Fighting chance

"Fighting chance" Continued...

Issue: "The 2007 Books Issue," June 30, 2007

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was immediately surrounded by international efforts to embolden his newly invented Hamas-free government. During their June 19 meeting in Washington, both President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert affirmed Abbas as the legitimate ruler of the Palestinian people. The United States and the European Union pledged to end a 15-month embargo and restore vital aid, and Israel promised to hand over hundreds of millions of tax dollars withheld since Hamas gained power in the territories.

Abbas didn't waste any time proving the legitimacy of his government: After firing Hamas leader and Prime Minister Haniyeh, he promptly replaced him with economist Salam Fayyad, a favorite in the international arena and a leader Ibish describes as one of the "cleanest and most honest figures in Palestine." Fayyad formed an emergency government on June 17, and Abbas called President Bush the following day to tell him it was time to restart Mideast peace talks.

But with militants in Gaza straying far from current peace initiatives, the "road map" to peace may need to be redrawn. A myriad of options are being thrown on the table from all sides, including calls from the Israeli right to retake and occupy the Gaza Strip. While Dror doesn't deny the possibility of Israeli forces entering Gaza to cripple militant activities, a full-scale occupation is highly unlikely, he said: "We didn't get out of Gaza in order to go back into Gaza. It's in the Israeli interests to stay out of Gaza."

Other options circulating in the fringes include returning the West Bank to Jordan and Gaza to Egypt or absorbing the West Bank and all its citizens into Israel proper (both highly unlikely).

Despite the rebellion in Gaza, Ibish still exalts the two-state solution as the only option for Palestinians and believes Hamas will eventually realize the folly of its ways: "This moment of Hamas triumph in Gaza I think is ultimately going to be short-lived. In the end, Gaza does not have an independent future, and I think that's going to be clear sooner or later."

But from the Israeli Defense Forces' perspective, Dror sees a division between Gazans and West Bank residents that runs deeper than politics. West Bank residents are more educated and have a higher economic and family status than their counterparts. Most West Bank residents, he says, are also willing to disavow violence and engage in dialogue, while Gazans have chosen the road less peaceful: "We knew before how violent [Hamas] could be. Now we've seen what he can do to his brother. Think what he can do to other people."


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