by Gerry Foley / March 2005 issue of Socialist Action
As expected, the election of Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) as the new president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in January has been followed by new attempts to achieve some sort of compromise between the Zionist rulers and the Palestinian leaders.
From the Israeli point of view, the essential precondition for any modus vivendi is that the Palestinian Authority itself has to repress the groups that are waging a guerrilla war against the Zionist state. Abu Mazen made a gesture in this direction immediately following his election by deploying PA security forces in the part of Gaza bordering Israel to prevent the firing of homemade rockets into Zionist settlements on both sides of the border.
Abu Mazen’s intentions, however, were soon challenged by a new suicide bombing in Tel Aviv on Feb. 25, which killed four Israelis and wounded 30. The bomber was a member of Islamic Jihad. And in a video released after the attack, he denounced the Palestinian Authority as an illegitimate body and a tool of the Americans. The Zionist security forces accused the Lebanon-based Islamist guerrilla organization, Hezbullah, of being behind the attack.
In fact, the Palestinian security forces arrested two men whom they accused of being implicated in the bombing and promised to arrest all those found to be involved. Reportedly the two men arrested were members of Islamic Jihad.
The Islamist organizations, Islamic Jihad and Hamas, have taken an ambiguous position toward Abu Mazen’s negotiations. They say that they will not do anything to undermine the peace talks but that they will not give up the right to fight Israel. Both denied that they had anything to do with the Tel Aviv bombing. However, Islamic Jihad later endorsed the bombing.
The implication of Hezbullah is potentially provocative, because the United States has been stepping up its threats against its sponsor and protector, Iran and Syria. The guerrilla organization is obviously a target of the U.S. campaign against these two states. The Zionist authorities claim that Hezbullah has become the major outside backer and financier of the Palestinian resistance. The Zionist authorities, moreover, claim that Islamic Jihad has its center in Damascus.
However, the Syrian government has been making gestures to try to lessen the confrontation with the U.S. and Israel. It says it is redeploying its troops in Lebanon toward its own border in preparation for withdrawal from the country. It claims to have closed the Islamic Jihad offices. And most recently it has captured a group of Iraqi resisters—including Saddam Hussein’s half-brother, Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan—who, according to the Feb. 27 British Independent, it handed over to the security forces of the Iraqi government, subordinate to the United States.
However, the Zionist government is pressing its claim of Syrian responsibility for the Tel Aviv bombing. The Israeli defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, issued a statement saying: “Israel sees Syria and the Islamic Jihad movement as those standing behind the murderous attack in Tel Aviv.” Obviously, the Israeli accusations against Syria raise the threat of military confrontations.
The Zionist rulers also stepped up their pressure on the Palestinian Authority despite its arrests of persons allegedly involved in planning the bombing and its promise to pursue all those implicated. The government declared that it was suspending its plan to turn over security to the PA in parts of the West Bank.
And most ominously, as The New York Times reported on Feb. 27: “Prime Minister Ariel Sharon warned Palestinian leaders today that there would be no further moves toward peace unless they destroyed militant groups behind such attacks.”
While it is possible that Abu Mazen could jail individuals responsible for attacks on Israel, there is no way that he could “destroy” Islamic Jihad and Hamas without unleashing an intra-Palestinian civil war. And he knows that he does not have the support to win it. That is shown by the weakness of the mandate he got in the elections and the Islamist victories in the Palestinian local elections.
Thus, these threats by the Israeli government raise the question whether it really wants to pursue the policy of negotiations and even limited compromises with the Palestinians.
A previous attempt by Abu Mazen to pursue a “peace process,” when he was premier of the PA, was scuttled by Israeli intransigence. This time, however, Israel had been making more concessions, such a commitment to evacuate the Jewish settlements in Gaza in the face of furious opposition of the Zionist right. Whatever the outcome of the present tug of war, the prospects for any sort of reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians remain dim.