Sunday, January 25, 2009

Give War a Chance?

The recent conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza has revealed, yet again, the difficulty of achieving any lasting victory or peace in the Middle East. Israel has shown it can make Gazans pay a fierce price for Hamas's continued insistence on launching missiles aimed a civilian targets inside Israel. However, it appears unable to dislodge Hamas from Gaza or totally stop violence from the Palestinian side.

The approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the Israeli side will be determined by upcoming elections. A Likud victory will likely lead to a harder Israeli line, as during when Yitzhak Shamir was Prime Minister, though Menachem Begin negotiated the peace treaty with Egypt. Electoral success by Kadima and Labor make meaningful peace talks more likely, though as in any democracy they remain constrained by public opinion.

Kadima and Labor currently lead the government and were clearly trailing Likud until the recent war in Gaza--widely supportted by Jewish Israelis. However, the latest poll shows Kadima and Labor show a tight race. Kadima, Labor, Meretz, and the Arab parties would win 54 seats in the 120 member Knesset. Likud and three parties to its right would win 51 seats.

Two religious parties--Shas and United Torah Judaism--would gain he remaining 15 seats. Religious parties, often seen as more natural allies of the right but also often willing to work with the left--would hold the balance of power. Alternatively, Israel may see a Likud-Labor-Kadima government.

Meanwhile, signs on the Palestinian side aren't especially encouraging this week. Haaretz--the major left-leaning Israeli daily--reports that Hamas remains opposed to peace talks:

A senior Hamas official on Sunday said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement must end peace negotiations with Israel before any reconciliation talks can take place. . . .

He also demanded that the PA end security coordination with Israel, and maintained that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process had ended.

"Those who committed mistakes must correct their mistakes through a clear and frank declaration to stop security coordination with the [Israeli] occupation, release [Hamas] prisoners and later end negotiations [with Israel] because the peace process is irreversibly over," said Hamdan.

"It's time for us to talk about a reconciliation based on a resistance program to liberate the [occupied] territory and regain rights," he added.
Hamas appears determined to follow a strategy that has failed for 60 years. Palestinians can certainly bring violence to Israelis but only at a price that brings even greater violence down on their own people. Yet "Give War a Chance!" seems to be the continuing approach from Gaza's rulers.

P.S. Unsigned comments may be deleted in the name of pursuing civility instead of another blog flame war on this topic.