Aug 28 2003

Mideast violence might be predictable, it ought not be inevitable

Published by at 12:00 am under Articles,Palestinian politics

The sickening cycle of violence in the Palestinian Israeli conflict has become so predictable that any observer can estimate the next moves or actions. As sad as this is, understanding this predictability can become the way out of this unnecessary quagmire .

A pattern has developed in which a period of calm is punctured by the Israeli army through one of its special units assassinates a leading member of one of the militant Palestinian organizations. This premeditated killing is defended by Israel as an act of self defensive necessary to keep Israel’s edge over terrorists. The Israeli media hails what is called a ‘targeted killing’ as a success while the militant organization vows revenge. A few days later, the senseless revenge takes place in the form of a suicide bomb against innocent Israelis. Israel is enraged and imposes heavy collective punishment against the entire Palestinian community. If the suicide bomber is known (a last will video tape is often produced by his organization) then the Israeli army enters the town where he is from and bulldozes his family house leaving scores of family members homeless and angry, no doubt the potential for a future suicide bombers.

The pattern continues with attempts by the Palestinian authority and other international groups to bring back the calm. The militants agree on condition that the Israelis stay off their backs. A unilateral ceasefire is then declared conditional on the Israelis not targeting their leaders. Quiet is accomplished for a week or two only to be broken by yet another assassination attempt and the cycle of violence quickly returns. An outside observer might conclude that it is impossible to reach a cease fire and eventually a peace agreement.

This is not true. A ceasefire has never been closer to being reached than it is today.

For seven weeks, the unilaterally imposed hudna had succeeded. Palestinian leaders knowing how fragile it was, had been arguing  for a true bilateral ceasefire. The Israelis have refused. As late as early in August the Palestinian minister in charge of international relations, Nabil Shaath, asked his Israeli partner, Silvan Shalom for such a ceasefire agreement.  Israeli officials publicly and privately refused such an offer opting instead on an impossible request that the Palestinian Authority dismantle the militant groups, an act that Israel with all its powers has not succeeded in doing.

Any ceasefire agreement requires both parties to refrain from attacking the other. These agreements normally include a clause setting up some kind of neutral third party monitors and finally for such a ceasefire agreement to stand it must be followed immediately upon signing it with a concerted effort to produce a political solution to the issues that caused the warring parties to attack each other. . The hudna worked out between the militant Palestinian groups and the Palestinian Authority with the knowledge of the Americans clearly was missing a major component with the absence of Israel in the agreement. One key component of this three month one sided truce was that leaders of the Palestinian resistance groups. Israel’s insistence in continuing with its assassination policy has led to a violent reaction. This pattern of assassinations followed by revenge suicide bombings and then further assassinations has become a broken record repeating itself ad nasum without either side giving in. To break the cycle of violence the thought of one side crushing the other side must be removed. Israeli thinking that yet one more assassination will cause the Palestinians to crumble and the Palestinian belief that one more suicide attack would cause the Israelis to raise the white flag have proved to be futile. India’s Mahatma Ghandi once said that an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth leaves the world blind and toothless. There has to be a stop to this zero sum game and a return to a sane policy based on reciprocity, compromise and reasonability.

The pattern of the past three years shows that the first order of business must be a ceasefire between the Israeli government and all its military and intelligence subsidiaries on the one hand and the Palestinian Authority with all the Palestinian factions. Such agreement must put an end to all types of military and armed attacks as well as assassinations. This agreement needs to be observed by a neutral third party. This could be done by the quartet led by the United States of America.

Finally such a ceasefire must be supported by concerted round the clock negotiations aimed at ending the basic reason for the violence, namely the occupation of the Palestinian areas and determining the issues of borders, settlements, refugees and Jerusalem. In Taba, Palestinian and Israeli negotiators were very close to agreement on all those issues early in 2001. President Bush’s vision of a state of a free and independent Palestine established in 2005 alongside a safe and secure state of Israel could also be used as a reference point for the talks.

No responses yet

Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.