Playing by Israeli Rules: Calvinball
It is impossible for the Palestinians to negotiate with Israel, which continually and immorally changes the rules at every play.
Following the Israeli silence on Palestinian President Mahmood Abbas' strategy to include Hamas in the political process to win over Islamist militants to a national unity government with Fatah and to eventually disarm them, the Jewish state has suddenly embarked on a diplomatic offensive to completely destroy the initiative and to throw Palestine into deeper chaos. Ariel Sharon is setting up Mahmood Abbas to fail. And President Bush, of course, is glaringly silent.
Le Monde's capable Jerusalem correspondent, Gilles Paris, reports:
Israeli opposes the participation of Hamas in the elections and humiliates Abbas.
Over the last few days, the Israeli government has issued multiple statements concerning the participation of the Islamic Resistance Movement, better known as Hamas, in the Palestinian legislative elections scheduled for January 25, 2006. According to Foreign Affairs Minister Sylvan Shalom, who spoke for the first time on the subject on September 18 in New York during the General Assembly of the United Nations, it is inconceivable that a movement like Hamas, which has good chances of doing well and even scoring an election victory at the polls, might win the elections while calling for the destruction of Israel. Prime Minster Ariel Sharon called the decision by the leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmood Abbas, to convince Hamas to participate in the elections a major error. These two men have promised that their country will do nothing to facilitate the elections, should the Islamists participate.
On September 22 the Quartet, an informal group that includes the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations and concerns itself with the Israeli-Palestinian issue, seemed to go beyond Israeli expectations in issuing a communiqué in which it said that those who wish to participate in the political process must renounce their membership in armed groups implicated in militant activism.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice issued a more measured statement by saying that Palestinian democracy is a democracy in transition and expressed the hope that the elections are going to allow things to move forward and that everyone is expected cooperate. Although the legislative elections in Gaza are going to be held without interference by Israel following its evacuation, the West Bank remains under strict Israeli control. This will be an obstacle to Hamas candidates. Hamas will be certainly forbidden to campaign in East Jerusalem, where Israelis have always interfered in the Palestinians electoral process.
This diplomatic offensive is occurring despite the fact that Israeli did not oppose the participation of Hamas in the partial municipal elections held in Gaza and on the West Bank in December 2004. The Israeli government expressed no opinion on the subject of the legislative elections that were first scheduled for July 17 and later postponed to January 2006. The Israeli position, harshly criticized by the Palestinian Islamist movement, has placed Abbas in a difficult situation. On September 22nd, leader of the Palestinian Authority distanced himself from the Quartet’s statements while assuring that he knew better than anyone else how to negotiate with our brothers.
The participation of Hamas in the legislative elections is an essential element in the strategy of Mr. Abbas, who hopes to eventually to convince the Islamist group, whose popularity has been continually on the rise since the Intifada, to disarm. While Israel insists that Hamas and other Islamist groups be brought under control and swiftly disarmed, Mr. Abbas promotes dialog which he believes will produce results such as the September 24 decision on the part of armed groups to end the series of military parades organized in evacuated Gaza since September 12. With the Palestinian security forces in total disarray, demonstrated by the escalating number of shootings and kidnappings in Gaza over the last few months, the Palestinian Authority is unable for the moment to force radical groups to disarm.
Hamas, hostile to the Oslo accords signed in 1993, boycotted the first legislative elections in January 1996 in Gaza and on the West Bank. Its decision to participate in the new round of legislative elections was announced after it polled good results in the partial municipal elections where in several districts it beat Fatah, the movement of Mr. Abbas and the backbone of the Palestinian Authority.