dinsdag 29 mei 2007

Palestine Unravels

Professor Hussein Solomon lectures in the Department of Political Sciences, University of Pretoria where he is also Director of the Centre for International Political Studies (CiPS). In the following article he discusses the current Palestinian situation and the viability of a Palestinian state.

Palestine Unravels
University of Pretoria Centre for International Political Studies (CIPS)
No. 31/2007
Palestine Unravels
By Hussein Solomon
Months of lawlessness on the streets of Gaza prompted Palestinian President Abbas, on 13 May 2007, to station thousands of troops on the streets. Hamas viewed this as a provocation as it was not consulted. What followed was a week of fighting between militants from rivals Hamas and Fatah, in which at least 50 Palestinians were killed whilst scores of others were wounded.

The fact that the fighting started despite the existence of a Unity Government and despite the fact that various political leaders called for an end to the violence raises several important questions. How much control does the political leadership of either Hamas or Fatah have over their fighting men? Not so long ago, for instance, Prime Minister Ismail Haniya had asked his Hamas fighters not to fire rockets into Israel and they simply ignored his call. The fact that independent Palestinian Interior Minister, Hani al-Qawasmeh, resigned because neither Hamas nor Fatah fighters were willing to listen to him, should give one further cause for concern. The fighting also raises important questions as to whether the alternative political visions between Hamas and Fatah can be bridged through a Unity Government.
At the heart of these questions is the fate of the Palestinian Authority itself. Will it collapse? Under the failure of Palestinian leadership, Palestinians like Ali Jarbawi of Birzeit University say it would be better to end the fiction of a Palestinian Authority. Such a scenario, of course, would be the death knell of the peace process. As Steven Erlanger notes, "How would any Israeli government consider pulling out of the West Bank -- as it pulled out of Gaza-- with no authority to whom to hand the territory?" Under the circumstances the Jordanians are considering some form of stewardship over the West Bank, whilst there are hopes that Egypt would do the same for Gaza.

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