Daniel Levy writes with extreme lucidity about the current disaster unfolding in Gaza. Many may see the current fighting as more of the same from a Palestinian society that seems to eat its young on a daily basis. But I assure you that what is happening now is a new and even more frightening development in the downward spiral of Palestinian society to civil war.
And the worst thing about this is it didn’t have to be this way. If Israel and the U.S. had adopted a softer line after Hamas won the last legislative elections and hadn’t imposed a highly punitive economic strangulation of Gaza; if the world community hadn’t gone along with this ill-conceived “strategy” to topple the duly elected Palestinian government; if the U.S. had embraced the Palestinian unity government brokered by the Saudis; if Israel had immediately embraced the Saudi-sponsored Arab League initiative instead of dickering over the Right of Return–then things needn’t have come to this pass.
All this proves is that if you drive a nation to the brink you mustn’t be surprised at the chaos and anarchy you unleash. Think of what happened to Germany as a result of the financially punitive peace settlement imposed on it after World War I. France was so eager to extract its pound of flesh from Germany that it never stopped to realize that if it drove German society to the economic brink, a monster like Hitler and National Socialism might be the result. If the Allies hadn’t been so deadset on punishing Germany, then the Weimar Republic might have actually had a chance of creating a stable, democratic Germany that could withstand the siren call of fascism.
Gaza is now in the depths of an economic crisis that may be justifiably compared to the economic Depression that de-stabilized and ultimately helped topple the Weimar Republic. We have to ask ourselves: are we prepared to stand on ceremony and continue to insist that Hamas and the national unity government have to do back flips before we recognize and talk to them. Or are we prepared to put out the fire that rages out of control in Gaza while Nero is fiddling in Jerusalem and Washington?
Let me be perfectly clear: the Gaza reoccupation that Israel is contemplating is an utter disaster in the making. The mission will be to come in on the side of Fatah and put down the burgeoning Hamas rebellion:
Does Israel want to play the role of Ethiopia in Gaza, re-crowning Fatah leaders atop IDF tanks?
The allusion to Somalia is quite apt. Just as neither the U.S. in 1993 or Ethiopia now can stabilize that failed state by brute force, Israel’s takeover of Gaza will only delay the inevitable. Fatah has trashed its legacy as steward of Palestinian national identity. It is bankrupt–kaput. Hamas is currently wiping the floor with it.
No one is claiming that Hamas is a desirable interlocutor. But what is the alternative? If we shut out Hamas as the Algerian army tried to do after Islamists won a decisive election victory there, are we prepared to reap the whirlwind? Are we prepared to face the Gaza version of Al Qaeda?
If Hamas is kicked out of the government, the alternative is unlikely to be…tame Hamas quiescence, but rather the emergence of an al Qaeda foothold inside the Palestinian territories.
End punitive economic sanctions which are strangling Gaza. Reopen the Gaza border crossings. Allow transportation links between Gaza and the West Bank. Recognize the national unity government. Begin immediate talks with the Arab League with a view to embracing the Saudi peace initiative. Begin final status talks with the Palestinians. Do this and Gaza has a chance. Don’t do this and civil war will come as sure as I’m writing this:
Israel and her international allies have to swallow hard and recognize that the route to possible enhanced security and a renewed peace process runs via a Palestinian unity government and the ongoing incorporation of the political Islamists into the governing equation.
…Europeans and others should be encouraged to engage; and their money, together with promised Arab donations, and Palestinian tax money being withheld by Israel should all flow back to the PA.
…A serious effort must be made to get a unity government to work. The policy of regime change in Palestine, as elsewhere, has failed.
Levy talks sense. Is anyone listening in Washington or Jerusalem??