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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ignoring the elephant in the room

Laura Rozen has an account of Abu Mazen's meeting with 'American Jewish leaders' this past week. It's pretty much stuff we've all heard (and I've blogged) earlier this week, until this little bit at the end.
Aaron Miller writes in response that Abbas was "playing to his strengths and trying to cultivate the image of a wise and beneficent Palestinian leader reaching out, in contrast to the brashness and defensiveness [of] the Israeli Prime Minister."

But, Miller continued, "none of this will make a bit of difference. What counts is Abbas's capacity to make decisions (and Bibi's of course)."
That would be Aaron David Miller, former peace processor. And that got me thinking about this piece of analysis by Herb Keinon that appeared in the weekend JPost.
For all the damage the flotilla incident has caused Israel, and the damage is not inconsiderable, one positive side effect may be the placing of Gaza on the international agenda, and not only the Gaza that the Turks and the Palestinians want the world to see: the Gaza of deprivation, the Gaza without coriander seeds or soda pop.

The incident has also brought into focus the Gaza ruled not by the grandfatherly Abbas, or the Western technocrat PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, but rather by Hamas terrorists.

One of the inexplicable dimensions of the diplomatic efforts since the Annapolis conference in late 2007 has been the degree to which the international community continues to talk about a two-state solution, and a peace process, without taking into consideration that there are two Palestinian authorities: One in the West Bank and the other in the Gaza Strip, and that these two groups loath each other, don’t recognize the other’s authority and – after months and even years of trying – have not been able to reconcile their differences.

Everyone talks about two states, one for Jews, and the other for Palestinians. But what about Gaza? Who rules there? How do you wrest control of Gaza from Hamas? Those are crucial questions representing a huge elephant in the negotiating room, and are questions the international community has consistently ignored.

“The flotilla presents a clear image problem for Israel,” said the European diplomat quoted above. “We in the West were looking away from Gaza and the blockade, as long as there were not hiccups in the implementation of the blockade. But because of the flotilla we cannot ignore it anymore, because there is growing pressure from our public opinion.”

But by the same token, if the Europeans can’t ignore the blockade anymore, they – and the US – can also no longer ignore the place of Gaza, or the problem it presents, in the diplomatic process.

Or, as a high level Israeli government official pointed out this week, the issue now is much broader than the flotilla, it is on Gaza and how that impacts on the diplomatic process.

“If there is going to be an easing of the blockade,” he asked rhetorically, “how will that change Gaza, how will that strengthen Hamas, how will that impact on the Palestinian Authority? This all touches on the Palestinian talks. Everything is connected.”
Miller is right. The truth is that Abu Mazen has no mandate to negotiate. His term in office expired more than a year ago. He doesn't control Gaza and he only controls Judea and Samaria because the IDF is there. It's all connected. With whom are we negotiating? And why?


At 6:25 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Abu Bluff has no legitimacy to negotiate on behalf of his people. The fact Fatah just had to postpone local elections tells us all we need to know. If Hamas won them, the peace process would be over and every one knows it. One wonders why the Israeli government insists on propping up the unelected dictatorship known as the PA. It knows it can't deliver. So what is all this talk of a Palestinian state that will never be?


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