Where is Hamas in the
by Neville Teller
A basic inconsistency at the heart of the current US-led peace effort in the
Last week two Israeli soldiers were killed while pursuing a group of Hamas fighters trying to lay mines near the border fence between
Following a period of comparative calm after the end of
That seemed to be the last straw. On Friday
So far, one might say, situation normal. This wearisome pattern of incitement and retaliation consistently emerges when the first rays of a possible peace negotiation flicker above the horizon – and at this moment, despite the diplomatic furore of the past few weeks, a start to the US-inspired proximity talks between
What is less explicable is the reaction of Western governments, led by the
For example, US State Department spokesman, Philip J Crowley, said on Friday that although Israel has a right to defend itself, "our message remains to the Israelis and Palestinians that we need to get the proximity talks going, focus on the substance, move to direct negotiations and ultimately arrive at a settlement that ends the conflict once and for all."
But statements like these, matched by those from the UN, the EU and elsewhere, simply do not reflect the realities of the situation. The proximity talks, if or when they take place, will be between
So even if, by some heaven-sent miracle, the proposed round of indirect discussions hosted by George Mitchell, the US special envoy to the Middle East, do lead to face-to-face negotiations, and they in turn result in an agreement on substantive issues, what would have been achieved? Hamas, which has dissociated itself from President Mahmoud Abbas's initiative, even though it has the backing of the Arab League, would not be party to the agreement. It would continue to pursue the support of the Palestinian man-in the-street, in the hope of eventually overturning the Fatah-led government of the
In this struggle for power, Hamas is actually fighting on two fronts. For at its heels are the militant Islamist groups that refuse to abide by Hamas's virtual ceasefire, and indeed oppose the Hamas administration for failing to live up fully to extremist Muslim standards. A recent statement from the Jihadi Salafis ran: "We will not stop targeting the figures of this perverted, crooked government, breaking their bones and cleansing the pure land of the Gaza Strip of these abominations." They and Jaljalat, Jund Ansar Allah, Army of the Nation, and the Salafi Army of Islam, to name some only, not only mount armed attacks on senior Hamas figures, but pursue their own agenda in attacking
This aspect of the Arab-Israeli dispute is the missing link in all the well-intentioned calls to
It would be best if, In their public statements, all those striving for a settlement in Israel-Palestine acknowledged this indisputable fact.
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