Israel: The Improbable Dream

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June 18, 2009: Fatah and Hamas continue to dismantle each other's organizations in the West Bank (where Fatah is stronger) and Gaza (where Hamas is stronger). This has made it difficult for Fatah and Hamas to make peace and create a united Palestinian government. Both sides are arresting, even killing, each others operatives. There are also home searches for weapons and cash. For example, on June 8th, Fatah police seized $1.4 million in cash (Euros) a Hamas official had hidden in his home.

In Gaza, Palestinian terrorist groups continue to try and attack Israeli troops maintaining the security fence around Gaza, that keeps Palestinian terrorists out of Israel. There are incidents weekly, usually resulting in armed Palestinians getting killed. Israel is fine with this, because the Hamas activists in both Gaza and the West Bank are intent on carrying out terror attacks inside Israel. So the Fatah attacks on Hamas there are seen as aiding Israeli counter-terror operations. These are underway all the time in the West Bank, with Israeli police or commandos arresting (or killing, if there is armed resistance) an endless list of Palestinian terrorists. In Gaza, Hamas has less control over Islamic radical groups, and tends to leave them alone as long as Hamas authority is not challenged. This results in a wide variety of Islamic radical groups. One, for example, was recently caught planning to assassinate former U.S. president Jimmy Carter (who has long been pro-Hamas and was visiting Gaza to show support). Other groups are more troublesome, as they support terrorist activity across the border in Egypt. Negotiations between Hamas and Egypt are complicated because Hamas is reluctant to crack down too hard on other Islamic radical groups.

Despite the disunity within the Palestinian community, and the decades of really ugly anti-Israel (and anti-Semitic) Palestinian propaganda, Israel has again come out and pledged to negotiate with the Palestinians, for the establishment of a separate Palestinian state. This has surprised many, inside and outside Israel, as the newly elected Israeli government is full of politicians who have generally been hostile to a separate Palestinian state. But given the ongoing civil war within the Palestinian community, and past inability of the Palestinians to negotiate a deal, or follow through when they do, the Israelis are apparently talking the talk to keep the Americans happy, safe in the knowledge that it would be very unlikely that the Palestinians would unite, negotiate a deal and implement it.

It's not just the Palestinians who have problems with violence religious extremists. In the past few weeks, conservative Jews (Haredi) have rioted in Jerusalem, in opposition to the government allowing cars to park near Haredi neighborhoods on Saturday (the Sabbath). To the north, Arab Christian and Druze (a Moslem sect considered heretical by most Moslems) mobs clashed over a YouTube video the Druze believed showed disrespect for one of their religious leaders. In both cases, there were injuries to police and rioters, and some property damage. Such violence is common in the region, even in Israel.

June 14, 2009:  Fatah and Hamas agreed to halt arrests of each other's activists, and exchange lists of prisoners held (Fatah in Gaza jails, Hamas in West Bank lock ups). This is yet another attempt at reconciliation. All previous ones have failed, and no one gives this one much of a chance, despite efforts by American diplomats to broker a deal (and offer generous bribes to those who cooperate and actually do the deed.) But the last time this happened, in 2000, the Palestinians were split, with radical groups calling for continued violence, and the destruction of Israel. So the Palestinians refused a carefully negotiated deal, and began a terror campaign against Israel, hoping to get better terms for an independent state. The terror campaign was defeated within five years, and Hamas took over from Fatah in Gaza. Now the Palestinians are more divided than they have been for decades.

June 7, 2009:  In Lebanon, parliamentary elections left pro-Western parties in power, with 71 of 128 seats. Pro-Hezbollah groups got 57 seats. This was something of a surprise, as Hezbollah had made a major effort to bully, threaten or cajole the majority of Lebanese to vote for them, and give Hezbollah control of the government. But the fact that Hezbollah is seen as a bully, and a dangerous one at that, by most Lebanese (including many Shia), led to this setback. Hezbollah has blamed the United States and Israel for the unfavorable vote. A week later, voting in Iran saw large demonstrations and riots against the religious dictatorship that runs the country, and provides vital support (weapons, cash, key personnel) to keep Hezbollah going. The Iranian voters believe the election was manipulated, to keep Islamic conservatives in power.

 

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