by Gerry Foley / April 2005 issue of Socialist Action
The impression given by the capitalist press and politicians both in the Middle East and in the imperialist countries is that the Israeli rulers and Palestinian leaders are headed toward compromise. That’s hardly surprising. This operation has been very well prepared over a long period of time.
The two pillars of it are Ariel Sharon’s decision to evacuate Zionist settlements from Gaza and the election of Abu Mazen/Mahmoud Abbas as president of
the Palestinian Authority (PA) on a platform of ending the guerrilla attacks on Israel.
Thus, Associated Press reported on March 17 from Cairo, where the Palestinian factions had been trying to reach agreement: “Palestinian militants declared a halt to attacks on Israel for the rest of this year, their longest cease-fire promise ever and a victory for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.”
Sharon, long known as a Zionist hawk and guilty of war crimes against Palestinian civilians, has successfully overridden massive and furious protests of the Zionist settlers and the right wing of his own supporters against withdrawal from Gaza. But these moves have by not eliminated the fundamental obstacles to a deal between the PA and the Zionist rulers.
The Israeli politicians’ response to the announcement of the truce by Palestinian organizations was to say that a truce was not enough. They insisted on the disarming of the Palestinian guerrillas, something
that Abu Mazen is far from being able to even contemplate.
The March 17 AP dispatch noted: “Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon described the announcement as a ‘positive first step,’ though he insisted that for greater progress to take place ’terrorist organizations cannot continue to exist as armed groups.’”
In its March 18 issue, the Lebanese French-language daily L’Orient du Jour pointed out the ambiguities of the truce agreement: “The representatives of the 13 Palestinian factions strove to reach an agreement that would satisfy the demands of Fatah, which is anxious to convince the armed groups to give up violence, … and those of the extremists, who want to make sure that any truce is limited in time and conditional on a precise calendar for Israel retreat from the West Bank.
“Hamas and Islamic Jihad did not get what they wanted, but the reference in the final statement to the right of the Palestinian people to resist Israeli occupation is a concession to the radicals.”
In fact, the more intransigent Palestinian factions have been growing stronger both inside and outside of the dominant Fatah organization, as shown by the
recent Palestinian local elections and by weaknesses in the electoral mandate that Abbas claimed to have achieved.
“Tensions between Palestinian authorities and militant groups have been rising in recent days. Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has been trying to strike a delicate balance between reining in armed groups through persuasion and fending off calls from Israel and the international community for a crackdown.”
The Israeli daily Haaretz reported a gun battle between a unit of El Aksa, a guerrilla group formally allied to Fatah, and the Palestinian police in Nablus
that lasted for 20 minutes. It also pointed to a confrontation in Jenin between the Palestinian minister of the interior and a guerrilla chief, who ordered his followers to open fire on the building where the minister was.
However, at the same time that the Palestinian organizations are offering a shaky truce, more evidence has been coming out about the reinforcement
of Zionist settlements on the West Bank, which can make any lasting compromise between the Palestinian leaders and the Zionist rulers impossible.
The Christian Science Monitor reported March 10: “Illegal settler outposts that are consolidating Israel’s grip on the West Bank are not pirate operations by hard-line settlers. They are established, maintained, and expanded with the backing of the Israeli government.
“That charge, which cuts to the heart of one of the more loaded issues of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, is no longer made only by dovish Israelis or
Palestinians. It’s now the official finding of a report commissioned by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, which was released Wednesday.”
In the March 20 issue of Haaretz, the paper’s military correspondent, Zeev Shif, reported: “The Defense Ministry has completed a widespread aerial photography operation revealing extensive building in West Bank settlements and outposts in recent months.”
In all, no compromise of any durability seems to be taking shape. But the Zionist rulers are more and more discredited internationally, while the Palestinian leaders face increasing war weariness among their people. The need for a new leadership and a new political strategy is more and more pressing for the Palestinians.