Friday, June 15, 2007

Chicago Sun-Times Editorial - Violence in Gaza takes hope hostage

Chicago Sun-Times Editorial - Violence in Gaza takes hope hostage
Copyright by The Chicago Sun-Times
June 15, 2007

Almost five years ago, in a speech he delivered to the United Nations on June 24, 2002, President Bush called for the establishment of a Palestinian state -- one "built through reform," not "created by terror." It was a significant moment in U.S. relations with the Middle East, especially as it was coming less than a year after the 9/11 attacks. It was a moment to build on. But it didn't last long: Yasser Arafat soon would be caught smuggling weapons and fomenting terrorism.

Now, what can be best described as gang warfare is rewriting the outlook for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Men are killed execution-style in front of their families; others are thrown from the roof of a building. As Hamas completes its overrunning of Gaza, having taken over the city of Rafah and government facilities in Gaza City, including the headquarters of Fatah's elite Preventive Security forces, the notion of a Palestinian state is all but dead. After all these years of on-again-off-again diplomacy and new ideas for peace plans and road maps, of trying to construct terms by which the Palestinians and Israelis could live side by side in peace, the two-state situation peace advocates had hoped for is degenerating into a two-Palestinian-state nightmare. One is Gaza ruled by Hamas, the other the West Bank run by Fatah. And make no mistake about it, Hamas is creating a full-fledged terrorist state in Gaza.

This Palestinian civil war has been brewing for more than a year. When Hamas caught the world off guard by winning big in the 2006 elections, hopes of negotiating a peace by appealing to moderates led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas suffered a major blow. A terrorist organization, Hamas refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist or renounce violence against it and has no use for peace agreements, past or present.

With Hamas taking control of Gaza only four months after its exiled leader, Khaled Meshal in Damascus, and Abbas agreed to a power-sharing plan, U.S. and Israeli efforts to isolate Hamas while boosting Fatah can be judged a failure. Now, frighteningly, stocked with weapons and explosives supplied to Fatah by Egypt and Jordan, Hamas has the potential to be the same kind of terrorist threat on Israel's southern border that Hezbollah is up north in Lebanon. And, of course, Israel-hating Iran is the major backer of both Hamas and Hezbollah.

On Thursday, Abbas declared a state of emergency and dissolved the Hamas-led "unity" coalition, but at this point, that doesn't mean much. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said there would be "regional consequences" if Gaza fell under the complete control of Hamas. Those consequences may be military actions in Gaza to reduce the very real threat from Hamas. A long, hot, tension-filled summer looms.


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