Friday, December 31, 2004

Palestinians must stand up to terrorism from within Dec. 31, 2004

Palestinians must stand up to terrorism from within
Exclusive to Haaretz, Dec. 31, 2004
By Ray Hanania

On January 8th, in anticipation of Palestinian elections, Israel will pull back its military in order to accommodate the voting and to conduct a test to see if the "downsizing" can be maintained.

Although it is not a Middle East peace plan, it may help to contribute to an atmosphere where Palestinians can push the Israelis back to the negotiating table and resume the 2000 peace talks that faltered when Israeli negotiators balked at making the tough concessions on Jerusalem and the Palestinian Right of Return.

More importantly, it is an opportunity for the Palestinian National Authority to re-assert its authority in the occupied territories not so much from Israel, but in the face of the real threat to its leadership, from Hamas. The new PNA government must control Hamas vigilantism, and bring to an end the Hamas-inspired suicide bombings that undermine Palestinian support internationally.

Israel reportedly is considering maintaining the reduction in the days and weeks after the election in the hopes that policing and controls can be taken over by Palestinian police.

It’s a window of opportunity Palestinians should not miss. While Hamas will argue that it’s just another form of Zionist maneuvering that changes little, pragmatics among the Palestinians must see it as a part of the process of disengagement by both sides.

As the suffering for Palestinians continue, Hamas is growing in strength; despite occasional swings in public opinion surveys, the trends show a move towards continued conflict and a despair over a negotiated settlement.

From the Palestinian standpoint, the PNA must assert its authority whenever it can. They live under occupation and the Hamas response that there is no such thing as liberation until Israel is destroyed is inaccurate and merely a re-statement of their rejection of compromise.

Yet most Palestinians support land-for-peace compromise and a mini but viable Palestinian State in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and in Arab East Jerusalem.

But Palestinians are used to being hijacked by the lowest common-denominator. One Palestinian extremists can undo in violence what thousands of Palestinians can achieve in negotiations based on a rational realization that Israel cannot be defeated militarily and there is no going back to 1948.

The only road to 1948 is through hatred, lies, exaggerations and the immoral exploitation of Palestinian suffering by the extremists. The road to 1967 is damaged, potholed and difficult to maneuver, but a clear path that can still be repaired. Hamas and its rejections have done much to destroy that road and will continue, even after the elections.

The new Palestinian president, presumably Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) must act quickly after the elections to consolidate his authority first over the Palestinians. That means an immediate crackdown on Hamas and anyone who takes the law into their owns hands.

Hamas is an outlaw organization to Palestinians that operates outside of the weak but existing Palestinian legal system. Every nation has the right to crack down on its own militants while it is seeking to negotiate. Militants have no moral authority to engage in violence, especially when those acts are intended to undermine negotiations. The next Palestinian president must interpret his election as reinforcement of that principle.

This is not about doing Israel’s bidding. It is about doing Palestine’s bidding. Palestinians cannot use the principle of the Rule of Law to defend itself against the aggression of Israel’s military occupation. And certainly, Israel’s military has committed atrocities that are equal if not worse than atrocities committed by the Palestinians against Israelis.

But you cannot demand the cover of the Rule of Law to pursue your rights if you do not apply that law fairly, completely and across the board.

Palestinians cannot find their independence through the continued violence against Israel. It can only come through the non-violent pursuit of compromise, a strengthening of International community support and shifting the conflict from one of Palestinians versus Israelis to those opposed to compromise and those who support compromise.

Israelis who support compromise must support this Palestinian opportunity and not allow the tragedies that have injured both in the past stand in the way of true justice.

If Palestinians fail, so too will the Israelis.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and author. His columns are internationally syndicated and are archived on his web at


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