The prospect of Palestinian civil war is looming closer and closer. It is a prospect that is daunting not only for Palestinians but for the entire Arab world. Intra-Palestinian fighting frightens everyone.
The question is how to prevent Palestinians from killing each other. The Arab world and their best Western and European Union friends have come up with a solution. They are reviving a tried-but-true mechanism, one that has been used - successfully - throughout the Middle East in order to unify feuding groups. It is called invoking anti-Israel sentiment and promoting anti-Israel diplomacy.
Just think about it. By invoking anti-Israel sentiment and promoting anti-Israel diplomacy the Palestinians can concentrate on something greater, more nefarious, more awful than the situation their chosen leaders have chosen for them, the people. And Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is playing right into the hands of anti-Israel promoters. Believe it or not, the current incarnation of anti-Israel sentiment is couched in an attack on the dreaded notion of Israel's plans for unilateral actions.
In an absurd twist of diplomatic-correctness, the efforts of Olmert to move Palestinians in the direction of possible statehood are being met with displeasure in certain diplomatic circles. Olmert is being called arrogant, aggressive, impatient, thoughtless. How dare he, they are asking. How dare Israel's prime minister offer to give up Israeli land to the Palestinians and ask nothing in return? Who does he think he is? What does he think he is doing?
Olmert's efforts to chat up world leaders about the lack of a negotiating partner for peace as long as Hamas is in power, about the need to resolve issues and set borders so that Israelis can go about their lives, is being turned against him, against his country and against the process that would lead to Israel exiting from Palestinian areas.
Palestinian President Abbas, the man who was pushing ahead for a Referendum that would include peace with Israel, with Palestinians living side-by-side with Israelis, is now devoting himself to a new plan. Now, rather than face-off against Hamas and live with the consequences, Abbas is pushing forward a plan that would stop any unilateral decisions on Israel's side. And most of the Arab world is jumping at the opportunity to sideline peace with Israel in the name of internal Palestinian peace.
So called liberal Arab states, including nations with previously negotiated peace treaties with Israel, are among Abbas' most vocal supporters. Jordan and Egypt have come out with direct statements clearly rejecting any unilateral steps taken by Israel. The European Union has also stepped up pressure and is engaged in an effort to marginalize if not totally halt Olmert's intentions.
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European Union External Relations Commissioner which is the EU's equivalent of foreign minister, just visited Israel. She left a mixed message. On the one hand Ferrero-Waldner praised Olmert's plan, on the other hand, she criticized it. The plan, she said, was a "very courageous idea but Europeans believe unilateral steps do not lead to real peace."
Well, Olmert isn't fooling himself. Israelis, like Europeans, know that unilateral actions do not lead to "real peace" - no one disputes that. By undertaking unilateral actions Olmert is underscoring the facts on the ground. The reality is that Palestinians are not ready to negotiate and proof of that is the ascent of Hamas to power. The argument should stop right there.
But Benita Ferrero-Waldner continued, not just criticizing but actually threatening Israel. The EU Commissioner said: "We will not recognize any borders between Israel and the Palestinian Authority determined by unilateral steps."
The question begs asking: Why is the Palestinian Authority and the Arab world and by extension the European Union and by extension other European countries so interested in mounting an offensive against Israel's unilateralism when they should be trying to organize a serious Palestinian government with a plan calling for Palestinians to live next to Israel? The question is rhetorical, we all know why.
The reality is that it is much easier to create a multi-national campaign against Israel than it is to change or harness or discipline extremists from within. It is far more attractive to the Arab world to trounce Israel than to trounce the Palestinian Authority as weak and ineffective and to label Hamas as being an obstacle - if not "the" obstacle - to peace.
The world has chosen to take the path of least resistance. If a campaign against Israel blows up, the casualties will only be figurative. When a campaign against Hamas blows up, the casualties are always literal.
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