King Abdullah Warns Of Last Days, Last Chance For
Peace In Middle East
Gaza is riven by factional fighting between Fatah and Hamas, it continues now into its seventh day, while negotiations and "cease fires" do little to halt the violence. Israel has moved tanks, infantry and artillery into the Palestinian territory.
Israel's air force has launched multiple strikes, killing more than ten people, including Hamas fighters and civilians.
Just when you think the politics and confusion and collusion surrounding Israel Vs Palestine couldn't get anymore convoluted and complicated, you read this :
Israel this week allowed the Palestinian party Fatah to bring into the Gaza Strip as many as 500 fresh troops trained under a U.S.-coordinated program to counter Hamas, the radical Islamic movement that won Palestinian parliamentary elections last year. Fighting between Hamas and Fatah has left about 45 Palestinians dead since Sunday.The forces belong to units loyal to the elected Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate Fatah leader whom the Bush administration and Israel have sought to strengthen militarily and politically.Of course, with those ski-masks on, there's no guarantee that they all actually Fatah party members, or even Palestinians. There's a lot of mercenaries looking for work that is just that little bit less dangerous than Iraq right now.
A spokeswoman for the European Union Border Assistance Mission at Rafah, where the fighters crossed into Gaza from Egypt, said their entry Tuesday was approved by Israel.
The troops' deployment illustrates the increasingly partisan role that Israel and the Bush administration are taking in the volatile Palestinian political situation. The effort to fortify the armed opposition to Hamas, which the United States and Israel categorize as a terrorist organization, follows attempts to isolate the radical Islamic movement internationally and cut off its sources of financial aid.
That Israel and the US was secretly helping to train Fatah fighters to go to war against the democratically elected Hamas government was a raging conspiracy theory in Gaza, and across the Islamic world, earlier this year. No longer.
While Hamas and Fatah gunmen slay each other in the streets of Gaza, Israel is pounding Hamas training camps and alleged terrorist hide-outs, or civilian homes, and ramping up the body count and tension.
Why does Fatah, once the ultimate enemy of Israel, and the party of the despised Yasar Arafat, now get special treatment, and training? They officially recognised Israel's right to exist, and are committed to a two state solution, as opposed to Hamas, who, like Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, refuse to recognise Israel and appear to be sticking to their old doctrine of removing Zionists from all of the lands once known as Palestine.
In short, Fatah is now the party of the secular and more wealthy Palestinians, primarily in the West Bank, and is viewed by Israel and the US as "progressive", while Hamas remains the Islamist party of the poor and pissed off in Gaza, who rocket Israel at every opportunity, in part, they claim, to keep Israel from soaking up more Palestinian territory with settlements that even the United States recognise as illegal.
The United States, and perhaps more astoundingly, Israel, have officially chosen the side of Fatah. For now anyway. While it serves their interests :
The Bush administration recently approved $40 million to train the Palestinian Presidential Guard, a force of about 4,000 troops under Abbas's direct control, but both Israel and the United States, each deeply unpopular among Arabs in the region, have been trying to avoid the perception of taking sides in a conflict that this week in Gaza has resembled a nascent civil war.You rarely find a more precise and practical definition of 'my enemy's enemy is my friend' than that quote.
Many within Fatah are avowed opponents of Israel, and any alliance with the Jewish state against the militant movement could damage Fatah's standing among Palestinians.
"We're not the ones giving these forces operational orders. That will be up to Abbas," said Ephraim Sneh, Israel's deputy defense minister, asserting that Hamas's arms smuggling from the Sinai and military training in Iran have given the movement a battlefield advantage.
"The idea is to change the balance, which has been in favor of Hamas and against Fatah. With these well-trained forces, it will help right that imbalance."
As Palestinian rocket fire into Israel continued Thursday, the Israeli air force conducted a series of strikes across Gaza, from which Israel withdrew in 2005 after a nearly four-decade presence.
The airstrikes killed at least six Hamas gunmen that Israeli officials said were involved in rocket assaults on Israeli towns near Gaza.
"All options for our response are open," said Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza. Some Hamas military leaders said specifically that "martyrdom operations," or suicide bombings, could be used in retaliation for the Israeli airstrikes.
Israeli military officials said Palestinian gunmen fired at least 17 rockets Thursday from Gaza, bringing the three-day total to more than 80. At least seven fell Thursday in the border town of Sderot, wounding several Israelis and damaging a synagogue, a high school and a building inside an industrial park, military officials said.
King Abdullah, of Jordan, was interviewed by the London Times yesterday. As well as expressing vast concern about the flood of Iraqis threatening to upset the equilibrium of his lands, Abdullah had plenty to say about just how close to the brink the Middle East is to a larger, longer, and far more violent series of wars. Palestine, as usual, remains the powderkeg :
"It is extremely disturbing for all of us. I hope that cooler heads prevail. Arabs and Muslims have realised that this is our last chance. I think it is beginning to dawn on Israelis and Palestinians that this is our last chance. They need to reach out to their brothers and sisters and say: 'We need to take one step back because if this continues we may lose our final opportunity'."Abdullah pointed out that Israel does little to calm the tension amongst Palestinians, by pushing ahead with illegal settlements and the continuation of the 'security wall' that carves through Palestinian communities and cuts more and more Palestinians off from their farming lands and water resources by the day.
King Abdullah was one of the key constructors of the Arab Peace Plan that saw dozens of leaders from Arab countries settle on a set of conditions that Israel's prime minister Olmert said was something he could work with. He called the plan "revolutionary". He opposed the right of return for Palestinian refugees, but not much else, and said the plan could bring peace within five years.
After a great deal of publicity and positive reaction in Palestine, Israel and across the world, Olmert then stalled on doing anything to implement the plan, in a standard Israeli tactic, until new violence broke out amongst the Palestinians. Now the Arab Peace Plan has been all but forgotten and Olmert can now claim he wanted to make it work, but the Palestinians were not people willing to talk peace.
King Abdullah claims that the key to peace across the Middle East, and the Arab world is, as always, implementing the peace between Palestine and Israel :
"...if there is no future for the Palestinians, how can there be peace between the Israelis and the Arabs and the Israelis and the Muslims?
"Now people can say this is not the right time. You have an end of an administration in the United States, you have got changes in Europe (France, Britain). You have very confused situation in Israeli politics, but the timeline we are looking at is that there is a physical limitation on a future Palestinian state. If you look at issues like (Jewish) settlements and the wall, we might end up with a Swiss cheese on the West Bank. Then it all dawns on us that physically we don't have a Palestinian state to talk about.
"I do not think this is the 1960s or 70s or 80s or 90s where there is another opportunity to launch a process. We have a finite amount of time. Physically there may not be a chance for a future Palestinian state. Therefore do we bring the Middle East to decades more of chaos and violence because without a Palestinian state and a future for the Palestinians how can we have peace between the Israelis and the Arabs and Israelis and Muslims? That is why the urgency is now."
Abdullah seems to losing hope that the United States, and the UK, will be countries that ultimately find the solution. He holds much praise for the fresh enthusiasm shown by EU countries, like Germany, who see vast benefits from a more peaceful Middle East.
In poll after poll, the majority of Israelis and Palestinians say they want peace and a two state solution, and yet still the fighting and bloodshed rages on. Leaders on both sides, all sides, who can make the peace a reality, find yet more reasons to wage war instead. Against each other, and against themselves.
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