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SHATTERING THE ILLUSION

Israeli Officials: 'Israel Will Not Intervene In Gaza & Act Only In Self-Defense'

Iranian Forward Base In Gaza Also Threatens Egypt

Hamas Takeover OF Gaza Proves There Is No Palestinian Consensus On Two State Solution That Includes Jewish State

Hamas members in Gaza Strip

The Hamas takeover of Gaza has upset not only the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation but could also have consequences for neighboring which also faces an Islamist threat. IsraCast is of the view that the Hamas expulsion of President Mahmoud Abbas from Gaza is one of the most dramatic developments since the start of the Oslo peace process in 1993 and casts doubt on Palestinian readiness to accept the two state solution envisaged in the Road Map peace plan.

:: IsraCast Audio ::

Israel and the world have awakened to a new reality - a swift and bloody civil war has produced 'Hamastan' in the Gaza Strip and 'Fatahland' on the West Bank. Two warring Palestinian states for one Palestinian people.

The illusion the Palestinians were ready to seek peace with Israel within a two state solution has been smashed to smithereens. In Gaza, Hamas openly bent on Israel's destruction, has routed its Fatah rivals lead by Palestinian moderate President Mahmoud Abbas. The power struggle exploded into civil war, bloody clashes with lynching in the streets and Fatah members fleeing to neighboring Egypt. The irony is that Hamas actually has more claim to power than Abbas and Fatah, because it was democratically elected to office in January 2006. Jimmy Carter testified to it.

Palestinian democracy - rule by gunmen (Photo: Amit Shabi) (Photo: Amit Shabi)

President Abbas, committed to the Road Map peace process with Israel, has hit a dead end. Having evacuated the Gaza Strip nearly two years ago, Israel hunkers down and awaits further developments. The official line is that Israel will not intervene in Gaza but act only in self-defense. But half of the food supplies for one and a half million Palestinians in Gaza flow through Israeli terminal crossings now closed. After the initial flush of victory, how will Hamas provide for them?

The total conquest of Gaza by Hamas sets up an Iranian forward base smack on Israel's southern border, the way Hezbollah does in the north. Alarm bells are ringing not only in Israel. Egypt, facing the threat of a mounting Islamist, must also take heed. Until now, the Egyptians have turned a blind eye to Palestinian arms smuggling into Gaza from Sinai. Cairo contended that the strict demilitarization of Sinai left it without appropriate forces to block the arms smuggling. The Egyptians may realize they have a joint interest in working with Israel to really crack down. They are aware that a Islamist victory in Gaza will also encourage Egyptian radicals at home.

Ironically, the American pressure for democracy bears some responsibility for the Hamas takeover in Gaza, another victory for Iran. The U.S. forced Israel and Abbas to permit Hamas participation in the Palestinian election that brought the fanatic movement to power. Now the State Department issues a futile call to the European Union to step up its support for Abbas, who has an impeccable record of failure in coping with Hamas.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

The Palestinian president is now holed up in Ramallah on the West Bank without half of his intended state. His Fatah movement is stronger than Hamas on the West Bank though.Moreover, the IDF still operates there and is conducting a relentless counter-terror campaign against terrorists, Hamas and otherwise.

In Israel, right wingers now blame the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza for the Hamas takeover.They charge that it paved the way for Hamas. Respondents reject this saying an Israeli presence would have been blamed but today nobody can point the finger at Israel. Maybe, but on the other hand there may be charges that Israeli roadblocks and security restrictions and the refusal to release terrorists with blood on their hands boosted Hamas and weakened Abbas. Is this a credible argument in light of the brutality by Hamas and Fatah gunmen to each other and their own people? Would good will gestures have dissuaded the two Palestinian mothers who were arrested recently before carrying out their suicide bombing missions? The unvarnished truth is there is no Palestinian majority that agrees to the two state solution. How could there be if they elected a Hamas government that vows to annihilate the Jewish state and will not tolerate their own people who might. It explains why Yasser Arafat walked away from Ehud Barak's offer of a Palestinian state at Camp David.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert now heads to Washington for talks with President George Bush. There had been rumors that Bush was considering 'new ideas to jump-start the Road Map', the euphemism for more Israeli good-will gestures. But the Bush administration may now have to go back to the drawing board on spreading democracy in the Middle East. In this part of the world it means one vote, one time if society does not adhere to the rules of the democratic game.

If this is a new and stark reality for some, it is still preferable to the illusion that the Palestinians have accepted a two-state solution that includes the Jewish state.

David Essing

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