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War without political horizon is futile

Nov. 18, 2012 12:39 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 23, 2012 1:49 P.M.)
By: Daoud Kuttab
Once again we are witnessing a sharp escalation of violence without any pretense of looking for a political horizon. Israel is shelling Gaza from land, sea and air without even thinking about a political perspective.

Pundits and activists will argue over who is to blame for the current round of violence and what are the goals of the Israeli offensive, but in all the tough talk, no one is even considering to look further than the military solution.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas made a short television appearance Friday insisting that the PLO is planning to go to New York on the 29th of November seeking a vote for an upgraded status for Palestine.

Among other things, such a status (which would be similar to that of the Vatican) will allow Palestine to take Israeli war criminals to the International court at the Hague.

Israel’s stated goal in this cycle, which began with the assassination of a Hamas military leader, is deterrence. An Israeli activist, Gershon Baskin, states that Ahmad Jabarri, who supervised the prison exchange with Israel last year, was involved in discussions about a long term cease fire between Hamas and Israel.

So if the Israelis are not interested in a long term ceasefire what are they interested in?

At best the current Israeli offensive will degrade and weaken Hamas’s military power but is unlikely to end their rule or their ability to return again and resist the Israelis. If the lessons in Lebanon are to be looked at, a resistance movement that survives Israeli onslaught will be more powerful and will have even more weapons to use.

A political solution obviously will require a change of position from Israel towards Hamas as well as regarding the two state solution. Israel has been talking with the newly Egyptian administration of Muhammad Mursi who was elected after being nominated by the Muslem Brotherhood. The idea that Israel (as well as the US and other western powers) will continue to avoid talking to Ismail Haniyeh, who was freely elected by the Palestinian people, makes little sense or logic.

It is true that the term of Haniyeh who headed of the largest parliamentary block, as well as Abbas who was elected president, has long elapsed. But until new elections can take place, the Gaza- based Haniyeh has as much legitimacy as the Ramallah-based Abbas.

But irrespective of the recognition or lack thereof, the Israelis as well as the international community have an important and relevant political decision to make before the end of this month.

Palestine’s request for an upgraded status by the UN General assembly will be put to a vote on the UN- declared International Day of solidarity with the Palestinian people.

The same UN General Assembly vote back in 1947 for the partition of Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state was received in jubilation by Jewish Zionists in Palestine.

It is ironic that as rockets from Gaza are reaching the outskirts of Tel Aviv that Israelis including those who danced and celebrated in the streets of this coastal city and their descendents don’t see the importance of fulfilling the other half of that partition plan.

While Israeli occupation and colonial settlement activities have made the two state solution more and more remote from a Palestinian perspective, it still holds the most appropriate and acceptable political solution to this century old conflict.

The re elected US president, his UN representative and the US congress should support the vote for Palestine rather than buy the Israeli claims that their offensive war on Gaza is merely an act of self defense.

Daoud Kuttab is a journalist and former professor of journalism at Princeton University.
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