Wednesday, May 10, 2006

May 6 Counterproductive for peace

Counter-productive for peace

THE DEMONSTRATIONS in the streets of Palestine to press demands of overdue salaries from the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) are signals of brewing trouble for the Hamas-led Palestinian government. Indeed, the PNA employees are in serious trouble because they have not been paid salaries for March and April, and the economy of the occupied territories are in doldroms not simply because of the cash shortage but as a result of decades of a deliberate Israeli policy of making the people under occupation dependent on the Israeli economy. At the same time, pressuring the Hamas government for political reasons — it was obvious that Fatah was behind the demonstrations — might not be the right approach at this juncture. The world knows that the PNA is facing a cash crisis because of political reasons prompted by Hamas winning elections and assuming power. Those behind the pressure are trying to exploit the situation and force compromises over the Palestinian rights. The strongest among the holdouts against any compromise whatsoever is indeed Hamas.
That should be a key consideration for the same Palestinians who took to the streets on Saturday.
It is highly unlikely that Hamas would bend under pressure because that would go against the Islamist record of remaining firm on their positions. On the other hand, if the group is assured that Israel would recognise and respect the legitimate Palestinians rights, then the day is near when it would accept the demands that it renounce armed resistance as a means for liberation and recognise Israel.
Israel and its backers know this well. However, since Israel has no intention of respecting the Palestinian rights and entering a peace agreement on the basis of these rights, the Hamas position suits it well. In all probability, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert might indeed be hoping that Hamas refuses to budge until such time he implements his unilateral plan to draw Israel's final borders without Palestinian agreement.
This is the reality facing the international Quartet, which is meeting on Tuesday to discuss the dealock in Palestine. The group needs no elaborate explanation of the geopolitics behind the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It the Quartet opts to play by the rules based on publicly stated positions of the two sides — Hamas declining to meet the demands imposed on it and Israel arguing that it does not have a Palestinian negotiating partner — then it does not have do make further move to explain to the world that it is only paying lipservice to the rights of the Palestinians and international legitimacy.
In the meantime, the politicised demonstrations aimed at applying pressure on the Hamas government could be counter-productive to the Palestinian cause. If the Hamas government were to collapse — as some parties might want to see — then Palestinian politics would undergo a dramatic change to the worse, and that would not serve the cause of peace in the Middle East.