Saturday, June 23, 2007

The mess in Gaza

Here's an article, from an Israeli professor, that argues that Hamas' ascendancy in Gaza actually represents an opportunity for Israel. And I thought I had a tendency to look on the bright side! The point is not trivial, however. For decades the Palestinians have been divided into "responsible" and "militant" wings (I know that's way oversimplified), with one branch (Fatah) talking with Israel and the international community while the other (Hamas) did bombings and the like. This had some advantages. Now, however, Hamas will be responsible for electricity, water and garbage collection in Gaza. Will it be able to combine that with complete militancy? Israel should talk and work with Hamas on such matters without formally recognizing it, Gadi Taub says, because "a stable enemy government is far better than a bunch of feuding warlords competing for the dubious title of staunchest enemy of Zionism."

For a somewhat less sanguine view, here's a long analysis from Nathan E. Brown of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. I've used Nathan as a source several times and have always found him informed and balanced and ready to say he doesn't know when he doesn't, which not all so-called experts will. He thinks Fatah, whose corruption and inattention to daily governance opened the opportunity for Hamas to win parliamentary elections 16 months ago, is as responsible for the current chaos as Hamas. He also thinks that U.S. officials who keep talking about the "Road Map" to a two-state solution are completely out of touch with reality on the ground, verging on delusional. And open support for Fatah is two-edged, with the danger of feeding the impression that Fatah is nothing more than a puppet of Israel and the U.S., possibly increasing suipport for Hamas. Hard to see a way out.

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