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    Middle East
     Jun 20, 2007
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The death of the two-state solution
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi

Last week's developments in Gaza culminating in Fatah's defeat by Hamas resulted in the formation of two Palestinian governments, one led by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza and the other by Fatah's Salaam Fayad in the West Bank. Call it a nightmare, a fiasco, fragmentation, but not temporary, as all the vital signs indicate that the political partition of the West Bank and Gaza is a fait accompli, unlikely to reverse short of an all-out

Israeli military invasion and reoccupation of Gaza.

According to the liberal Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, that is precisely what Israel's new Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is also the new chairman of the Labor Party, is planning, a "military operation in Gaza within weeks". According to the report, Barak's aim is to destroy Hamas militarily. Then what? Keep Gaza indefinitely occupied, or hand over the authority to the much-discredited Fatah operatives from the West Bank?

If Hamas plays its cards right, such as by refraining from any attacks on Israel, then it will be difficult for Barak and other Israeli leaders to justify a unilateral reinvasion of Gaza. Already, in his first interview with the European press since trouncing Fatah, Haniyeh has taken credit for bringing "stability" to Gaza after many months of growing chaos.

Indicating Hamas' willingness to abide by a two-state solution, Haniyeh has stated: "We have agreed to respect all the past agreements signed by the Palestinian Authority." But of course, that does not include the latest "presidential" decrees of the Palestinian Authority's Mahmud Abbas, outlawing Hamas' military wing, Izaddin Kassam, and appointing Fayad to replace Haniyeh.

So with two prime ministers in two locations representing two different political orientations, one Islamist, the other secularist, the new status quo in Gaza is better viewed as the harbinger of a brand-new reality, the virtual death of the two-state solution for the foreseeable future and its replacement by a three-state reality, to the extent that we can call the proto-governmental conditions in West Bank and Gaza statist, that is.

A three-state solution, in which Gaza and the West Bank are not lumped together into a single Palestinian state, would allow them to go their own separate ways. Most debate over Palestine's future centers on the one-state (Israel rules the West Bank and Gaza) and the existing two-state options.

At present, Israel controls the borders of Gaza and the West Bank and the airspace, thereby choking Palestinian statehood into a shell of reality. At the same time, the occupying power continues with its policy of land acquisition, establishing settlements, maintaining the "annexation" wall, constructing settlement roads, restricting the movement of Palestinians, exploiting Palestinian water, practicing extrajudicial "target killings" condoned even by its high court, and imposing a financial and economic siege.

It is therefore highly ironic that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, whose government is directly responsible for the violence gripping the occupied territories, as confirmed by a recent United Nations report, by refusing to honor the will of Palestinian voters, who exercised their democratic rights last year to bring Hamas to power, is now shedding crocodile tears for the Palestinians, promising "to do what can to upgrade the quality of life in the West Bank".

Predictably, the US government has sheepishly followed Israel's script for action against Hamas, by condoning Olmert's decision to make life harder on the Gazans by limiting fuel and electricity supplies. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza will, therefore, worsen in the coming weeks if not months as a result of US-Israeli retaliation, which is tantamount to "collective punishment" of the 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza, in direct contradiction to the Geneva protocols.

Even some Israeli pundits, such as Uzi Benziman, reluctantly admit that "Israel contributed to the Gaza conflict". That is putting it mildly. Israel played the game of "fragmenting the enemy" to the best of its ability, hoping to reverse Hamas' political and military fortunes, only to see those hopes dashed by one element it did not adequately count on: the determination of the Gazan people to stand by Hamas and support it against corrupt Fatah politicians and commanders irrespective of the external and internal pressures.

Most likely, the Hamas "revolution" will not engulf the West Bank any time soon and the Fatah-Israel bandwagoning to forestall the spread of Hamas' victory will succeed, by combining the stick of an anti-Hamas witch-hunt and the carrot of economic incentives, such as Israel's promise to "de-freeze" the half-billion-US-dollar tax revenues it withheld from the Hamas-led government for more than a year.

Legally, Olmert's decision is challengeable in light of the uprooting of Fatah's political influence and infrastructure in Gaza and the inadvisability of allocating for the West Bank the taxes extracted from Gaza. The Hamas leaders would be wise to explore the legal channels to freeze Olmert's decision. As improbable as it sounds, it is hypothetically feasible for Arab Israeli lawyers hired by Hamas to seek a court injunction with respect to the Israeli 

Continued 1 2 

Document details 'US' plan to sink Hamas (May 17, '07)

Compromising ideologies (Apr 28, '07)

1. After Rumsfeld, a new dawn?

2. I told you so, essentially

3. Levitate the Pentagon

4. US gives Russia short shrift 

5. The wars that oil the Pentagon's engine

6. China's cheap labor pool running dry

(24 hours to 11.59pm ET, June 18, 2007)


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