an area of the map for world news.
April 2002 issue of
World Press Review
(VOL. 49, No. 4)
and Sharon: Endgame
For the Palestinians,
Things Fall Apart
Khatib, Palestine Report Online (independent Internet
weekly), Jerusalem, Israel, Feb. 13, 2002
The ongoing deterioration
in the peace process is not limited to the superficial indicator
of deteriorating security for both peoples. It also includes
the deterioration or collapse of other ingrained sentimentsa
dangerous process that at some point becomes irreversible. The
sour political mood of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples is
visible in the dominant breakdown in mutual trust and an accompanying
increase in support for violence as the only solution. In addition,
the Israeli opposition camps transformation from a position
on the radical fringe to the center of government itself is
also a factor. That process is being mirrored on the Palestinian
side where the opposition is gaining, finding its way to power
through contradictions, lack of harmony, and growing rifts in
the Palestinian peace camp.
security police walk across the rubble of the destroyed
Palestinian national security building in Gaza City, March
6, 2002. Israeli F-16 fighter jets destroyed the building
the night before, wounding five (Photo: AFP).
An outside observer of the internal Palestinian state of affairs
can see three signs of internal deterioration. First and foremost,
we are now in political chaos. Following the different assessments
of Camp David proposals by members of the Palestinian delegation,
and differing views on the leaderships handling of those
negotiations, and now one year of bloody confrontations with
Israel rendering any discussion of Camp David irrelevant, there
exists disorder in the Palestinian political house.
This chaos began with Sari Nusseibehs new approach to
the issues of refugees, settlements, and Jerusalem. In recent
weeks, there have been a number of articles by important Palestinian
figures, culminating in The New York Times article by
President Yasser Arafat, all of which included new
language and new concepts in approaching major issues. Among
these was the merging of respect for Israels demography
into the Palestinian solution for the refugee problem. This
particular point has caused a great deal of unease among the
Palestinian people, as it is a change from the official Palestinian
conception of refugee affairs.
The second sign of the setback in internal politics is negative
indicators of the leaderships ability to lead. Recent
neglect by the [Palestinian] Authority and Palestinian leadership
of their duties to maintain civil law, order, and social affairs
has resulted in deaths, damage, and further mayhem. The failure
to distribute the economic burden of the Intifada over the various
sectors of society, rather than laying it on the shoulders of
the weak and poor, has stirred further dissent.
It is no surprise that these shortcomings have lessened trust
in the Authority, thus boosting an opposition that has no responsibility
for these things because it is not now in power. Israeli policy
is making it difficult for the Authority to perform its duties.
At the same time, the structure of this Authority, its poor
performance, and the self-interested nature of some of its members
all play a role in its current weakness.
The third indicator of internal setback is the visible increase
in personal and political conflicts in the leadership. The most
prominent example of this was the dispute at the Feb. 10 Fatah
Revolutionary Council meeting. At that meeting, there was vocal
dissent between those who want to dissolve Fatahs Al-Aqsa
Martyrs Brigades that participate in the armed struggle and
those who rejected that out of hand.
Also, tension expressed between President Arafat and Preventive
Security Col. Jibril Rajoub on the night of Feb. 12 over the
handling of current politics is one more sign. Late last year,
Preventive Security Col. Mohammed Dahlan in Gaza even handed
in his resignation over Palestinian policies.
Israel bears prime, if not sole, responsibility for these signs
of weakness. Second in culpability is the United States. The
Palestinian absence of institutional teamwork must also take
some of the blame. If the goal of Ariel Sharons government,
which opposes the peace process, is to allow the Palestinian
opposition to rise to power, then it is making no mistakes.