1/12/2005

From Hero To Zero

It took all of three days for Hamas to completely undermine newly-elected Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas

A top Hamas leader said Wednesday that the Islamic militant group has no plans to disarm, adding that the new Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, has no authority to order an end to attacks against Israel.

The comments by Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, complicated Abbas' efforts to persuade militants to declare a cease-fire.

"Hamas is not planning to give the weapons of its fighters to the Palestinian Authority, but we will ask Mr. Abbas to protect the Palestinians in face of the repeated occupation incursions," Zahar said in a statement posted on a Hamas Web site.

"As long as occupation and aggression continue, and as long as occupation persists, then no one could disarm us," he added.
Zahar's use of the word occupation is an important one. When groups like Hamas speak of their fight against Israeli occupation, they're not talking about the Gaza Strip of the West Bank - they're talking about Israel. Hamas considers all Israelis to be active participants in the occupation of Palestinian land. So, when Hamas says that they will never disarm (and thus, never stop killing Israelis) so long as occupation continues, what they are saying is that they will never stop killing Israelis so long as there are Israelis to kill.

While Hamas operates freely within areas controlled by the PA, Israel's hard line towards the Palestinians is not likely to soften; nor should it. When Abbas finishes enjoying the warm tongue-bath he is receiving from international leaders leaders and the press, he will find himself between the proverbial Scylla and Charybdis: If he attempts to suppress Hamas and rein them in, he will be acting in the best long-term interests of his people - and his people will hate him for it. Arab leaders are not known for bold action that threatens their hold on power. This does not inspire confidence that peace is around the corner.

When the Palestinian people are ready to reject terror, murder, and those who carry it out, Hamas will lose their de facto immunity from prosecution for their crimes. When that happens, Israel and the world will see that the Palestinian people are serious about peaceful coexistence with Israel. That's when a true Palestinian state - strong at home and respected in the world (as a certain senator from Massachusetts might say) - will come to be. Until then, the Palestinian people will live in the limbo dictated not by the Zionist occupiers, but by their own choices.