MAP Member Opinion "Peace"  

Response to Daniel Ayalon
by Florence Steichen
Letter to the editor sent to Star Tribune, 7-24-05

Dear Editor,

In his commentary, "Now it¹s  Abbas' turn to move closer to peace," July 22, Daniel Ayalon writes "the terrorist organizations must be disarmed as called for in the 'road map' if Palestinian statehood is to be achieved."  I add a few observations. The road map also calls for complete freeze on Israeli settlements, and forbids any activity that will prejudge the final status negotiations, and yet settlement expansion continues, the separation barrier confiscates Palestinian land, and in effect, marks a new boundary within Palestinian territory. The obligations of the road map were to be carried out simultaneously by Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Abbas knows that cracking down on Hamas could well lead to a civil war, which he must avoid at all costs. Hamas won several victories in local and municipal polls this year.  It maintains a network of welfare centers.  Hamas has honored cease fires  as long as Israel has honored them.  When, however, targeted assassinations, night raids and other military incursions occur, Hamas responds violently to Israel¹s violence.  For comparison:  in the four years of the current intifada, Israel killed about 4,000, including 400 children under 16;  Hamas killed about 300. (Statistics by Ghazi Hamed, editor of al Risala, cited by Jonathan Steele.)

Furthermore Hamas accepted the Saudi Initiative adopted by the Arab League at its meeting in Beirut March 28, 2002, and re-affirmed in 2005.  This proposal would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as all 22 nations of the Arab League offered peace and diplomatic relations with Israel in return for Israel¹s return to its June 4, 1967 borders, in implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions  242 and 338.  Israel rejected this offer.

Hamas is growing in popularity because the PA has not delivered.  Life is no better now  than before Oslo. Indeed, because of  settlement expansion, the separation barrier, and destruction of numerous homes in Rafah to provide a buffer zone between Gaza  and Egypt, life is much worse.

The Government of Israel bears considerable responsibility for Hamas' growing popularity by not allowing Abbas to succeed in improving the lives of Palestinians.  So many  moves  would help, including  removing the internal checkpoints; and releasing prisoners, as promised;  stopping demolition of homes and construction of the wall.

In  an article in The Guardian July 15, 2005, Ostracising Hamas will not help in the search for peace. The West has to recognize this group¹s growing popularity, Jonathan Steele writes, "After a decade of frustration since the Oslo agreement - with no peace, no prosperity, and still no internationally recognized state - people are looking for new flagbearers."  Steele cites Ziad Abu-Amr, an independent MP and analyst: "Hamas supporters are in every home and every family.  They are the new power."   Steele indicates the sequence:  "Hamas is starting a difficult internal debate over the terms on which it might negotiate with Israel.  But to expect it to abandon its armed struggle before a peace agreement is foolish."  

So, whose move is it now?

Florence Steichen, Retired Educator,
Registrar of Bethlehem University, 1987-1992,
President of Middle East Peace Now

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