abbas also does not wish to disarm the terrorist groups under his official jurisdiction. This is the key obstacle to the establishment of a Palestinian State alongside Israel. Hamas believes in a Palestinian state replacing Israel and not alongside Israel. Hamas is uncompromising in that belief. It will attempt to use all forms of terror to try to achieve that aim.

A big question mark that remains is whether the Arab states, including the Moslem states such as Pakistan will be able to pressurize Hamas into changing her stance. This is the only hope for the Palestinians to achieve an independent state that will be dependent entirely on further withdrawals by Israel from territory she occupied in the Six Day War of June 1967. If Mahmoud Abbas is sincere in his commitment to peace, perhaps he could appeal to these states to help him disarm Hamas and Company. This would force Hamas to become a political organization rather than a terrorist one. Perhaps this is dreaming. If there would be stability in the Middle East, everybody would benefit. This could force Hamas to become more pragmatic.

When a trend of a warm up in relations between Israel and Moslem States begins, it could create the right atmosphere for a movement towards the establishment of a Palestinian State alongside Israel and at peace with Israel for mutual benefit.

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