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Jun. 1 2010 - 10:48 am | 280 views | 0 recommendations | 6 comments

After Israel’s flotilla fiasco, Egypt opens the Gaza border to avert an intifada

What would be the next diastrous step in the Middle East, following yesterday’s ambush by the Israeli military against a civilian aid convoy? Clearly, a new intifada – a Palestinian uprising adding to the bloodshed.

Thus it was a wise move by the Egyptian government this morning to defuse the time bomb of Palestinian anger by opening the Rafah gate – the only gate it controls – to allow some of Gaza’s 1 1/2 million civilians to escape their collective punishment for the actions of the ruling Hamas party. Though Egypt hasn’t said how long it will keep the Rafah border open, its opening is the escape valve that could help prevent another intifada.

Other smart moves have come from the United States, where experts understand the full import Israel’s killing of nine civilians.

Taking a cue from President Barack Obama’s restrained reaction to the shootings on a humanitarian aid ship bound for the Gaza strip, the smartest U.S. commentators are focusing on the root causes: the continued occupation of Palestinian lands since the 1967 war, and the failure of Western nations to secure a two-state solution to achieve peace between Israel and its neighbors.

The Washington Post – whose editorial team is hawkish on Israel whether the ruling coalition in Tel Aviv is peaceful or virulently racist (as it is currently) – jumped way ahead this time to the core issue:

As for Mr. Netanyahu, the only road to recovery from this disaster lies in embracing, once and for all, credible steps to create conditions for a Palestinian state. A good start would be easing restrictions on both Gaza and the West Bank, once the reactions to Monday’s events subside. Mr. Netanyahu also needs to broaden his government to include pro-peace parties; one of his main problems is cabinet hawks who have made Israeli diplomacy an oxymoron. The prime minister is in a deepening hole; his only way out is to move to the center.

In Israel meanwhile, military experts reacted with anger to the poor command-and-control inherent in the pre-dawn mounting of a ship in a manner that instantly put individual commandos at risk. The incompetent leadership helped create “a Palestinian Exodus,” noted one expert.

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There were certainly some wrongheaded reactions: The Maariv newspaper called for the resignation of Ehud Barak. Yes he’s the Defense Minister, but he’s certainly not in control of Israel’s military, which is increasingly dominated by extremists who see their mission as a holy war against their Arab neighbors. Barak’s resignation would be a greater disaster than the Gaza flotilla killings, as he is one of the few pro-peace-process members of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s seven-member cabinet.

The most astute comment came from Meir Dagan, the head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency – which was recently embarassed by its alleged assassination of a Hamas operative in Dubai:

“Israel is gradually turning from an asset to the United States to a burden,” said Dagan, speaking before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

The next step for the Netanyahu government is very clear: Use this embarrassing international incident to move the peace process forward.  Focus your energies on expanding the marvelous economic success of Israel “proper.” Persuade those anti-Arab American billionaires who fund the settlement movement in the occupied Palestinian territories to build housing in Israel for a change. Be the Start-Up Nation that just earned Israel membership in the prestigious OECD.

Follow @Peacemakersblog on Twitter.


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  1. collapse expand

    I’m confused.

    Eileen White Read, you are, “Currently working on an anti-genocide project at a Washington, DC, think tank.”

    Why is there this silence in your writings regarding the democratically-elected government of the Palestinian’s, Hamas’, explicit call against the right of Israelis to even exist? I mean, we are not even talking racism. Non-existence can only be achieved through genocide.

    I want to understand. Please help.

  2. collapse expand

    Dear peaceforpeace,
    Thanks for your comment. The government of the Palestinians recognized internationally is the Palestinian National Authority. This institution’s leaders have recognized the government of Israel since 1993, when Yassar Arafat signed the Oslo peace agreement. You can find documentation of my claims on two websites that keep close records on the Middle East peace process, the Foundation for Middle East Peace (www.fmep.org) and the Geneva Initiative (www.geneva-accord.org.)
    Speaking of organizations advocating genocide, I suggest you Google the Kach party, Meir Kahane’s racist, genocidal organization that is active in Israel and the occupied West Bank today. Like Hamas, Kach is officially regarded in Israel and the United States as a terrorist organization.
    My point is, there are genocidaires on both sides in the Middle East trying to destroy each other. As lovers of democracy, we should be supporting the moderates, not trying to say one side’s extremists and terrorists are somehow “better” than the other side’s.

  3. collapse expand

    Hi Ms. Read,

    Your reply is educational, sincere and revealing. I didn’t realize so many countries recognized the PNA until I just researched it now. I also didn’t know that Kach was considered a terrorist organization. Thank you.

    In trying to “be a judge and not a lawyer,” I Googled some more. Kach was the only Jewish organization that ever received that distinction, and it was outlawed and disbanded by other Jews. Today, there are over 50 active Arab organizations that are marked by the U.S. as “terrorist” – in the open, on the internet, many with clearly stated genocidal goals. A bunch of Palestinian ones are among them. In your fight against genocide, would you say that genocidal advocacy is the equal domain of extremists on all sides, or is it fair to deduce from the facts that some cultures advocate it and some cultures fight it?

    Thanks for recommending the above sites. I was unaware of them and went right to them. When I searched, no copy of the Oslo Peace Agreement came up. When I found it on another site, Arafat’s signature appeared beneath two promises: to recognize Israel and to get the PNC to formally nullify “those articles of the Palestinian Covenant which deny Israel’s right to exist.” 17 years later, there is no revised Covenant on the internet. Googling “Palestinian Covenant” brings up the unrevised Covenant that refuses Israel’s right to live. Do you see this as an oversight or a relevant concern?

    Most importantly, your writing shows you love democracy as much as you detest genocide. I try to, also. The Palestinian people have demonstrated their enthusiasm for democracy, as well. They showed themselves able to hold open and fair elections. Because they elected Hamas in 1996, do you feel it is fair that they have not been allowed any more democratic elections? I am like-minded in your recommendation to support moderates. Moderates are the foundation of balance. I will do everything I can to help them get elected. Here, there enters a very relevant question:

    Is supporting moderates MORE important than supporting democracy?

    • collapse expand

      Well, as to how many Jewish vs. Islamic terrorist organizations (or for that matter, Christian terrorist organizations) there are in the world, I am not an expert on this. I have read there are perhaps 15 million Jewish people in the world; the number I found for Muslims is 2.5 billion and for Christians, 2.1 billion.
      Since you seem to know quite a bit about Islamic terrorism and terrorist groups, perhaps you might want to Google a few more Middle East troublemakers on the other side. I suggest: Jack ‘Jacob’ Teitel, Yigal Amir, Eden Natan-Zada, Yitzhak Shapira and his book Torat Hamelekh, and Neriah Ofen. Also the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, which is becoming a center of settler terrorism. I offer these so that you can understand there are terrorists on all sides in the Middle East. As an peacenik and an ecumenist, I refuse to subscribe to the view that Jewish or Christian terrorism is okay, but Islamic terrorism is evil.
      BTW, If you’re looking for more information about politics in Israel and the Palestinian territories, there is no better source than the Israeli NGOs who work on these issues day after day : Ir Amim, Shalom Achshav, Yesh Din, the New Israel Fund. And in the U.S., J Street.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    About Me

    I'm a former Wall Street Journal defense, technology, and telecomm reporter and helped launch the Friday Weekend Journal as a contributing writer. For the past several years I have been a writer, editor, and communications professional for international NGOs in human rights, microcredit, and advocacy. Currently working on an anti-genocide project at a Washington, DC, think tank.

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    Contributor Since: June 2009