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October 12, 2006
Gaza Descends

Gaza has begun its descent into all-out civil war as the economy continues to tank and no one has the political will to solve the problem. Hamas has committed summary executions of protesting government workers unhappy with the lack of pay, and Fatah has struck back with attacks of its own:

As Yusuf Siam stood to greet mourners, a boy arrived with a handful of papers marked from the al-Aqsa Brigade, a Fatah-affiliated militant group, and handed them out. The letter offered condolences to the family and then vowed revenge. "For the families of the people who lost their sons at the hands of Hamas we swear that their blood will not be spilt for nothing," it said. "We will give a lesson to Hamas."

There are signs that this is more serious than rhetorical rivalry between militants. "The Palestinian situation is marred by sharp divisions and battling; it is a misery and shameful for any Arab and any Palestinian," Egypt's foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, who has tried to mediate in this crisis, told the Al-Ahram newspaper this week. Some senior Palestinians are openly warning now of the danger of civil war.

In the offices of Palestinian politicians some try to downplay the crisis. "We are not worried about this ... I am confident we will not reach the point of war," said Yehya Mousa, a Hamas MP from Khan Yunis in southern Gaza.

But in the rival camp, aides to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, are suggesting that he assert his authority, dissolve the Hamas government, and set up an emergency interim administration. This, Mr Mousa said, would be tantamount to a "coup". Hamas leaders see this as Fatah smarting from its election loss and trying to take back power.

The Western embargo on aid and the suspension of tax receipts by the Israelis have forced the Palestinians into a crisis of ideology. None of the factions involved want to make a lasting peace with Israel, but that's no longer the primary issue at hand in the territories. Hamas and Fatah have finally found their way to the basic power struggle that their shared hatred of Israel has always masked. This conflict pits the older, secular Arab terrorists against the newer, Islamist Arab terrorists -- and this time it will be all of the Arabs in the area that pay for the conflict.

The Palestinians can't blame Israel for this. Shootings such as the one that took Rafiq Siam have their origins in a divide that war alone can address now. In the end, neither side can win, because both are essentially nihilistic and will not stop. The Palestinians have created a death cult in two different flavors, and both sides value martyrdom so much that both will fight until everyone is dead in order to keep power in their own hands, once the fighting starts.

Eventually the Palestinian people will have to demand an end to their misery and jettison both factions from their polity. An all-out civil war might wake them from their political coma and shock some sense into them. Siam's father tells the Guardian that he's "sick of both sides because they can't control the situation." This realization that they have failed to produce a rational ruling class might finally force the Palestinians to generate one before the terrorists kill them all.

If that happens, those rational Palestinians will find a delighted Israel and the West eager to do business and allow for a two-state solution so they can pursue their own course. Until then, the two-state solution and peace between the two peoples is nothing but a pipe dream. It will almost assuredly, and unfortunately, take a civil war to get the Palestinian people to take responsibility at long last for the terrorists in their midst.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 12, 2006 5:39 AM

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» It’s Their Economies, Stupid from Ennuipundit
Captain Ed penned two posts early this morning that prompted some though on my part.  The posts (here and here) detail the reactions in Gaza and North Korea to existing sanctions and impending sanctions.  Put bluntly, sanctions aren’t working w... [Read More]

Tracked on October 12, 2006 7:43 AM


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