Impasse-Oriented Conventional Politics Only Empowers Militants

The United States never understood one feral rule of the Arab Middle East and Muslim South Asia: there is little hope left that the conventional politics will resolve the Muslim misery or problems of liberty either from domestic tyrants or from the tyranny of occupiers.  That leaves only those who despise the U.S. and all it stands for in the Middle East and South Asia to attempt to resolve things their way.  They are known as Islamists and terrorists in the West.  But they appear to be doing their utmost to destroy the status quo.  It seems that the conventional way of doing business or resolving conflict holds little promise in the aforementioned areas. 

It has been happening in the occupied Palestine, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.  The same types of actors appear to challenge whatever political order exists in Lebanon.  North Africa may not remain peaceful or stable for too long.  Gaza has emerged as the most recent place of acute turbulence, and a place where the militants’ way of doing business will have the upper hand. .


The peaceful resolution of conflict in the occupied Palestine is not even a remote possibility in the beginning of 2009.  The pseudo hope was that somehow President Barack Obama would turn on his magic and all parties to that conflict would eagerly start negotiating.  The reality on the ground is too grossly dim and dark to allow even a flicker of hope. 


The Palestinians are bitterly divided between President Mahmoud Abbas, who is too compliant with the U.S. and Israeli way of creating a semblance of negotiations, which only promise to prolong the Israeli occupation, does nothing to even slow down the pace of building Jewish settlements on Arab land, and only postpones any realistic chance of the emergence of an independent Palestine in the distant future.  The Gaza region is governed by Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist, to renounce violence, and to directly negotiate with the Jewish state.  The U.S. and Israel on their part continue to dismiss Hamas by calling it a “terrorist” entity, hoping that, somehow, it will fade into oblivion.


Israel is being ruled by the Kadima Party, whose Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, is taking his last breath as the head of the government.  The next general election promises to bring to power the fanatical Likud Party, which is totally disinterested in any resolution of conflict with the Palestinians.  For Likud, the prolongation of the status quo is the best policy.  More to the point, the political environment inside Israel has so deteriorated that there is no constituency that will support a major territorial concession toward the Palestinians.


The diffident style of Mahmoud Abbas in dealing with Israel has pushed the Palestinian conflict anywhere but close to resolution.  Hamas’ defiant style has not proven itself better or superior to that of Abbas’s.  In the meantime, the Palestinian suffering continues to worsen.  The truce between Hamas and Israel that Egypt helped negotiate broke down and another round of blame-game and violence continues. 


Now Israel has painted itself into a corner, in the sense that it vows to destroy Hamas, without remembering that it made a similar promise to destroy the Hezbollah during its last war in July-August 2006.  About the only way Israel can save face this time is by destroying Hamas.  However, doing so will lead to even more loss of civilian life–an option that Israel is not likely to adopt.


The irony of the current round of “war” between Israel and Hamas is that Israel will face the limits of power in the same way as the United States did in Iraq.  The militarily powerful actor in such conflicts has to be able to rule after hostilities stop.  Ruling a state after destroying its governing institution emerges as a no-win situation for the occupier.  The United States had no stomach for becoming a permanent occupier in Iraq.  The Sons of Iraq came to its rescue, when they decided on their own that their best strategy was to cooperate with the U.S. occupiers and fight with the Al-Qaida murderers, who were targeting them mercilessly.  That rapprochement was the chief reason why the Surge strategy had any chance of becoming a winning strategy in Iraq, thereby providing the U.S. even a semblance of “withdrawal with honor.”


the lost boys online

Israel has had that option in the form of propping up the government of Mahmoud Abbas, by making major territorial compromises, by willing to allow the emergence of an independent Palestine with Jerusalem as the divided capital of both Israel and Palestine.  But Ehud Olmert either would not or could not deliver any of those options.


That reality has proven to the Palestinians that Hamas’ way of rejecting Israel was not as bad as the U.S. and Israelis were depicting it.  Under such a hostile environment, Israel killed Nizar Rayyan, who represented the same type of defiant and anti-status quo leadership that Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah, Abu Mus’ab al-Suri, or Ayman al-Zawahiri represent. 


Rayyan was a cleric who preached his gospel of violence at the Jabalya’s “mosque of martyrs.”  He believed in no negotiations and no compromises with the Jewish state.  He told Reuters in early 2007, “We will never recognize Israel.  There is nothing called Israel, neither in reality nor in the imagination.  He also mentored suicide bombers.  In fact, one of his sons died as a suicide bomber in October 2001, killing two and injuring fifteen Israelis.  Rayyan categorically rejected the option of reaching a compromise even with the Fatah, and swore to deal with it “only (with) the sword and the rifle.”


The most certain result of the “war” between Hamas and Israel is that the former will emerge as the most popular entity, no matter how badly it is beaten up by the Israeli military machinery.   The Arab souks will soon be filled with packages of dates carrying the name of Rayyan in the same way they carried the name of Nasrallah after the end of the July-August war between Hezbollah and Israel. 


This new round of violence in the occupied Palestine diminishes any prospect of meaningful rounds of negotiation between the warring sides.  The United States still does not understand that Mahmoud Abbas represents nothing but the face of appeasement to the rest of the Palestinians.  Then who will represent them?  Certainly not Hamas, unless the United States and Israel will have a change of heart and recognize it as the legitimate representative of the Palestinians.  The good offices of Egypt may not be regarded as any good for future rounds of negotiations between Hamas and Israel, because of Egypt’s refusal to open its borders to allow the exodus of those Gazans who wanted to escape.  


In the meantime, the worsening living conditions in the occupied Palestine prove to a great number of Palestinians that Rayyan’s way was not wrong after all.  Call it extremism or call it terrorism, but that approach seems to be getting popular in the Middle East and South Asia.  Barack Obama most likely will not understand that reality.  After all, as U.S. president, he is wedded to conventional politics, no matter how failed that approach has been in its attempt to resolve the Palestinian conflict.

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