WHEN ONE PLUS ONE EQUALS THREE
By Micah Halpern
Wednesday January 16, 2008
Sometimes, one plus one equals three.
It's not the right answer, it's not the way things should be, it's just the way things are. Sometimes, try as you might, it's just impossible to make things come out right.
Most analysts, diplomats, presidents and prime ministers concerned about the future of Israelis and Palestinians are in sync about one item on the Middle East agenda. They all agree that a two-state solution is the way to go. Israel and Palestine, Palestine and Israel, side-by-side-separate states. Shared borders, perhaps even a shared capital, but two separate and distinct states.
Here's the problem: Israel is one state, but Palestine is two.
Israelis and Palestinians are in the midst of high level, on-going, negotiations about the future of the two nations. The talks are tense, but they are moving along. Israel is represented by the government of Ehud Olmert, the elected and recognized leader. The Palestinians are represented by Mahmoud Abbas, the elected and recognized leader of - well, of only a part of the Palestinian people. The other part is led by Hamas. Hamas and Abbas are like oil and water, they are like fire crackers and matches. Put them together and they don't mix, force them together and the result is explosive.
The way things are progressing right now, the Palestinians want to solve their problem by creating a three-state solution. State one, Israel. State two, West Bank Palestine. State three, Hamas-led Gaza Palestine.
Mahmoud Abbas is dealing with the question of what happens to Gaza if and when a Palestinian state is declared, by ignoring the question. It is a question Abbas and his government cannot answer. It is a situation Abbas and his Fatah comrades cannot handle. It is a war Abbas and the West Bank Palestinians cannot win. Only Israel is asking the hard questions, only Israel is willing to deal with the reality of this unreal situation.
And by removing Gaza from the dialogue Abbas is de facto turning Gaza into a second Palestine state.
No one involved in talks about the future of Palestinians and Israelis has ever envisioned a three-state solution. It has never been mentioned in any document, it has never been spoken of in any speech. Only now, when the reality of a two-state solution seems closer than it has ever been before, when there is a timetable to be met, has the specter of three states emerged.
The leader of the Palestine Authority will not deal with the situation in Gaza. Abbas is petrified. He does not want to engage in another civil war with Hamas. He lost the last war and he cannot afford to lose again. If Abbas were to publicly lose out to Hamas now the way he lost in June his future as Palestinian leader would be over. Gaza is not only a threat to Israel, Gaza is a threat to Palestinian leadership.
The irony of it all is that even though grass roots support for Hamas is growing, even though the ranks of Palestinians volunteering to be on the side of Hamas is growing, Hamas supporters and adherents among the greater Arab world is dwindling. The irony is that Hamas is losing the public relations campaign because they were so successful in their war in Gaza. The shame of it all is that Fatah cannot control Hamas and if Hamas is not controlled Israel will not be able to continue to negotiate with Fatah leaders.
A Hamas-controlled Gaza, a Gaza that is outside the influence of Fatah and outside the influence of any Western power is a significant threat to Israel. The reason Israel has even engaged in two-state dialogue is to create a situation that is safer for Israelis. Unless and until Abbas is willing to engage in the physical and political battles necessary to wrest control of Gaza from Hamas Israel cannot, in good faith, continue to talk of a two-state solution. The State of Palestine that does not include Gaza under is a very serious risk.
When one plus one equals three something is terrible wrong with the equation.
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