By the end of the day on November 29, 2012, the UN General Assembly would have voted to pass a resolution that recognizes Palestine as a “Non-member Observer State” at the international body. While this new status does not grant full rights and privileges enjoyed by member states, it opens up invaluable resources to the Palestinian people, among which is the ability to join international aid organizations.
But the United States and Israel continue to ferociously denounce this development as counterproductive to stalled peace negotiations on the ground. They are wrong.
The latest Israeli-Gaza conflict of the past week shows how hell is a de facto state in the Gaza Strip; a place that only gets more hellish every three to four years when the devil comes visiting in the form of bombs and missiles. I am referring to Israeli aerial bombardment of the Palestinian enclave prompted by Hamas and other militant groups in the Strip.
Unlike Fatah in the West Bank, Hamas (the militant group which governs Gaza), is a sworn enemy of Israel. It has repeatedly refused the right of Israel to exist as a state and abide by any past international agreements. The United States and European nations have long ago labeled the group a terrorist outfit.
But, if there is anything that became apparent after this latest escalation, it is that the group has become emboldened and found a sense of legitimacy it has struggled to have since it took over administration of Gaza some six years ago. A growing number of Palestinians frustrated by Israeli occupation of disputed territories and blockade of Gaza now see Hamas as a plausible answer to Israel.
The Fatah party, whose members dominate the Palestinian National Authority, renounced violence in 1988. Its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, has pursued diplomatic avenues in bringing a sense of peace and calm to the region. But, so far, he seems to have little to show for it. And this message, this perception, is not lost on the people of Palestine. In the immediacy of the cease-fire agreement brokered by Egypt to end the eight-day conflict, there was a rally in West Bank to commend Hamas for putting up a perceived “credible” resistance to the Israeli onslaught.
For many Palestinians, it didn’t seem to matter that for the six Israelis killed during this period, 174 Palestinians were killed and over 1,400 wounded. What became a point of pride was that despite Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, rockets from Hamas were able to reach the Israeli territories of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. A new threshold in this decades-old conflict.
The challenge is now obvious: which of the divergent Palestinian factions do we seek to empower? Despite the relative peace in the West Bank, Palestinians are loudly moaning for results from the Palestinian Authority. Hamas’s latest “public victory” solidifies a growing sentiment that militancy might be the worthwhile means of resistance in forcing Israel into negotiations and concessions.
But this is indeed madness. Every three to four years, Israeli drones and warplanes obliterate every notable infrastructure and convenience in Gaza. A reconstruction effort begins afterward, only for everything to be knocked down and turned into rubbles in a matter of few years. Ha! This is indeed a Greco tragedy; where Sisyphus, cursed by the gods, was destined to eternally roll a massive stone up a steep hill, only for the stone to roll back down before he got to the top and so start from scratch.
This is the clear fate of the Gaza Strip under Hamas, or that of entire Palestine, if Hamas’s charter of hate were allowed to take hold. Unless Arab states like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc, are willing to commit their armies in support of Hamas against Israel (which after the Israeli-Arab war of 1967 they would think twice to do), then Palestinians must be persuaded to shun the folly of Hamas.
Recognition of the Palestinian Authority’s quest for recognition at the UN as a Non-member Observer State offers this persuasion. It gives Fatah and its supporters the ammo to proclaim that diplomacy, though at times sluggish and frustrating, is capable of paying dividends of gold.
And since we know Israel needs a major push to come back to the table for renewed peace negotiations, this latest move by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gives such an impetus.
We are at a critical junction in deciding the outlook of this crisis for decades to come. Let all those who pray for the peace of Jerusalem embrace messengers of peace rather than empower the destructive forces of evil.