The US Administration, which just forced Israel and the Palestinian Authority to enter direct peace negotiations, seems to have completely forgotten about the Gaza Strip. Perhaps Washington is deliberately sticking its head in the sand; and perhaps we should all stop dreaming?
The peace process is going nowhere and everyone is just pretending: it is important to remind everyone of what they want to conceal or forget.
The Americans seem to be ignoring Gaza: Possibly -- even though the Gaza Strip is back in the news as rockets and mortars are again being fired into Israel -- they do not want the grim reality to spoil the Peace Process Party.They know that for now the Gaza Strip is a lost cause, so they pretend the problem does not exist.
If the Obama administration is hoping that a peace deal might prompt the Hamas and the residents of the Gaza Strip to seek a similar deal, they are they are being naïve; on the contrary, such a deal would only increase Hamas's determination to step up its efforts -- with the help of Syria and iran -- to scuttle the peace process.
The first and most important question that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton need to ask themselves is whether the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, would ever even be able to implement a peace agreement in the Gaza Strip.
Abbas and his Fatah faction fled the Gaza Strip just over three years ago, handing it over to Hamas. As soon as Hamas started shooting in the summer of 2007, Abbas's forces and loyalists either surrendered or ran away.
They gave Hamas everything, including security headquarters, weapons, and government offices.
The handful of Fatah policemen and militiamen who chose to put up a fight were swiftly crushed by Hamas.
Since then, Abbas has not been able to set foot in the Gaza Strip. He is not even able to visit his private residence, which was seized by Hamas.
The Palestinian president is not a fool and he is acting properly by following the advice of his security advisors not to even consider the idea of visiting the Gaza Strip.
Abbas's seaside headquarters, once an important symbol of the Palestinian Authority's control over the Gaza Strip, has been turned into a Hamas detention center, where many of the president's loyalists are being held and tortured at the hands of the Islamist movement.
Have Obama and Clinton ever given a thought as to whether the Palestinian president has the power to enforce a peace agreement in the "southern part of Palestine" - the Gaza Strip?
Any peace agreement Abbas reaches with Israel will apply only to those areas in the West Bank that are under the jurisdiction or control of the Palestinian Authority.
By being forced out of the Gaza Strip, Abbas lost direct control over some 1.5 million Palestinians, roughly half the Palestinians living in the Palestinian territories.
There are also doubts as to whether Abbas would even be able to impose, or sell, a peace agreement to many of his constituents in the West Bank, particularly those living in refugee camps.
So if Abbas cannot go to the Gaza Strip and has limited control over the West Bank, where is he supposed to implement a peace agreement? In downtown Ramallah? In Tel Aviv?
The way matters seem to be these days, it is highly unlikely that Abbas and Fatah would be returning to the Gaza Strip, at least not in the foreseeable future.
The Palestinian and Israeli negotiators and their US sponsors are continuing to ignore the facts on the ground -- namely that a radical, Iranian-funded Islamist state already exists, and it is in the Gaza Strip.
It would have been more useful for the peace process had Washington demanded that Abbas find a solution to the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip before dragging him to the negotiating table.
Khaled Abu Toameh
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