Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Palestinian Leaders Targeted in Rising Violence

By Israel? Uh, not exactly...
JERUSALEM, June 12 — Gunmen of Hamas and Fatah, ignoring pleas from Egypt and from the Palestinian president, sharply escalated their fight for supremacy in Gaza today, with Hamas taking over much of the northern Gaza Strip.

Both sides accused the other of attempting a coup in what increasingly began to look like a civil war. Hamas demanded that security forces loyal to the rival Fatah movement abandon their positions in northern and central Gaza, while Fatah’s leaders met in the West Bank to decide whether to pull out of the national unity government and even the legislature in protest.

The unity government, negotiated in March under Saudi auspices, put Fatah ministers into a Hamas-led government in an effort to secure renewed international aid and recognition and to stop already serious fighting between the two factions.

But the new government has failed to achieve either goal...

Mr. Okal (a Palestinian political scientist), who is now on the board of trustees of the Fatah-affiliated Al Azhar University in Gaza, said he would oppose Fatah pulling out of elected institutions, but he is not optimistic about Gaza. “We are heading toward a collapse — of both the political system and society,” he said. “And the chaos will in any event continue.”

Lest there be misunderstanding, I take no pleasure or satisfaction in intra-Palestinian turmoil and fratricide, and do not believe it bodes well for Israel, or for peace. If there is ever to be a viable two-state solution, robust institutions of Palestinian self-government must emerge and prove themselves capable of maintaining a some semblance of orderly government. Surely there are highly capable Palestinians not infected with Fatah-style corruption or Hamas-style ideological extremism who could win the respect of their own people, and of Israel. Where are they (perhaps some in Israeli prisons), and how can they emerge to provide improved leadership for their people? Are there arrangements (involving the UN, the EU, the Arab League, Egypt/Jordan/Saudi Arabia?) that might be conducive to progress in that direction?

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