The Palestinian scene is flooded with predicaments that seem insoluble any time soon, unless the concerned parties, which are Palestinian, Arab and international, are determined to avoid the eruption of Palestinian infighting and achieve a settlement for the Palestinian-Israeli struggle.
On the Palestinian front, there is still a failure from the dialogue to establish a national unity government that can work to lift the international political, economic and financial embargo. This leaves the door wide open to a resumption of violence that is in essence a struggle for power in the southern mini-quadrant. There are no occupation forces there, but it is instead surrounded by these forces, while there is armed chaos and poverty and tension that could explode, thanks to a single spark from the respective campaigns launched by both Hamas and Fatah.
It is absurd for the two sides to hide behind the slogans they repeat, such as Palestinian blood is a red line, and that national unity is a sacred objective and a state of affairs that must be maintained at any price, if actual practices of either of the two parties indicate otherwise.
It is true that the Palestinian voters made their decision and gave Hamas the majority in the legislative council in impartial and clean elections. But it is also true that an impossible situation developed following this, after which the people in the Palestinian territories became even poorer, and if only in the current phase, any chances to negotiate with Israel to end their occupation of the West Bank were terminated, before the Hebrew State swallows up what is left of these territories.
What adds to the complexity of this predicament is that the current situation the Palestinians find themselves in – in the shadow of an authority that is not a State and that does not enjoy any control or sovereignty over its land or even all of its security forces and weapons – provides an ideal environment for chaos and double standards. The formation of what has become known as the executive forces, by the Hamas government, has only complicated matters further. This is because these forces are closer to being an extension of Hamas’ armed wing than they are to being an extra security service for all the peoples of the Gaza strip, regardless of their factional allegiance.
At the international level, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are trying to prepare a Quartet committee meeting in Washington at the outset of February, it must be stressed that the international Quartet, which was created to implement the Road Map, must stand back from the Map to see the obstacles in its path and therefore know who the guilty party is that is placing these obstacles in its way. The upcoming meeting is an attempt to prepare the way for talks between the Israeli PM Ehud Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas, in the presence of Secretary Rice.
There are obligations on the two partners by virtue of the Map that places the Palestinian side in a sticky position, because it demands that the Palestinian resistance factions be disarmed, while the Israeli occupation continues to be armed. Not only that, but while the Israeli side continues to violate its own obligations by continuing to build the racist exclusion wall and build new settlements and expand old ones, tearing the unity of the Palestinian territory apart, not leaving a single plot of land connected to another, making the establishment of a viable independent Palestinian State impossible.
It would be more appropriate if the international Quartet looked at matters realistically: if the objective truly is to have two States, Palestine and Israel, side by side in peace and security, then the State that has existed since 1948 – Israel – must understand that its borders are final, before it makes demands of the people of the desired for but still non-existent State, and makes demands of recognition from the surrounding Arab States. Perhaps the Quartet is already aware of the fact that even Hamas has expressed its readiness to undergo a long-term armistice. This is the same Hamas that the US, Israel and Europe are embargoing, even though it is carrying out secret and unofficial negotiations.
There are doubts in Arab circles that the US-German moves to activate the Quartet are really an attempt to secure a smooth implementation of the US policy in Iraq; a country sinking in the blood of a sectarian civil war. If these doubts turn out to be true, then they will be an omen of a US strategic failure in both Iraq and Palestine, which means the continued fomentation of the whole region.