Time to end the feud

UPDATED: 17:40, June 22, 2007

On the 18th, Palestinian National Authority Chairman, Mahmud Abbas, announced the dismissal of the safety committee, originally set up with the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) in order to solve the issue of the command the security forces.

Earlier Fayez, appointed by Abbas, had just established an emergency, Palestinian government, and took office on the west bank. However, Hamas accused the emergency government of being "illegal." Now, the Palestinians are controlled by Hamas in Gaza, and by Fatah on the west bank of Jordan River. Palestine's domestic crisis has had a serious impact on the Palestinian-Israeli peace process and has put a dim on future prospects.

Since the death of former Palestinian leader, Yassir Arafat, Palestine has seen unrest, chaos, and conflict. Israel's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, said in Luxembourg on the 18th that the change taking place in Palestine right now might indicate a "real chance" for realizing Israeli-Palestinian peace. Israel has also made a series of positive gestures, such as putting a halt on the freezing tax, giving tax refunds to Palestinians, and recognizing the emergency government. However, Palistine has witnessed a major internal split. Israel is probably having a difficult time finding a Palestinian authority to act as a representative in peace talks. Hamas is not willing to negotiate. The emergency government in Palestine has no authority to negotiate as a transitional government. Abbas himself also lacks sufficient authority.

It should be noted that Israel actually understands that a divided country like Palestine does not have the ability to carry on with peace talks. Recently, Israel wanted to resume peace talks with Syria, so as to return the Golan Heights. This is, of course, was an attempt to break up the strategic alliance between Syria and Iran. However, it also shows that Israel seems to have lost confidence in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and is determined to seek out alternatives.

In the long term, if civil strife in Palestinian continues without end, it will greatly change the current understanding of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The focus of the Palestine issue may also change. For a long time, people have been more concerned about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and placed emphasis on Israel's responsibility and obligation. However, the latest developments are likely to turn people's attention from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the Palestinian internal conflict, and then place the blame on Israel for opposing Palestine. On the diplomatic front, the Palestinian issue may be marginalized on the global and regional agenda; thereby dramatically weakening the international community's enthusiasm to promote peace in this region.

In fact, after the "9/11" incident, the main status of the Palestinian issue has changed in the Middle East. There have been a variety of new major problems and issues, such as the Iraq war and post-war civil strife, the Iranian nuclear crisis, and Lebanese sectarian conflict. These problems have significantly distracted the attention of the international community on the question of Palestine, as well as the input from diplomatic, economic, and human resources. Meanwhile, the connection between the Palestinian-Israeli issue and other issues is also weakening. In the past, the Palestinian issue has been regarded as the main issue in the region. All other regional conflicts, acts of terrorism, and extremism, were more or less associated with Palestine. Now, the Iraq issue is gradually replacing the Palestinian issue as a main cause for conflict within the region, better reflects current Middle East ethnic and religious contradictions and the complexity of the conflicts, and involves a broader range of contradictions and conflicts.

Of course, although Fatah and Hamas are engaged in an endless struggle with one another, because of their common mission to resume control of the Palestinian nation and establish an independent Palestinian state; the two still emphasize that they need to preserve the integrity of the Palestinian territories. Therefore, the door for negotiation is not completely closed. All interested Palestinian parties should learn from this and put an end to the crisis, as soon as possible, so as to achieve national unity. Only in this way can the Palestinian nation stay hopeful and restore light for the peace process in the Middle East region.

By People's Daily Online; the author is director of the Middle East study of the Chinese Institute of Contemporary International Relations

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