The Fall of Gaza: Can Disaster Be Avoided?

Back in 2005, Jewish Voice for Peace took to the streets in San Francisco to protest the just-commencing Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. More than a few people were puzzled by this action; here was a Jewish peace group apparently echoing the stance of some of the most hard-line so-called “pro-Israel” groups who opposed Israel giving up any territory at all. What was going on?

Of course, JVP was never opposed to Israel withdrawing its soldiers and checkpoints and abandoning its settlements in Gaza. But doing the right thing in the wrong way can be just as bad, in some ways perhaps worse, than doing the wrong thing, and this was what we saw happening with the Gaza withdrawal. Sadly, this prediction has come true, leaving the Palestinians split between two governing bodies, leaving Gaza in ruin and chaos and leaving Israel with an increasingly hostile and dangerous territory on its western border.

The middle of June, 2007 will be remembered by many as the time which saw Hamas and Fatah engage in horrible atrocities against one another, further aggravating the awful situation in the Gaza Strip. While Hamas has now established full, though tenuous, control over the Strip, it remains to be seen whether it is possible for them (or anyone) to actually rein in the chaos and whether they can hold on to any semblance of authority under a tightening economic blockade and a general atmosphere of lawlessness.

How did this state of affairs come about? Continue reading

A Dearth of Leadership: The International Community Must Get Involved

On May 21 a Qassam rocket fired from Gaza killed a 35-year old Israeli woman in Sderot. No doubt, this will mean a further escalation in Israeli fire into the Gaza Strip, despite the fact that this seems unlikely to stop or deter the Qassam fire.

These events are exposing the yawning gulf of leadership on all sides. Israel, rudderless under Ehud Olmert, vacillates between a silent response to Qassam fire while maintaining the economic blockade that fuels misery and rage in Gaza, and military responses that are targeting areas far from where the rockets are being fired. Meanwhile, Olmert speaks vaguely of “political horizons”olmertperetzinsderot424_0.jpg and the preconditions the Palestinians must meet before he would even engage in talks (preconditions such as forgoing the issues of the refugees, the Temple Mount and the 1967 borders).

But the leadership vacuum among the Palestinians has been demonstrated even more starkly. Commentators often used to say that it was crucial to strike a deal with Yasir Arafat because, like him or not, he was the only one that could possibly make a deal stick. Indeed, since his death what little organization there was to both the PLO and the Palestinian Authority has frayed or even shattered. This has been due in significant measure to the occupation, yes, but also to Fatah’s mismanagement and corruption, increasing sectarianism both within and between Palestinian factions and the submergence of government behind family and local affiliation in importance.

Ironically, it has been the fact that Israel has resumed its shelling of Gaza that has diminished the infighting there, something both the Hamas political leadership and PA President Mahmoud Abbas had tried and failed to do. Despite the Mecca Agreement brokered by Saudi Arabia in March, the Palestinian government has been anything but unified. Continue reading

The Myth That Stays With Us: Camp David 2000

06barakclintonarafat.jpgAlthough I’m something of a historian by trade and inclination, in this space I try to keep to current events. But some historical events are of particular importance because they continue to shape today’s events. This is especially true of the failed attempt at Camp David in 2000 to cobble together a final peace agreement based on the Oslo process between israel and the Palestinians.

The common view that Arafat was solely responsible for the Camp David failure is false, but it is widely believed and that belief has colored the politics of the conflict to this very day. But some alternate versions, where Arafat is held blameless and painted as an innocent victim of American and Israeli machinations are equally false. Continue reading