Thursday, March 15, 2007

Both sides against the Middle East, part two

On Thursday,
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya ... unveiled a national unity cabinet after months of negotiations between his Hamas movement and Fatah[, the BBC reported]. ...

BBC Middle East analyst Roger Hardy says the unity deal has had a difficult birth and there is still deep mistrust between Hamas and Fatah, the two factions whose bitter rivalry brought the Palestinians to the brink of civil war. ...

Mr Haniya said if the Palestinian parliament approved the cabinet list, as it is expected to do, the ministers could go straight to [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas to be sworn in so the government could start work.
So after a long and difficult process, two sides that deeply distrust each other managed to come up with a compromise that enables them to work together. In principle, sounds like a model for what should be happening across the region.

Unhappily, even before the new government was sworn in, some were looking to put a bullet through its heart. Haaretz (Israel) brings the bad tidings:
The platform of the new Palestinian unity government, which according to Hamas advocates continued violence against occupation, is a step backward from the peace process and "flies in the face" of the international community's demands, the [Israeli] Prime Minister's Office said Thursday.

"Instead of recognizing Israel and renouncing terror the emerging Palestinian government has decided to spring backwards," said David Baker, spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office.
Note first that this is not based on what the platform says but on what one side says it says. They didn't even wait, it appears, to see the actual document. (That, of course, does not mean the Hamas summary is wrong. It does mean the Israelis should have waiting to see the actual document before responding.) The reason for the rejectionist stance is that the new government's platform, necessarily the result of a delicate balancing act, does not give Israel and the Big Boys everything they want.
The Quartet of Middle East peace brokers - the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia - has called for the new PA government to abide by three demands: recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence and agreement to honor previous accords.
According to Hamas, the new platform does indeed state that the new government "respects international resolutions and agreements signed by the PLO," which of necessity includes recognition of Israel, extended by the PLO in 1993. However, and this is the big complaint, it also "confirms that the resistance is a legitimate right for the Palestinian people."

In considering that complaint, it's important to recall that in recent years such a right of resistance among the Palestinians generally (albeit not exclusively) has been understood to refer to actions against Israeli targets within the occupied territories: There have been few attacks within Israel proper over that time. For Israel to demand as a pre-condition that that sort of resistance be halted is wrong, improper, and a hinderance to peace.

I want to make clear before I go on that I am neither advocating nor approving any sort of violence either by or against Israelis or Palestinians. I also want to make clear that I am a firm advocate of nonviolent resistance, yes, even in the face of armed violence. Contrary to the cliché, power does not grow out of the barrel of a gun. It grows out of courage. But leave all that aside. The point is that I am talking about that which is generally held to be "legitimate" violence - and resistance to occupation falls in that category.

What's more, making such a demand is irrational - assuming, as always, you really want a settlement. Consider how this would look to a Palestinian: Israel is demanding that you abide by all previous agreements - while making no such promise itself. It demands recognition - while treating the elected Palestinian government as an illegitimate outlaw that can with justice be overthrown. And it demands you cease all violence - that is, it demands you cease resisting the Israeli occupation. Does that look like "pre-conditions" to you? Or does it look like a demand for unconditional surrender?

If - again, if - Israel wants a settlement, what it clearly should do is privately pass the word to the new government as to how it could finesse its platform to get past the political roadblock. By the general understanding of the right of resistance, the Palestinians can resist the occupation, including by violent means. (I'm not even going to attempt here to get into distinguishing between legitimate and illegitimate targets of such violence. I'm just going to leave it at the fact that such a right of resistance exists.) Israel is obviously not going to acknowledge that. But if the Palestinians were to make clear that such resistance is limited to internal resistance against occupation - i.e., rule out attacks within Israel proper - then Israel, again assuming it wants to, could use such a loophole to accept the platform as responsive to the conditions laid down without looking like it was backing down.

As with the Saudi proposal, that would take some wisdom on both sides. And as there, I am pessimistic but refuse to despair.

No comments:

// I Support The Occupy Movement : banner and script by @jeffcouturer / (v1.2) document.write('
I support the OCCUPY movement
');function occupySwap(whichState){if(whichState==1){document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}else{document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}} document.write('');