Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 October 2020

Violence in Gaza kills Palestinians' chance at unity

Rights, not rockets, are the best tool the Palestinians can use to build themselves a better future. Why can't Hamas learn that?

When will Hamas ever learn? A flurry of rockets fired into Israel from Gaza this week quickly started another cycle of reflexive escalations, one that could lead to another full-scale Israeli incursion. That, at least, is what Israel is threatening, and what Hamas seems to be agitating for.

Unable to rise above the temptations of violence, Hamas has revealed again its absence of strategic vision. It is easy to imagine the satisfaction, not to say glee, with which Israel's leaders learnt of the initial rocket attacks, which injured three in Israel but killed nobody. Benjamin Netanyahu's government, in the middle of an election campaign, had public-relations cover, though hardly moral authority, to hit back hard while depicting itself as both a victim and a stalwart resister of bullying.

That's why few world capitals rushed to condemn Israel for its retaliatory air strike that killed nine Palestinians, including Hamas military chief Ahmed Al Jabari but also two children.

Israeli jets also pounded rocket caches in Gaza - so of course militants there had to prove that they retain some rockets, by launching more salvoes. This time they killed three Israeli civilians - and set the leadership in Tel Aviv to talking of a full-scale Gaza invasion.

It's all wearily familiar, but the timing is worse now, because this new flurry of violence comes just as the Palestine Liberation Organisation is gearing up to seek "observer state" status at the United Nations. That initiative is, of course, the project of Fatah, the rival of Hamas.

The UN gambit has moved slowly. But a dignified appeal for basic rights, expressed on the world stage in an effort to win over international public opinion, is plainly in the real interest of the Palestinian people. Playing with rockets plainly is not.

On Wednesday Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's foreign minister, revealed just how much the UN bid is getting under Israel's skin: he is, he said, considering immediate recognition of statehood within provisional borders if the Palestinians will drop the UN bid.

Palestinians know what Israeli promises are worth. But this is significant all the same: it is closer to actual negotiation than anything in recent years. This is not to suggest Fatah should abandon its statehood efforts. To the contrary, it is evidence that Israel is more vulnerable to a political campaign based on human rights than to a military one based on rockets.

It is the tragedy of the people of Gaza, and indeed all Palestinians, that Hamas is so blinded that it does not understand the realities of its situation or the madness of its actions.

Updated: November 16, 2012 04:00 AM

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