Monday, September 11, 2006

Crawling toward the Starting Line

Freud's notion of the narcissism of small differences affects politics and ideology. Ideologically differentiated groups within the same camp often need to make concessions to one another in order to create a common front. They often consider their concessions enormously painful. Yet outside observers often see these changes as small and inconsequential. Hamas leaders of late are struggling to make such concessions to Fatah, but no one else seems to care.

Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazzan), Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman, and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas agreed today to form a unity government. This step implies indirect recognition of Israel by Hamas and its willingness for the PA to participate in a "peace process," guided by a "roadmap." That, however, threatens the Jewish settlers in the West Bank and their supporters. Any approximation of peace between the Palestinians and Israel would involve Israel's removal of the "illegal" settlements and some "legal" settlements as well -- more extensively than would Olmert's abandoned program of consolidation. Any approximation of peace would also diminish the settlers' status in the West Bank, where they are a law unto themselves, or, as Israel likes to say regarding others places, "a state within a state."

The reasons for Hamas's amenability are evident: a) the failure of the Hamas government to rescind the sanctions from western countries and aid donors; b) insufficient replacement aid from Iran and other Muslim sources; b) the economic collapse and virtual cessation of government services as consequences of the sanctions; d) the rapid loss of support for Hamas among the Palestinians; e) Israel's continued punishment of Gaza and Hamas's inability to respond. Hamas leaders also learned how easily the world (including this blog) coud forgot the Palestinians' plight while the war between Israel and Hezbollah raged. Finally, it is possible that Israel's targeted killing of mid level Hamas militants has diminished internal opposition to a more pragmatic approach to Israel. Quite expectedly, Israel offered no encouragement for this ministep by Hamas. Foreign Minister Tsippi Livni decried it as insufficient . She added that what mattered was whether the proposed unity government met the West's three conditions for restoring aid. The conditions are recognizing Israel, renouncing terror and abiding by previous Palestinian Authority agreements with Israel.

Meanwhile other bases for dealing with the Palestinians are being publicly advocated in Israel.
MK Effi Eitam (National Religious Party - National Union) raised a storm of outrage on Sunday when he called for West Bank Palestinians to be transferred and for Palestinian Israelis to be ejected from politics. Eitam is a candidate for Minister of Defense should a right wing government under the leadership of Netanyahu come to power. Speaking at a memorial service for a soldier killed in Lebanon, he said "We will have to expel the great majority of the Arabs of Judea and Samaria. It's impossible with all those Arabs, and it's impossible to give up the territory." In regard to the Israeli Palestinians, he added, "We will have to take another decision, and that is to sweep the Israeli Arabs from the political system. Here, too, it's clear and simple. We've raised a fifth column, a league of traitors of the first rank. Therefore, we cannot continue to enable so large and so hostile a presence within the political system of Israel." Now that makes fascism's difference quite clear.


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